Chain | Cohn | Stiles has filed a claim on behalf of the family of a second-grade student who was bitten on the face by a dog while in her classroom.
Leilani, 8, suffered severe lacerations and tearing to her face when she was attacked by one of two large dogs visiting her classroom on May 9 at Wayside Elementary School (Bakersfield City School District) in south Bakersfield. The dogs belonged to a volunteer reader from the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office.
The family alleges in the claim that Bakersfield City School District and the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office negligently allowed the volunteer reader to bring into the classroom two dogs, and failed to supervise the dogs in a safe manner. As a result, Leilani suffered severe injuries. The family further alleges that the dog owner is strictly liable pursuant to California Civil Code section 3342 (Dog Bite Statute).
This case is a warning to school officials and parents toward allowing animals near young students on school campuses.
“A school should know better than to allow dogs into a second grade classroom. No matter how gentle the dogs may be, their behavior can be unpredictable,” said Matthew C. Clark, attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles. “Unfortunately for Leilani, she is likely to have lifelong facial and lip scarring, and vision difficulties. Let this be warning to schools, and to dog owners: Do not bring dogs onto school campuses. The risk is simply too great.”
Chain | Cohn | Stiles resolved a lawsuit in 2016 on behalf of a Bakersfield woman for $2 million in what was the largest award for a dog bite case against a public entity in California at the time, according to VerdictSearch, a verdict and settlement database.
If you or someone you know is bitten by a dog, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.
Each year about 4.5 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs and 800,000-plus receive medical attention for dog bites, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Many of the dog bite victims are children, the elderly and postal carriers.
The good news is that many dog bites can be prevented with safe and appropriate interaction with canines, education, and responsible pet ownership.
Socializing your pet helps it feel at ease in different situations. By introducing your dog to people and other animals while it’s a puppy, it feels more comfortable in different situations as it gets older. It’s also important to use a leash in public to make sure that you are able to control your dog.
Responsible pet ownership
Basics of responsible dog ownership that can help reduce the risk of dog bites include carefully selecting the dog that’s right for your family, proper training, regular exercise, and neutering or spaying your pet.
Educate yourself and your children about how, or whether, to approach a dog.
Avoid risky situations
It’s important to know how to avoid escalating risky situations and to understand when you should and should not interact with dogs. You should avoid petting a dog in these scenarios:
If the dog is not with its owner
If the dog is with its owner but the owner does not give permission to pet the dog
If the dog is on the other side of a fence – don’t reach through or over a fence to pet a dog
If a dog is sleeping or eating
If a dog is sick or injured
If a dog is resting with her puppies or seems very protective of her puppies and anxious about your presence
If a dog is playing with a toy
If a dog is growling or barking
If a dog appears to be hiding or seeking time alone
Pay attention to the dog’s body language
Put a safe amount of space between yourself and a dog if you see the following signals, indicating that the dog is uncomfortable and might feel the need to bite:
Pulled back head and/or ears
Eyes rolled so the whites are visible
When putting space between yourself and a dog that might bite, never turn your back on them and run away. A dog’s natural instinct will be to chase you.
Safety tips for children
You can help protect your child from dog bites by discussing with him or her the appropriate way to behave around dogs.
Children should not approach, touch or play with any dog that is sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy or bone, or caring for puppies. Animals are more likely to bite if they’re startled, frightened or caring for young.
Children should never approach a barking, growling or scared dog.
Children should not pet unfamiliar dogs without asking permission from the dog’s guardian first. If the guardian says it is okay, the child should first let the dog sniff his closed hand. Then taking care to avoid petting the dog on the top of the head, he can pet the dog’s shoulders or chest.
Children should not try to pet dogs that are behind a fence or in a car. Dogs often protect their home or space.
If a child sees a dog off-leash outside, he should not approach the dog and should tell an adult immediately.
If a loose dog comes near a child, he should not run or scream. Instead, he should avoid eye contact with the dog and stand very still, like a tree, until the animal moves away. Once the dog loses interest, the child can slowly back away.
If a child falls down or is knocked to the ground by a dog, he should curl up in a ball with his knees tucked into his stomach, and fingers interlocked behind his neck to protect his neck and ears. If a child stays still and quiet like this, the dog will most likely just sniff him and then go away.
Children should never try to outrun a dog. If a dog does attack a child, the child should “feed” the dog his jacket, bag, bicycle—or anything that he has for the dog to grab onto or anything he can put between himself and the dog.
What to do if you think a dog may attack
If you are approached by a dog that may attack you, follow these steps:
Resist the impulse to scream and run away.
Remain motionless, hands at your sides, and avoid eye contact with the dog.
Once the dog loses interest in you, slowly back away until they are out of sight.
If the dog does attack, “feed” them your jacket, purse, bicycle or anything that you can put between yourself and the dog.
If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your ears and remain motionless. Try not to scream or roll around.
What to do if you’re bitten by a dog
If you are bitten or attacked by a dog, try not to panic.
Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and warm water.
Contact your physician for additional care and advice.
