Being bitten by a dog can be a traumatic experience that results in severe and long-lasting injuries. If you or a loved one has been attacked and bitten by a dog, you should immediately seek medical assistance and the counsel of a qualified legal professional.
Laws governing dog bite liability vary from state to state. Some states operate under “negligence” rules in which an owner is only liable if they had prior knowledge of their dog’s aggressiveness or were otherwise negligent in their handling of the animal.
California handles dog bites under the “strict liability” standard. This means that an owner is liable for the violent actions of their dog regardless of whether they had any prior knowledge of the animal’s aggressive behavior. In other words, an owner cannot claim that they had no idea the animal was capable of aggressive action and thereby escape liability.
If you are bitten by a dog and suffer resulting injuries, you may be entitled to damages under “strict liability” rules if two separate conditions are met:
Your injuries must be the result of a dog bite
You were bitten in a public place or you were bitten while legally present in a private place
Note that you may still be able to recover damages if you suffered injuries from a dog attack but not specifically a dog bite. For example, an enormous dog may suddenly jump on you on the sidewalk, calling you to fall and break your wrist. In these cases, you are not protected under “strict liability” rules and will have to prove the owner was negligent in their handling of the animal.
“Public places” include parks and neighborhood sidewalks. Dog bites often occur in the yards or homes of private residences, however. In these situations, whether strict liability rules apply depends on whether you had permission to be on private property. If you cut through a yard without the owner’s permission and were bitten by their dog as a result, for example, strict liability does not apply. If you were invited over to a friend’s house and the friend’s dog bit you, however, the strict liability statute does apply.
Understanding how the state’s dog bite rules impact your ability to recover compensation sometimes be confusing. As a Menifee dog bite attorney, I can evaluate your situation and determine whether you have a strong case.
Rob Schelling, Attorney at Law - Dog Bites
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Rob Schelling, Attorney at Law - Dog Bites and Insurance
How Dog Bite Claims Work in California
In the wake of a dog bite, you should promptly seek medical attention, even if you do not appear to have suffered any serious injuries. Some injuries may not be immediately obvious, and a professional medical report documenting your injuries will be extremely useful when bringing a personal injury suit.
In the state of California, you have two years from the date of the dog bite incident to file a complaint. Lawsuits filed after this deadline will most likely be dismissed.
In bringing a dog bite claim under the strict liability statute, you will need to provide evidence that the dog bit you and that the bite occurred while you were in a public place or lawfully in a private place. Because strict liability applies in these cases, you will not have to prove the owner was negligent in their handling of the animal. Simply proving you were bitten in a place you had permission to be in is enough.
Be aware that California operates under “pure comparative fault” rules when adjudicating personal injury cases, meaning that each party’s role in causing the incident will be evaluated. This can be relevant in dog bite cases if it can be proven that the victim provoked the animal in some way. In this type of scenario, the victim may be determined to be partially at fault for causing the dog bite, and any resulting judgment will be commensurately reduced.
For example, if the claimant is found to be 25% at fault and a judge awards $25,000 in damages, the award will be reduced by 25%. The claimant will consequently only receive $20,000.
If you are the victim of a dog bite, you may be able to recover damages for:
Reduced earning capacity as a result of injuries
Loss of consortium or quality of life
Pain and suffering
As a Menifee dog bite lawyer, I am committed to helping you recover the maximum available judgment. When you come to me for help, I can help you understand what types of compensation you may be entitled to. My office is committed to fighting for you and will work diligently to secure a favorable outcome in your case.