Posted on Dog Bite Law Blog / Blog / Can I Sue Over a Dog Scratch in California?

Page Updated 03/14/2022

Can I Sue Over a Dog Scratch in California?


Yes, you can sue under ordinary negligence. But no, dog bites are not treated the same as scratches under California Civil Code Section 3342 for liability purposes. True, dogs are our companions– they seem to be with us no matter where we go or what we do. But the dog owner is not without fault when things go wrong. Our canine companions are not perfect, especially if they are not trained, or if they are trained poorly.

As a result, there are far too many dog bites and scratches across the United States each year. Most dog bite attorneys in California understand our dog bite statute and that strange dogs can harm or kill just about anyone. But when dog bite victims get scratched, is that included as part of the settlement or verdict?

What if the dog’s owner alleges it was just a scratch accident, and since there is no bite, the dog bite statute doesn’t apply?

Would this be handled similarly to the one-bite rule, mandating the dog must have scratched someone else previously in order for the dog’s owner to be held liable? After all, not all dog attacks result in a bite.

For example, what if the dog was wearing a muzzle, in compliance with the local leash law and other dog bite laws? Were you trespassing and the dog was trying to protect private property or other parties? Who can be sued, if anyone?

Before you sign anything with the insurance company, or dog owner, please read what our top-notch Los Angeles dog bite lawyers have to say. Learn here about vicious and not so vicious dogs that attack, including police dogs and service dogs in California, with or without teeth causing an injury or death.

Non-Dog Bites, Dog Owners and Legal Liability

But what if dangerous dogs still manage to jump on you, knock you down, or scratch you badly? These are special circumstances, for which you must immediately seek medical attention. What if the dog kills someone after toxic poisons from the dog’s paws penetrate into their blood through open or torn skin?

What are the dog owner’s legal defenses under California personal injury law in a dog attack such as that? Does the dog’s breed play a role? What if the injured person provoked the animal on the dog owner’s property? Let’s find out more about dog owner liability and strict liability arising from something other than a dog bite claim.

More Information on Dog Scratches

Dogs typically have dirty paws from stepping on poop, feces and other bacteria throughout their day. Below we will look at options you or your loved ones will have regarding the aftermath of a dog scratch and associated diseases. Often, they’re more than just some superficial wound.

Too many people are hurt by such accidents annually, often resulting in severe infections or even worse. In many states, a dog owner will be found liable in civil court and face criminal charges and jail time, especially courts in states like Florida (See Fla. Stat. Section 767.136.).

For one, sometimes dog owners or a maintenance person will leave a yard gate open, and allow the dog to roam the neighborhood. Let’s take a look at more info and some special precautions on how we can not only avoid dog scratches but handle them properly.

Our expert attorney, Michael Ehline, writes about how to deal with this situation. In most instances, you didn’t try to get scratched. But Ehline Law is here to help press charges against the dog owner and deal with the insurance company or other organizations financially liable. Call us for a free consultation today by dialing (213) 596-9642.

Statistics on Annual Dog Scratches

First, let’s look at the information from the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC tracks the number of dog bites and scratches annually. They posted crucial information about these types of injuries here.

Furthermore, the CDC also posts related dog injuries, such as dog bites. More info can be seen here. There are multiple means by which a dog bite or animal scratch can cause injury in or outside the presence of a dog owner. One is due to the infection of the victim, bitten or not. Another is due to the risk of rabies.

Leading Cause of Rabies?

As the mammal that is most in contact with people, dogs are the leading cause of the spread of rabies. Rabies is a terminal disease and one that should be taken as seriously as possible by the negligence victim, even if scratched by a small puppy who escaped the side door, hole in a fence, or roaming in a public space like a dog park.

The CDC evidence shows that scratches are less likely to spread the disease than biting, but both should be taken seriously as the victim could still be killed in rare cases. This is especially the case when dealing with an exchange of fluid, whether it be saliva or blood. Approximately 800,000 Americans are affected by dog bites annually.

Thousands are affected by dog scratches annually. A dog bite is often a major concern as well. But the rules are still the same if you suffered a dog attack. The dog owner is strictly liable if the dog attacked an innocent person, bitten or not bitten. The more we know, the better. Fighting the effects of a dog bite or dog scratches is crucial.

Risks of Dog Scratches

Dog scratches often seem like a less serious issue than bites. In some ways, they are. That being said, there is still a substantial risk for adults and children when injured by a dog. In some cases, this is due to an aggressive dog due to rabies. In other cases, dogs will attack a person that they do not know like a mail carrier. For others, it is due to a lack of training.

