Every year, over four million people in the United States become dog bite victims, and over 800,000 of those dog bite victims seek medical treatment. Are you at risk? If a dog bites and injures you, arrange at once to discuss your rights with a Pasadena dog bite attorney.
Under California law, how is liability determined for a dog bite injury? How serious are the injuries that a dog can inflict? How can you be compensated for your medical bills and related expenses after a dog bite?
If you’ll continue to read this brief discussion of dog bites, liability, and California law, you will learn the answers to these questions, but if you or your child becomes a dog bite victim, you should also contact a Pasadena dog bite lawyer for the personalized legal advice you will need.
What Are the Dog Bite Statistics?
Of the approximately 800,000 dog bites reported in 2021 in the United States, 56 resulted in fatalities. In that same year, almost 18,000 dog bite claims were filed in the U.S. against homeowners policies.
Dog bites and dog-related injuries constituted more than a third of all homeowners liability claim dollars paid out in 2021, amounting to approximately $881 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm, the largest writer of homeowners insurance in the U.S.
Half of all dog bite victims are children. The elderly are the next largest group of victims. For many who have been injured, healing from a dog bite takes months – or longer – and requires multiple surgeries and long-term physical therapy.
How Dangerous is a Dog Bite?
If a dog bites you or your child, call for paramedics or go to a hospital’s emergency room at once. If the dog had symptoms for rabies – or if the dog cannot be located – a doctor may order painful rabies vaccinations.
Dog bites also cause lacerations, serious muscle and tissue damage, and in some cases, permanent disfigurement. Dog owners in California need to understand both California’s “strict liability” law and their own homeowners insurance policies.
Who is Liable for Dog Bite Injuries in California?
California law imposes strict liability on dog owners for injuries that arise from dog bites, even if the dog has not hurt anyone in the past and even if the dog’s owner was unaware that the dog had aggressive tendencies.
For California dog owners, strict liability means a “Beware of Dog” sign will not help you if your dog bites someone and that person files an injury claim. Owners are liable for dog bites even if the victim was previously warned and even if the dog has not been aggressive in the past. Dogs who are doing police or military work are legal exceptions to strict liability in California.
If you become a dog bite victim in Southern California, a Pasadena dog bite attorney will investigate the incident, review your medical records and any other evidence, speak to any witnesses, and negotiate for the compensation that you are entitled to by law.
What Will a Dog Bite Victim Need to Prove?
In some states, to prevail with a dog bite injury claim, the victim must prove that the dog attacked or bit someone in the past and the owner was aware of the dog’s tendencies. With strict liability, California imposes no such requirement on dog bite victims who seek compensation.
However, strict liability does not mean that you will automatically be compensated for a dog bite-related injury. You will need medical records to prove exactly how you were injured. You also must prove that you were legally at the site where the dog bit you.
Even with strict liability, a dog owner has several possible defenses against a dog bite claim. If you were not legally at the site where the dog bit you – in other words, if you were trespassing or perpetrating some other crime when the dog bit you – you’ll have no grounds for filing a claim.
What is the Assumption of Risk Defense?
In some states, the “assumption of risk” is a common defense in dog bite cases when a “Beware of Dog” sign has been posted. If a dog bite victim consciously ignored a “Beware of Dog” sign and willingly approached a dog known to be dangerous, the victim assumed the risk of injury.
While every case is different, and there are almost always exceptions to any law, a “Beware of Dog” sign, by itself, is not enough to establish an assumption of risk by the victim in a California dog bite case.
When Should You Contact a Dog Bite Attorney?
California has a two-year statute of limitations for filing personal injury lawsuits arising from dog bite injuries, which means that a victim has two years from the date of the dog bite to file an injury claim, with very few exceptions.
Don’t wait two years to speak with a dog bite attorney. Your attorney will need to examine any evidence while it’s fresh and speak to any witnesses before their recollections start to fade. As soon as you have been treated for a dog bite, call a Southern California dog bite attorney.
Injury attorneys in California work on a contingency fee basis. If you are a dog bite victim, your initial case evaluation is offered without cost or obligation. If you proceed with legal action, you will pay an attorney no fee until and unless that attorney recovers the compensation you need.
What Else Should You Know About Dog Bites?
Do not accept a speedy settlement or even talk with the dog owner’s insurance company before you have consulted a Pasadena dog bite lawyer. If you accept a settlement without a lawyer’s advice, you may forfeit your right to take additional legal action or receive further compensation.
A Southern California injury attorney can almost always negotiate a more generous settlement on a dog bite victim’s behalf. Dog bite claims are usually resolved privately, quickly, and away from any courtroom.
When a settlement can’t be negotiated with a dog owner, or if a reasonable settlement offer is not forthcoming, your attorney will take your injury claim to trial, explain how you were injured and how extensively you were injured, and ask a jury to order the payment of your compensation.
If you and your California injury attorney can prove your dog bite injury claim, you will be compensated, and the law will be on your side.