Understanding dog bite injuries and provocation

California remains home to many dog owners and their pets. Unfortunately, interactions between dogs and humans are not always benign, and people do suffer from bites. The fault does not always lie with the dog, even when the canine in question is an “aggressive” breed. Sometimes, human beings provoke the attack.

A dog’s owner can face civil actions when a dog bites someone. If, while walking a dog in the park, the pet unexpectedly attacks someone passing by, the owner could face a lawsuit. When the injured party provoked the attack, damages could be reduced or eliminated.

Allowing a dog to run free and without a lease could establish negligence. After all, the dog is no longer under the owner’s control and can’t be kept away from others in the park. However, the owner might not bear all the fault if the person bitten swatted an unaggressive dog for coming too close. Merely not liking the dog’s presence would doubtfully warrant striking it, and hitting the dog served as an act of provocation to cause the bite.

Questions arise about the proportionality of contributory fault. The owner bears some fault for letting the dog run free, and the injured party contributed to the attack by threatening the dog.

What happens when the injured party’s actions were not threatening? Courts have ruled that petting a dog, for example, might not count as a provocation. Accidentally hurting a dog, however, be considered a provocation.

Ultimately, dog bites must be examined in light of all the contributing and mitigating factors. Doing so casts light on where the fault lies, in whole and part. Sometimes, a dog bite expert lends testimony to assess whether provocation played a role. The testimony might help or hurt a case for damages depending on the provided opinion.

Someone bitten by a dog in a park may require both medical attention and psychological counseling. An attorney who handles dog bite cases may file a suit to procure a monetary judgment or settlement on behalf of the client.