Regardless of the cause, a scratch can be a major issue. This goes even more so for children. Dog scratches can range from a superficial wound to something that breaks the skin. When combined with dog bites, there are occasions where this is potentially fatal. For the average person, there is always a risk that a dog may become hostile. The more knowledge you have before an attack, the better can avoid emotional trauma, bodily injuries, and property damage caused by other dogs.

Treating Dog Scratches

Treating dog scratches or some other injury sustained all comes back to the topic of severity. Some scratches are treatable at home. Often, the area should be washed extensively with soap and water. It should then be treated with an anti-septic. This is often alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or iodine. In certain circumstances, the dog owner is often familiar with this issue– whether is be due to scratches or a dog bite.

Handling More Severe Scratch Injuries

For more severe scratches, you or a loved one should go to the doctor. Some scratches can wait for a regularly scheduled appointment. This is important to remember for scratch victims and a dog owner alike. In other cases, the scratch should be treated as an emergency. The doctor will be able to handle the case appropriately. In some cases, there will be a simple cleaning of the site. In others, there will be a need for stitches. Your doctor will also be able to administer a rabies shot if needed. Your doctor will know what to do. If you are not sure, you should seek medical treatment.

What Do I Do Next After a Dog Scratch?

This is a common topic, and one that should be taken seriously. For some, the answer is medical treatment. However, there are often long term issues related to a dog scratch, especially if it gets infected. If you or a loved one are at risk of being infected by rabies, there is a special attention necessary to avoid a much worse disease– and outcome.

One of the most common responses after medical treatment is to contact a skilled personal injury attorney. A specialized attorney will have the experience to handle and prove every element of what you or the scratched person will face. Their experience in law school, with animals and the courtroom, will be crucial to the victim, bitten or not.

In some circumstances, there is a need for compensation for such injuries. Medical bills are often quite hefty, especially if you are uninsured or underinsured. They will rack up quickly and could become a major burden for your family. This is especially the case when the injuries continue over a long period. Serious infections, such as a staph infection are a serious concern.

What Are Some Potential Dog Bite Injuries?

Earlier we wrote about some potential injuries that could be caused by danger from dog scratches or while chasing you, jumping on you, and knocking you down. Dog owners and those who come in contact with their pets should know this. Because of the seriousness of fangs and tooth bites, dog scratches can be overlooked. Rabies is a concern, as written about above. The pain and suffering go beyond this for the injured person, especially with dog attacks by dangerous breeds or scary breeds like Pitbulls and Rottweilers.

We have more info about that below.

  • Rabies: This is the most serious if your dog bit someone. It is less likely to occur in dog bites than dog scratches, but something to be guarded against as much as possible. Quick treatment of the wound is crucial to stop the risk of potential infection. The person with negligence may find their dog quarantined and destroyed for any damages caused by their unruly pet. (Think small child victim badly lacerated by sharp paws.

  • Topical infection. This is perhaps the most pressing and common form of injury caused by dog scratches. Dogs are often exposed to the elements and their scratches can cause severe infects. Some can lodge under the skin and cause anything ranging from discomfort to needing surgery. This is especially the case with issues below.

  • MRSA or a Staph infections. These are less common but certainly a concern but reported by scratched bicycle riders and U.S. mail carriers. Drug resistant infections, such as MRSA or Staph can land you or a loved one in the hospital. They must be taken seriously. Treatment early on after the scratch should be able to avoid many of these effects. However, untreated wounds are still likely to cause these types of infections. Furthermore, they could also happen even in wounds that are fully treated. Such infections can lead to hospitalization or even the risk of losing a limb. While they are less common than a topical infection, the risk of serious injury or hospitalization are enough that they must still be taken very seriously.

How Do I Contact a Dog Scratch Personal Injury Lawyer?

Whether you are dealing with the case of a severe dog scratch or a dog bite, you should make sure that all of your bases are covered. Often, after medical treatment, this includes the contacting of a skilled personal injury lawyer.

Above, we wrote about the importance of such an attorney. Below we will write about some of the key reasons that such an attorney will be important to where you are headed next. There is a good rule of thumb in cases like this– if you are not sure, you should contact an attorney. We will show below why and how this is a good idea.

