What is Your Recourse if a Dog Injures You?
If you are injured in Southern California as the result of a dog bite, you may be entitled by law to recover compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and related losses and damages, but you’ll need the advice and representation that an Orange County dog bite attorney offers.
What are the most dangerous breeds of dogs? Are there any breeds that are banned in Orange County or anywhere else in California? If a dog bites and injures you, what are your legal rights, and what will it take to prevail with a personal injury claim against the dog’s owner?
If you’ll keep reading, you will learn the answers to these questions, and you’ll also learn how an Orange County dog bite lawyer will help you recover compensation if you’re injured by a biting dog in Southern California.
What Breeds Are Dangerous?
No specific dog breeds are banned in Orange County or elsewhere in California, but California does impose strict rules for dogs that are “potentially dangerous” or “vicious.”
Potentially dangerous or vicious dogs may include but are not limited to:
- Pit bulls
- Staffordshire bull terriers
- American pit bull terriers
- German shepherds
How Does the Law Define “Potentially Dangerous” and “Vicious” Dogs?
The law, however, does not single out any particular breeds. Instead, it defines a dog as “potentially dangerous” if the dog:
- off the owner’s property, forces someone to act defensively to prevent bodily harm, or
- bites a person and causes an injury, or
- off the owner’s property, injures or kills a domestic animal
California legally defines a “vicious dog” as a dog that has either:
- been seized by authorities after involvement in organized dog fighting, or
- been designated as potentially dangerous and continues to be aggressive, or
- severely injured or killed someone aggressively and without provocation
What Does California Law Require?
A dog may be designated potentially dangerous or vicious after an investigation conducted by a law enforcement agency, an animal control officer, or a California court. If that investigation finds the dog poses an imminent threat to the public, the dog may be impounded.
When a dog has been designated potentially dangerous or vicious, the owner must take measures to prevent the dog from harming anyone. If the dog causes someone’s injury or death, the owner may be sued for personal injury or for wrongful death or even charged with a crime.
California requires potentially dangerous or vicious dogs to be licensed and fully vaccinated. On the owner’s property, these dogs must be kept indoors, in a kennel, or in a fenced yard. Away from an owner’s property, these dogs must be on a leash and under an adult’s control at all times.
What Are Your Rights if a Dog Bites You?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than four million dog bites are suffered every year in the United States. Over half of the victims are children. In the worst cases, dog bites cause long-term psychological damage, disfigurement, amputations, or death.
What are your rights if you’re attacked and injured by a dog in California? Can you prevail with a personal injury claim against the owner and recover compensation for your medical costs and related damages?
Yes, you can. California is a “strict liability” state for dog bites. Under strict liability, a dog’s owner is usually liable whenever the dog bites someone, including the first time, even if the owner had no previous reason to believe that the dog had aggressive tendencies.
When Are Dog Owners Legally Responsible for Dog Bites?
If you own a dog in California, you may be held liable if the dog injures another person or damages someone else’s property. An owner may be held liable for a dog bite or dog attack if the dog bite victim and his or her attorney can prove that:
- The dog inflicted a personal injury on the victim.
- The victim wasn’t trespassing, committing another offense, or provoking the animal.
In California, proving these two elements of your dog bite injury claim, with help from an Orange County dog bite attorney, is all that you must do to prevail with your claim and recover compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and related damages.
What Are a Dog Owner’s Defenses?
But even with California’s strict liability law, under some circumstances, a dog’s owner may not be held liable for a dog bite. A dog’s owner may prevail against a personal injury claim by insisting, for example, that:
- The dog bite victim provoked the animal.
- The dog bite victim was trespassing on the dog owner’s property.
- The dog was a police or military dog acting in the line of duty.
- The dog was acting in defense of its owner or another person.
If a Dog Bites You or Your Child
If a dog bites you or your child in Southern California, your first priority is seeking or summoning medical attention immediately. After examination and treatment by a health care provider, contact the offices of an Orange County dog bite lawyer as quickly as possible.
Your lawyer will negotiate with the dog owner’s insurance company while you recover your health. Most dog bite claims are settled out-of-court, but if liability for the incident is disputed, or if no acceptable settlement amount is offered, your lawyer will take your case to trial.
At a personal injury trial, your attorney will tell a jury how you became a dog bite victim, explain the severity and extent of your injury, and tell the jurors why they should find in your favor and order the payment of your compensation.
What Else Should You Know?
If a dog injures you, do not sign any insurance documents or agree to any settlement before you consult a California injury attorney. If you take a quick settlement offer, it may be significantly less than your injury claim is actually worth, and you’ll sign away your right to take legal action.
The statute of limitations in California for filing a dog bite claim is two years from the date the dog bite happened, but don’t wait two years – or even two weeks – to contact a personal injury attorney. As soon as you’ve been treated for your injury, make the call.
Your case will be handled on a contingent fee basis, so you will pay no attorney’s fee upfront and no fee until your attorney recovers your compensation. If you are a dog bite victim, now or in the future, your first consultation with an attorney is provided with no cost or obligation.