Personal injury: Dog severs child's hand. Is owner liable?

California has strict liability laws when it comes to dog bites. It makes dog owners responsible for any dog bites to lawful visitors to the property where the dog is held, or in a public place. Anyone who is bitten by a dog under such circumstances can file a personal injury lawsuit against the dog owner. The victim is not required to prove the owner knew that the dog could be dangerous.

Each dog bite claim is made up of unique circumstances. In another state recently, a young child lost his hand due to a dog attack. Reportedly, the 4-year-old boy played in the backyard, adjacent to a neighbor's yard that contained two husky breed dogs behind a solid, six-foot tall vinyl fence.

Authorities say the child put his hand in a sock, and pushed his hand through the small gap under the fence -- presumably to catch the attention of the dogs. One of the dogs saw this and attacked the unfamiliar object, severing the boy's hand. The father called emergency workers, who could not find the hand and assumed that the dogs ingested it. The child was airlifted to a hospital where doctors had to amputate a portion of his arm above where the hand was severed.

In California and elsewhere, this tragic accident would likely be a challenging legal case, calling for the expertise of a savvy personal injury lawyer. Could the dog owner be responsible? Possibly, though he contained the dogs and the boy was not actually on his property when the dog ripped the child's hand off. A careful investigation will be necessary and may focus on the vinyl material used for the fence as well as the nature of the exposed gap underneath the fence. If evidence of negligence exists, a claim for personal injuries may be appropriate.

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