Holding the owner responsible after a dog bite incident

Californians love their dogs. Residents across the state own pet dogs, most of which are well-trained, friendly and carefully monitored by their owners while out of the house. But not all dogs are safe to be around people, and sometimes people get attacked by vicious dogs.

Such incidents can be very grave, especially when the victim is a young child. In one case, a pack of four dogs attacked three children, including a 5-year-old girl who suffered a punctured lung and broken ribs. Her 6-year-old brother was badly bitten in his legs and needed a total of 235 stitches.

Authorities can euthanize a vicious dog, but victims cannot sue an animal. Instead, they may be able to take legal action against the dog’s owner. Recognizing the menace that a negligent dog owner can pose to the public, the California Civil Code gives victims a cause of action against owners, and sets the bar at strict liability. This means that the plaintiff need not prove that the defendant knew his or her dog had previously acted viciously and did not take steps to prevent the attack.

If the plaintiff prevails, he or she can collect compensation for things like his or her medical bills, past and future lost income and pain and suffering -- fairly typical damages for any personal injury cases. More unique to dog bite incidents, the plaintiff may need cosmetic surgery someday to cover disfiguring scars. The dog owner can be made to pay for these procedures too.

Ultimately, dog owners must take responsibilities for their pets, when those pets have the ability to kills and maim.

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