Most people judge dogs on their size, breed, demeanor, and their location. Many of the people who visit a San Diego dog bite attorney never thought they were putting their safety at risk when they were bitten. In many instances, the dog owner will even express surprise that their dog bit someone. According to California’s dog bite laws, the dog owner is legally liable for the dog’s actions and the resulting injuries regardless of its past behavior.
A dog bite can be devastating to the victim. It can cause severe pain and injuries that require medical treatment and, possibly, surgery. Some dog attacks have been severe enough to result in death. The injuries from a dog bite can leave both physical and emotional scars that last a lifetime. Many people become unusually fearful of dogs after being bitten, fearing the incident will be repeated.
California Dog Bite Laws and Strict Liability
The laws affecting dog bites differ by state. In “Negligence” states the dog owner must be proven to have been negligent or be in violation of an animal control law before they are considered liable for a dog bite. California differs in that it is a “Strict Liability” state. This means the owner is still liable for a dog bite even if he/she claims no previous knowledge that the dog could act aggressively.
There are only two exceptions for when a dog owner may not be held liable for a dog bite in California. The victim must have a legal right to be on private property when the bite occurred. If the dog owner can prove the victim was trespassing, they may not be held liable. The second exception is for military or law enforcement dogs that bite someone while performing its duty.
These circumstances may seem very straightforward, but proving the circumstances of the incident can be challenging. It is always a good idea for the victim of a dog bite to talk with a San Diego dog bite attorney any time they are injured by someone else’s dog. The dog bite law refers specifically to bites and provides victims with the right to sue the dog owner. You may still have other legal options to pursue a case if a dog causes an injury without biting you, such as jumping on you and knocking you down a flight of stairs. You may also have legal options if the dog was in the care of another person, such as a dog walker, when you were bitten.
Scenarios Where Dog Bites Can Happen
Most dog bites are unexpected and they rarely happen because someone decides to ignore a “Beware of Dog” sign. Dog bites may happen while visiting someone in their house or walking through their yard; even if it is a dog you have been around many times before.
Another common misconception that people make is that only large dogs and those of certain breeds are a danger to them. For example, Pitt Bulls have a reputation for their violent behavior while Labrador retrievers are thought of as friendly and safe. Stereotypes can be just as misleading for dog breeds as they can be for people. You never know a strange dog’s story or what kind of temperament he may have based on his appearance. It is always best to try and avoid a dog bite altogether than to deal with the aftermath of a severe bite.
Children are especially vulnerable to dog bites. They may pull on a dog’s tail and ears, causing a dog that has never bitten anyone before to become agitated and bite the child. According to the dog bite laws in California, being provoked does not relieve the dog owner of liability if the dog bites.
When children are bitten, it is often to the face. Their small size can result in more severe damage and they may require one or more surgeries to repair the damage. The experience can also be one that causes a great deal of psychological grief to the child and their parents. If you can prove resulting pain and suffering caused by the bite, you may be able to recover more money to compensate. A San Diego dog bite attorney can explain the parents’ rights to recovery so that they can get the help they need in paying for medical bills for their child’s care.
What If I Am Bitten by a Dog in Public?
Sometimes, the dog may be completely unfamiliar to you. Dogs may break free from their restraints or escape their backyards without their owner even realizing it. Never assume that a dog that you see out in public is “friendly” just because it has been allowed to roam freely. Most dog owners know the risk to their pets if they are not confined to home.
When a dog you don’t recognize is roaming freely and bites you, report the incident to your local animal care and control agency. A dog may be identified through ID information on its collar or tags once it has been captured. If possible, the dog is legally required to be restrained by the owner for ten days for observation to determine if it is vicious, diseased, or rabid. When the owner is not present and can’t be found, the dog will be turned over to the San Diego Department of Health for observation.
If you have been bitten by any dog in any location, get immediate medical attention. Even if a dog has a rabies vaccine tag, it doesn’t mean that it is current or that the vaccination actually went to this dog. In addition to the possible exposure to rabies, a dog bite can also introduce harmful bacteria into the wound that could lead to infection and serious complications.
If any dog bites a person for the second time, the district attorney or a city attorney might bring an action in court to determine if confinement and treatment are sufficient to keep others safe from it or whether it should be removed or destroyed. The exception to this rule is for dogs that have been trained for fighting. In this case, only one bite is required before the future of the animal can be determined in court.
What If the Dog Owner Is a Friend or Family Member?
It can be especially difficult to know what to do if the dog that bites you belongs to someone you are close to. In 75% of all dog bite cases, the dog owner is a friend, family member, or a neighbor. No one wants to sue someone close to them and cause them to experience a financial burden.
The dog owner may try to brush off the incident as not being serious or they may promise to pay any medical bills that result. They may even offer to drive you to the doctor’s office to have the bite checked out. The problem with this scenario is that there is no way of knowing exactly how severe the damage is or what might happen in the future. If you develop an infection that requires ongoing medical treatment or end up requiring surgery, the dog owner may become less agreeable. Relationships can be strained and leave you wondering what to do to pay your medical bills without causing more controversy.
The solution may be simpler than you think. If the dog owner has home owner’s insurance, dog bites are usually covered. Some renter’s insurance policies cover dog bites as well. Ask the dog owner about their insurance coverage. Schedule an appointment with a San Diego dog bite attorney immediately after the bite occurs to discuss the situation and to learn your options. If you wait too long, you could surpass the two-year statute of limitations and lose your right to file a claim.
What If They Do Not Have Homeowner’s Insurance?
If the dog owner does not have homeowner’s insurance or they are being uncooperative, getting compensation for your injuries becomes much more challenging. In this case, you will have to sue the dog owner directly instead of dealing with the insurance company.
An experienced San Diego dog bite attorney who has an in-depth knowledge of the California dog bite law and the personal injury laws will know how to approach the case to improve your chances of success. Even when the dog owner does have homeowner’s insurance, it takes someone with the skills of negotiation to work with insurance companies and make them pay adequate compensation to the victim.
How Much Will My Attorneys’ Fees Be?
Suing someone or taking on big insurance companies can be intimidating to a dog bite victim. They may fear that they will end up owing thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees only to end up losing their case. The last thing they want is to add to their financial problems.
Personal injury attorneys take cases on contingency, meaning that you pay nothing upfront and only after the case has been won. You only pay after you receive financial recovery. There is no risk to you for taking action and filing a claim.
If you have been bitten by a dog in the state of California, contact Batta Fulkerson Law today and learn your rights and your options. You shouldn’t have to face the financial or emotional burden resulting from your experience on your own.