Report the bite to your local animal care and control agency. Tell the animal control official everything you know about the dog, including their owner’s name and the address where they live. If the dog is a stray, tell the animal control official what the dog looks like, where you saw them, whether you’ve seen them before and in which direction they went.
Dog bite attacks can happen at any moment as evidenced by a Bakersfield video that has gone viral.
A cat came to the rescue of a boy when he was attacked in his driveway in southwest Bakersfield home. Surveillance video shows the boy playing on his bicycle in his front yard when a dog sneaks up behind him and grabs his leg.
The family’s cat, named Tara, according to KERO-23 (ABC) defends the boy, attacks the dog and chases it away. The boy’s mother told KERO that the boy was taken to a hospital and needed 10 stitches, but is doing fine now. The boy’s mother also was bit by the dog after she rescued her son.
“National Dog Bite Prevention Week” is from May 18 to 24 this year. According to State Farm insurance, California tops the list of states reporting the most dog bite claims, The Bakersfield Californian reported.
The top 5 states for State Farm dog bite claims in 2013 were:
California — 449 claims $14.7 million paid
Illinois — 309 claims $8.9 million paid
Ohio — 221 claims $4.2 million paid
Texas — 207 claims $4.0 million paid
Pennsylvania — 180 claims $5.8 million paid
The Bakersfield dog bite and attack lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Stiles are well-equipped to handle personal injury cases involving animal attacks, most commonly dog bite cases. Statistically speaking, children under the age of 10 are at the highest risk for experiencing severe and often permanent impairments from a dog attack.
The attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have compiled several frequently asked questions that may help you in the case you or a loved one experiences such an incident.
Who can sue in an animal bite or animal knock-down case?
Any person, whether a minor or adult, who has been bitten or knocked down by an animal who has been improperly or inadequately leashed or contained can sue for injuries or death caused by an animal bite or knock-down.
Who can I sue?
If you were injured or a family member was injured or killed by any animal, you can sue the person who has or should have had control of the animal. For a person to be responsible they need not be the owner of the animal. However, an owner who retains some control over the animal remains liable even if the animal is partly under the care of others.
Are there special protections under the law for people who are bitten by dogs?
Yes. California has a statute that holds that the “owner of a dog is liable for the damages suffered by anyone who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the dog owner’s property, regardless of the prior viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of that viciousness.” Thus, the owner of a dog is strictly liable for anyone who is injured or killed by a dog bite. You do not have to prove that the owner was negligent. Although the dog bite statute does not apply to the person in possession or control of a dog, that person can still be found liable for your injuries if he or she was negligent in controlling or containing the dog.
Is there a law that protects me and my family if we are attacked by any animal other than a dog?
Yes. The keeper of an animal of a species that is dangerous by nature, or that the keeper knows or has reason to know has dangerous propensities or traits, is strictly liable to anyone injured as a result of those propensities or traits. This rule provides greater protection than the dog bite statute, because it applies to keepers other than owners and animals other than dogs, including horses.
My child suffered a severe injury after being knocked down by a large dog owned by a neighbor. Can my child bring a lawsuit and recover for his or her injuries?
Yes. If you can establish that the dog had dangerous propensities or traits you will be able to maintain a strict liability case against the owner and will not have to prove negligence. Further, the owner can be held responsible for negligence if you can prove that the owner failed to exercise ordinary care in controlling the dog. This can include failure to warn you and your child of the dog’s dangerous traits, failing to ascertain whether the dog had a dangerous propensity, failing to restrain a dangerous dog, or engaging in conduct likely to excite the dog causing him to knock down your child.
Further, if the dog was unleashed and you were in a city with a leash law, there will be a presumption that the owner was negligent in causing your child’s injuries.
My aunt was walking down the street when a dog ran out of the house and charged at her. My aunt attempted to run away but tripped, fell and broke her hip. The dog never touched my aunt. Is she entitled to bring a lawsuit against the dog owner?
Although this may be a difficult case to prove, your aunt should be able to bring a case if she reasonably feared for her safety and she can prove that the owner or possessor of the dog knew or should have known of the dog’s propensity to attack people walking on the sidewalk and failed to act appropriately.
My child was bitten by a dog when he crossed through my neighbor’s back yard to get to our house without being invited. Can he bring a lawsuit even though he was a trespasser?
Yes, but only if you can establish that your neighbor was negligent in leaving his dog in the back yard and that he knew or should have known that children would cross through his back yard. This will still be a difficult case, and you will not have the benefit of the strict liability rules that apply to other dog bite cases since trespassers are excluded under the dog bite statute.
What damages are recoverable in animal bite cases?
A Plaintiff is entitled to recover damages for past and future and medical expenses, past and future wage loss, past and future pain and suffering, and if it is deemed that conduct is bad enough, punitive damages (i.e., punishment damages against the defendant). If the victim dies, his or her survivors are entitled to recover full compensation for their economic losses that result from the victim’s death, as well as emotional distress damages which stem from the loss of society, care, and comfort of the decedent. If the survivors can prove that the victim lived for a period of time between the negligent act and death, they can also bring an action for punitive damages.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an animal attack, contact our Kern County personal injury law firm immediately.