Each year in this nation, over four million dog bites are reported. When a dog bites you or someone you love, as soon as medical treatment has been provided, arrange to discuss your right to compensation with an Orange County personal injury lawyer.
If a dog bites you or your child, what steps should you take? How can dog bite victims obtain the compensation they are entitled to by law – compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, personal pain and suffering, and more?
If you keep reading, you’ll learn the answers to these questions in this brief look at dog bites and California law. You will also learn how the right attorney – a California personal injury lawyer who routinely handles dog bite cases – will fight for your compensation and help you obtain it.
Finally, you’ll find some tips for keeping your loved ones and yourself safe from dangerous dogs and dog bites.
How Does Strict Liability Work?
Personal injury claims arising from dog bites in California are governed by the legal doctrine known as “strict liability.” Under strict liability, the victim of a dog bite does not have to prove that the dog’s owner was negligent.
Instead, the victim and the victim’s attorney merely have to show that the dog bite happened on public property or while the victim was legally on private property.
Strict liability means that a dog owner has liability for any and all damages caused by a biting dog. If the dog never bit anyone before, and if the owner had no knowledge or suspicion of the dog’s aggressive nature, it doesn’t matter in California. The dog’s owner still has liability.
After a Dog Bite, What Are Your Priorities?
If you’re injured by a biting dog in Orange County, strict liability means the law will probably be on your side, and discussing your rights and options with an Orange County dog bite attorney – after you’ve obtained medical treatment – should be your top priority.
Under California law, strict liability governs dog bites but no other aggressive animal behavior. If a pet knocks over someone or scratches someone viciously, the standard negligence principle applies, and to be compensated, a victim may have to prove that the pet’s owner was negligent.
How Should You Handle the Dog Owner’s Insurance Company?
Coverage for dog bites is part of many homeowners insurance policies. If you are a dog bite victim, do not sign any insurance document, and do not even speak to the dog owner’s insurance company before you’ve consulted with an Orange County personal injury attorney.
The dog owner’s insurance company will probably be seeking to reduce your payout or to pay you nothing at all. Anything you say to that insurance company could be twisted and used against you to deny your claim.
Moreover, if you act without an attorney’s advice, you could end up taking a settlement figure that’s far below what your personal injury claim is worth. If you take a “low-ball” settlement offer, you also waive the right to take additional legal action or to seek additional compensation.
How Will an Attorney Help You?
In California, a dog bite victim who can prove that he or she suffered damages because of the dog bite is entitled to full compensation for all current and future dog bite-related medical expenses, lost wages including future lost earning capacity, and all other related losses and damages.
Dog bite victims have extensive legal rights in California, and the right southern California dog bite lawyer will fight aggressively and effectively to protect those rights and to recover the compensation you need and deserve.
What Are a Biting Dog’s Warning Signs?
Of course, it’s better if a dog doesn’t bite you at all. Most dogs usually exhibit some warning signs before they bite, so knowing what those signs are is imperative for both children and adults.
A dog may growl threateningly, bark furiously, and/or bare its teeth. The dog may appear to become rigid, and the hackles on the dog’s back and neck may stand straight up. Even without these signs, you must use caution around unknown dogs, as not all dogs exhibit warning signs.
Teaching children honestly about biting dogs and aggressive dogs is essential. These are the rules for first encounters with dogs that you don’t know:
- Don’t touch or try to pet the animal.
- Don’t approach or make eye contact with the animal.
- Remain still and calm. Running or screaming could provoke the animal.
Dog owners must be responsible for keeping others safe. Strict liability should compel California dog owners to take every reasonable measure to prevent their dogs from biting.
How Do Dog Bite Victims Suffer?
Animal bites can be easily infected; untreated dog bites can evolve into serious medical conditions quite rapidly. Some victims need immediate, extensive surgery or multiple surgeries and long-term therapy. In some instances, a doctor may decide rabies vaccinations are required.
The possible results of a dog bite also include serious tissue and muscle damage, nerve injuries, lacerations, amputation, and disfigurement. Dog bites can be tragic. In the United States in 2019, forty-eight dog bite-related fatalities were reported.
If a member of your family dies as the result of a dog bite, your family has the right to seek compensation with a wrongful death lawsuit.
When Should You Contact a Personal Injury Attorney?
The deadline in California for filing a personal injury lawsuit or a wrongful death lawsuit arising from dog bite injuries is two years. Realistically, however, you can’t procrastinate for two years and then scramble to take legal action at the last possible moment.
After you’ve been treated for a dog bite by a healthcare professional, contact an Orange County personal injury lawyer at once. Your attorney needs to examine the evidence while it’s fresh and interview any witnesses before their memories fade.
What Will It Cost to Begin the Legal Process?
The personal injury attorneys in California who handle dog bite cases work on a contingent fee basis, which means that your attorney is paid only if your personal injury claim prevails and you receive compensation. Your first consultation is offered without cost or obligation.
After a dog bite, make and keep copies of any medical, legal, or insurance receipts or documents generated by the incident. Take photos of your visible injuries, and let your lawyer handle the negotiations with the insurance company.
The State of California protects dog bite victims, and it legally obligates dog owners to be safety-conscious, thoughtful, and responsible for their pets at all times.