Key Points Before Suing a Dog Owner or Controller

  • Specialization. Calling an attorney that does not have specialization in dog bites or dog scratches can be a big mistake. You may like and trust the attorney that filed your divorce papers or closed the deal on your house, but he or she may not be the right person for this job. Instead, an attorney that is well versed and practiced in personal injury– especially that of dog bites is key. This goes for whether you are the injured person or if you are the dog owner. Dog owners could also benefit from having the right advice from an expert.

  • Working on contingency. Many attorneys charge a retainer fee for their services. There are cases where this is the best path forward. However, many attorneys work on retainer, especially in cases of a dog bite or a dog scratch. They know the dog bite statutes and are willing to go to war to help you recover, physically and medically.

    Such attorneys will be there and will not charge you a cent unless they win. For families dealing with the severe issues of a dog bite or a dog scratch, this can be crucial. The same goes for dog owners. Attorneys working on contingency do not get paid, unless they recover for the client. Being able to have someone who won’t keep billing for work prior to the case being argued is key.

Some families prefer retainers— and have the thousands of dollars necessary to make this happen. However, attorneys who work on contingency and those who work on retainer are equally skilled. In fact, many attorneys will do both, depending on circumstance.

Attorneys who work on contingency charge different rate, but one of the most common is one third of the overall recovery. This means that the injured person will have the correct amount necessary to handle all of the effects of the injury– both when it comes to a physical recovery and for the bills that the injury of the dog bite or dog scratch need. Choosing an attorney working on contingency that understands the dog bite statutes is crucial.

What if My Canine Scratches Another Canine?

In almost all states no compensation is allowed in negligence cases for any emotional trauma or harm for the injured animal, or the person losing their companion animals even if they perceive the injuries as they occur.

The Importance of Working with a Caring Attorney

Working with you. You may be tempted to use your old real estate attorney. This may be the case especially if you are the dog owner in question. However, dog owners or the injured each have different concerns. Having an attorney that is always available to you and your family who can also competently deal with the dog owner’s insurance company remains key.

Some attorneys will work with you through anything you need. In some cases, they will cover the cost of medical expenses up front. In others, they can pre-pay for the future medical expenses. This can be the key element needed to help your family recover in the way it needs to. Don’t discount it during a time of need for non-dog bite attacks.

Either way, the private property owner or dog owner has a legal responsibility to compensate the person injured, especially if the dog owner knew one of their pets bite people or their large dog’s actions caused bad scratches.

Whether it’s a small dog or a large dog, we can assist you in pursuing liability insurance money. Once you form an attorney-client relationship with us, we can help you recover financially for any injuries caused. If the settlement offer is too low, we can help you file a civil lawsuit against those legally responsible for causing your puncture wounds, lost wages, emotional distress, and other injuries a dog caused.

Who is the Best Los Angeles Dog Bite and Dog Scratch Attorney?

Fortunately, this one is easy– the Ehline Law Firm APLC. The firm has multiple offices up and down the Pacific Coast. And, even better, it has the best experience when it comes to dog bite cases coupled with severe injuries. This is the case for both the injured and for unreasonably careless dog owners. Having the ability to handle dog bite and dog scratch cases is going to be the best possible feather in your cap.

The Ehline Law Firm’s lawyers are virtuously and competently led by Michael Ehline, a disabled Marine Corps veteran. He is a man who built the best team in Southern California. His military experience also showed him the importance of never giving up on your friends and comrades. He will not ask for a penny or give up one inch until he has won money damages for you in the face of the dog owner’s carelessness.

Speak with a Talented Dog Scratch and Bleeding Attorney in Los Angeles Today!

Not sure what to decide on after dealing with all this trauma from an infection after a dog attack? Look no further than his millions recovered for clients in various personal injury cases. He is there in cases of a dog bite or a dog scratch. He is there for you. He is the best option when recovering from a scratch or a dog bite.

Don’t blow the typical two-year statute of limitations and become time-barred from suing the negligent party. Reach out to Mr. Ehline for more info or to contact one of his star attorneys.

If we can’t win a great settlement, we’ll bring your suffering before the judge and jury. If you have any questions, he can be reached at info@ehlinelaw.com

Ehline Law Firm - Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC
Attorney at Law
Michael P. Ehline Esq.
Downtown Los Angeles Corporate Offices

Downtown Los Angeles Office
633 West 5th Street #2890
Los Angeles, CA 90071
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633 West 5th Street #2890
Los Angeles, CA 90071
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Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC