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Dog Bite Injury Classifications

How Are Dog Bite Injuries Classified?

A dog attack will always be a painful and emotionally traumatizing experience for any victim. Even though all dog owners are responsible for monitoring their dog’s aggressive tendencies, the reality is that most dog bites come from dogs that are familiar to their victims. Unfortunately, this means almost all dog bites include some degree of responsibility — and negligence — on a dog owner’s behalf.

The majority of all dog bites happen when an animal is startled or afraid. Sadly, there are too many instances when an otherwise well-behaved dog is provoked into attacking. Dog bites that are provoked by teasing or abuse are generally more common when young children are involved. But even a well-trained animal can gradually develop violent tendencies and bite.

If you or a loved one has suffered a dog attack, it’s important that you speak with a dog bite lawyer as soon as possible. Our expert team of Los Angeles dog bite lawyers at West Coast Trial Lawyers understand what you are going through, and we will help you recover all the compensation you are entitled to if you or a loved one has suffered a dog attack.

Types of Dog Bite Injuries

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Depending on a dog’s breed and the severity of an attack, dog bites can appear differently and cause a variety of injuries. Below are three of the most common dog bite injuries, along with suggestions for what to do in each case.

Abrasions: An abrasion is a superficial injury, such as a scrape or a graze, that does not go past the epidermis. Typically, the victim may not endure significant blood loss from an abrasion that is caused by a dog bite. Scarring may occur in the worst cases. A dog bite victim who suffers an abrasion can often treat their injury at home. However, medical attention is recommended to ensure you don’t have an infection or more serious complications.

Lacerations: A laceration is a deep cut or tear in the skin. Lacerations go deeper than the epidermis and penetrate through the bones, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels of a victim’s body. Lacerations are sometimes characterized by zig-zig type patterns and profuse bleeding. Dog bite lacerations cannot be treated at home, and medical attention, including stitches, is necessary. Attempting to close a laceration wound on your own with skin repair tape can lock in an infection and create unnecessary complications.

Punctures: A puncture wound occurs when a dog’s teeth pierce or puncture through a victim’s skin. Puncture wounds are smaller than lacerations, but are often deeper, which greatly increases the risk of infection. Always seek medical attention for puncture wounds, even if bleeding appears minimal.

The Dog Bite Scale

There are many ways of categorizing a dog bite, but Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Dog Bite Scale is the most commonly used method. Below are the six dog bite categories:

Level 1: At this stage, a dog is displaying clearly aggressive behavior, but there is no skin contact with its teeth. A dog at Level 1 is simply trying to scare away a person or another dog.

Level 2: The dog is becoming aggressive. There is now skin contact with the dog’s teeth, but the victim’s skin is not punctured. At this point, a dog is showing that it is willing to increase its aggression to let you know it doesn’t want you around.

Level 1 and 2 bites are the most common and make up 99 percent of all dog bite incidents. However, dogs at Level 1 and 2 are not dangerous and can be trained with relative ease.

Level 3: The dog now presents a serious threat to others. In order to count as a Level 3 attack, there must be one to four tooth punctures from a single bite, and no puncture can go deeper than half the length of a dog’s tooth.

Level 4: The situation has become very serious and a dog must be kept away from others. A Level 4 attack includes one to four punctures from a single bite. One puncture wound must also be deeper than half the length of the dog’s teeth. A Level 4 dog bite victim may develop bruising around the wound if the dog was shaking its head from side to side when it bit down.

Level 5: A dog at this stage is dangerous and rehabilitation efforts are usually unsuccessful. Multiple bites and serious attacks are commonplace. This dog is not safe around anyone. At this point, euthanasia is recommended because of the danger the dog poses to others.

Level 6: This stage is very rare, and someone, whether the animal or the victim, is killed in the attack.

California Dog Bite Law – Strict Liability

According to California Civil Code Section 3342, all dog owners are held liable for any damages suffered by a person who is bitten by their dog, whether the owner knew or should have known about their dog’s dangerous condition. As long as the victim was in a public place or lawfully on another person’s property — this includes the dog owner’s property — the dog owner is automatically responsible for any injuries a victim suffers. The dog owner will be strictly liable, whether or not the dog acted violently before, and even if the owner had no prior knowledge of the dog’s aggressive tendencies.

Our Team Is Here to Help

If you or a loved one suffered a dog bite or attack in the Los Angeles area, contact an experienced Los Angeles dog bite lawyer at West Coast Trial Lawyers today. Our attorneys will help get you the maximum compensation for your short and long-term medical care and other losses and damages. Consultations with a dedicated dog bite lawyer at our firm are always free, and you only pay when we get you compensation for your injuries. You can reach our friendly staff today by emailing us at [email protected] or by calling toll free at (213) 927-3700.


If you have been injured in an accident, you can count on the legal team at West Coast Trial Lawyers to fight for your rights every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney.
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