Who Is Liable if I Was Bitten by a Stray Dog?
Dog bites can cause serious injury and debilitating illness, often leading to infections, scarring, and severe, painful wounds. If a dog attacks you, you can face intensive medical procedures, lost wages, property damage, and more — but if the dog’s owner meets certain liability criteria, you can file a lawsuit with the help of a Bakersfield dog bite attorney to collect compensatory damages to recover from these injuries. However, if a stray dog attacked you, different considerations apply.
Strict Liability in California Dog Bite Claims
Under California law, dog owners are subject to strict liability. This means owners liable for any injuries their dogs are responsible for, regardless of past behavior or negligence. If someone else’s dog bites you, you can file a lawsuit against him or her to collect compensation for the physical, financial, and emotional damages you incur due to the bite.
You do not have to prove the dog has a history of dangerous behavior or the owner was negligent at the time of the bite. However, you will not receive compensation in your case if you provoked the dog or you were trespassing on private property at the time of the attack. The court will not award damages if the animal was protecting its owner in self-defense, or if the dog was a military or police animal acting in accordance with its duties.
What Happens If a Stray Dog Bites You?
If a stray dog bites you, there is no owner you can file charges against. As a result, it is very rare to collect compensation in dog bite cases involving stray dogs. The only exception is if a government agency had control over the dog before it escaped and attacked you — in these situations, you may hold the city liable for your injuries.
For example, say that your city’s local pound picks up the stray dog and places it under their care. The dog then escapes and attacks you once it is outside. In these situations, you can argue that the pound’s negligence caused the dog to escape and subsequently injure you, and the agency is responsible for your damages.
Are Stray Dog Keepers Legal Owners?
The legal definition of ownership may also play a role in dog bite claims involving stray animals. Some people may keep and feed stray dogs on their property, but claim they do not own or have any responsibility over the canines. If one of these animals bite you, you may wonder whether or not the person taking care of the dog is legally its owner.
Dog ownership definitions vary based on state and local law. In Kern County, a dog owner is any person who owns, possesses, controls, harbors, cares for, or has custody of the animal for at least 15 consecutive days. If you can establish that a certain person had been caring for the stray dog for the required period at the time of the attack, you may be able to name him or her in a dog bite lawsuit.
What to Do After a Stray Dog Attack
If you suffer injuries during a dog attack in Bakersfield, your first priority is to get to a safe place and seek medical attention immediately. If you can do so without further injury or danger, take pictures of the area around the attack and any injuries you sustain. Collect the contact information of any witnesses in the area as well.
After receiving treatment for your injuries, contact a Bakersfield dog bite attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer will help determine if you can hold a specific party liable in your claim, as well as collect the necessary evidence to prove that the defendant is responsible for your injuries.