Q: Who is responsible when a former police dog bites?
Police officers protect and serve, and canine (“K-9”) officers are no exception. Trained to be vicious in taking down and apprehending suspects, biting is part of a canine officer’s job description.
Unfortunately, you apparently can’t teach old dogs new tricks.
Are police dogs more likely to be responsible for a dog bite injury when off-duty or retired from police service?
A new Grover Beach police officer had previously trained and patrolled with a Belgian Malinois police dog named “Neo” while on his previous assignment at the Exeter Police Department. After leaving, he reportedly purchased the 2-1/2 year-old fully-trained police dog for use as his “personal pet” from Exeter, who required the officer to sign a liability waiver in an apparent attempt to shield or indemnify the department from responsibility for any damages or injuries Neo might thereafter cause.
While living with the police officer, Neo reportedly “got loose” and attacked the officer’s 85-year-old neighbor as she was walking her dog as well as another 64-year-old male who came to her rescue. Both victims suffered serious injuries in the vicious dog attack and the gentleman tragically died three days later from his injuries.
In addition to being criminally charged with “two counts of failing to maintain control of the dangerous animal”, the officer will likely face civil lawsuits for personal injury from the injured woman and wrongful death from the family of the deceased man. Further, attorneys for both dog bite victims expressed an intention to sue Exeter for damages that resulted from the “extremely reckless decision” to sell Neo to the officer.
In a dog bite lawsuit, a California dog owner is strictly liable for the damages its dog causes to another regardless of whether the owner knew the dog was dangerous, so long as the victim was not trespassing or provoking the dog.
In addition to the dog’s owner, other third parties may be held liable for dog bite injuries, including the owner or landlord of the property where the attack occurred for allowing the dog on the premises—depending on the circumstances of each case.
A victim may be awarded financial compensation for their medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and property damage. In particularly reckless or intentional cases, punitive damages– which are designed to punish the dog owner or other responsible third-party– may be imposed. Factors that impact the amount of the award include the seriousness of the injuries and the extent to which the victim might’ve contributed to the accident.
California dog bite lawsuits are complex, so it’s important to seek legal counsel from an experienced attorney prior to accepting any insurance settlement offer. The attorneys at J&Y Law Firm have extensive experience in dog bite lawsuits and can help you maximize your recovery. If you’ve been injured in a dog bite accident in California, call us today at 888-806-6722 for a free evaluation of your case. With 21 offices throughout the state, we serve clients all over California as well as nationwide.