Fatal Dog Attack: What Are the Legal Options

Fatal dog attack settlement with Santa Rosa dog bite lawyer

After losing a loved one in a fatal dog attack, you may understandably feel angry, sad, and overwhelmed. No one should ever suffer the loss of a loved one in such a traumatic and frightening manner. Do you know what to do to obtain dog attack damages? A dog owner must be held accountable for that fatal attack. Don’t let a pet owner or insurance company talk you out of fair compensation. Contact a personal injury attorney at Henderson Law today to discuss your options for recovery of a fatal dog attack settlement. 

What Are California’s Dog Bite Laws? 

Proving liability for a fatal attack or one that causes severe injuries is more straightforward in California than in other states. California imposes strict liability on all owners of dogs that cause injuries to others. In other words, there is no requirement for injured victims to prove that the dog owner knew that pet was aggressive. However, there are some exceptions to the rule of strict liability for dog owners, including: 

  • You must lawfully be on the property where the attack happened. Dog owners are not strictly liable to trespassers. However, injured persons may sue for negligence.
  • The strict liability for law enforcement dogs only applies to innocent bystanders that suffer dog bites. Suspects can sue only for negligence. 
  • Those caring for another’s dog may not be held strictly liable; however, you can sue them for negligence. 
  • Veterinarians and kennel workers are not permitted to sue owners for strict liability if they suffer a dog bite. They may sue dog owners for negligence. 
  • The law does not hold owners strictly liable if the injured party teased, provoked, or harassed the animal before the attack. 

Speak with a personal injury attorney to discuss the recovery of dog attack damages. It’s essential to act quickly. California law gives injured victims two years to file their claim after their dog attack. This statute of limitations provides for minimal exceptions. Failure to file a claim within the required period likely bars you from any recovery in the future. 

What to Do After a Dog Bite 

Immediately following an attack, it may be impossible to know what to do. However, possessing the clarity of mind to take the following steps may assist your attorney when you file a lawsuit against the dog owner. 

Seek Medical Attention

Prioritize your health in the wake of a dog attack. Seek medical treatment immediately. Even if you believe you suffered a minor scratch or cut from the dog’s teeth, a medical evaluation can rule out the risk of infection or more severe harm you may not have considered. Additionally, beginning a medical record may connect any subsequent injuries to the initial dog attack. 

Gather Evidence 

Immediately preserve any evidence related to the dog attack. This includes the dog owner’s contact information, address, and insurance information. Additionally, take photographs of the dog, the location of the attack, and injuries. If you filed a police report, obtain a copy of that report for your records. 

Contact an Attorney 

Understandably you may feel overwhelmed. Dog attacks can be devastating and create lasting emotional effects long after healing wounds. Your attorney understands the deadlines surrounding dog attack lawsuits and the information needed to build a strong case on your behalf. Don’t speak to insurance companies without your attorney. They may try to push you into accepting a settlement that lands far below the actual value of your case. Additionally, your attorney negotiates on your behalf so you can focus on your recovery. 

What Can I Recover in Dog Attack Damages? 

After a dog attack, medical bills quickly mount. Recoverable damages in personal injury cases in California fall into two general categories: economic and non-economic damages. In some situations, punitive damages may be available in dog bite cases.

Economic Damages

Economic damages represent those calculable and tangible losses directly related to your injuries. These include the following:

  • Medical expenses (including future costs for care), 
  • Lost wages due to an inability to work,
  • Future lost wages if one is unable to perform their regular job before the attack, and 
  • Funeral and burial expenses if the dog caused a fatal dog attack. 

Economic damages have a definite amount supported by receipts and invoices. It’s vital to save all evidence of all financial losses so an attorney can adequately calculate these for settlement discussions. 

Non-Economic Damages 

Non-economic damages represent intangible and subjective losses related to your injuries. These damages include the following:

  • Pain and suffering, 
  • Emotional distress, 
  • Loss of companionship, 
  • Loss of consortium,
  • Disfigurement, and
  • Loss of use of a body part.

Non-economic damages vary significantly from person to person. They cannot be proven or supported through receipts and pay stubs. For this reason, it’s crucial to retain a personal injury attorney to assist in the recovery of non-economic damages. Although more challenging to prove, they should never be overlooked. Non-economic damages often provide more significant financial support to injured victims than economic damages as they relate to the emotional and psychological toll associated with the fatal dog attack.  

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages may be available in cases involving a fatal dog attack. To recover these, your attorney must prove that the defendant’s conduct was one of the following:

  • Malicious, 
  • Oppressive, 
  • Despicable, or 
  • Fraudulent.

The evidence must be clear and convincing to support a finding that the defendant satisfies one of the four above criteria. As the name suggests, punitive damages aim to punish the defendant and deter similar future conduct by others. California law does not set a cap on punitive damages in any given case. A punitive damage award is entirely within the jury’s discretion, but you should know that they are awarded relatively infrequently.  

Contact Us 

For decades, Michael Henderson of Henderson Law has provided exceptional legal support to his clients. An experienced trial lawyer, Michael specializes in personal injury and wrongful death law. For over 25 years, Michael has tried and settled hundreds of cases for his clients. He understands what it takes to get his clients the money and resources to rebuild their lives and move forward. If a loved one suffered a fatal dog attack or if you sustained injuries due to a dog bite, contact our office today. We can help. Contact us for a free consultation.