Unfortunately, dogs are not always as friendly as we would like them to be. According to the Insurance Information Institute, there were 17,989 dog-bite homeowner insurance claims in 2021 nationwide, with a total of $881 million paid out in settlements. This does not take into consideration claims and bites that did not involve homeowner insurance. California leads the U.S. in dog bite claims by a large margin. The state also has one of the highest averages for costs per claim.
Whether a dog is known to be aggressive or no one sees it coming, dog owners are responsible for the actions of their pets. Not all state legal systems handle dog bites the same way, so it is important to understand dog bite laws in California. If you or someone you know has sustained serious injury from a dog bite, Henderson Law Firm can help you recover damages.
California Dog Bite Laws
Most states adhere to either the one-bite rule or strict liability. The one-bite rule states that an owner is not liable the first time a dog bite occurs because they were arguably unaware that the dog was aggressive. California dog bite laws adhere to the rule of strict liability. That means that the owner of the dog is responsible even if this was the dog’s first time demonstrating that type of behavior. The person in charge of controlling the dog at the time the bit occurred is considered the “owner” for legal purposes.
Laws about a dog biting in California can be enforced if the person was bitten and the bite took place on public property or private property where the victim was lawfully present. This could mean that they were invited by the person, had permission to be there, or were carrying out a legal duty like delivering mail when the bite occurred.
Limitations of Dog Bite Laws in California
People who were bitten by police or military dogs that were doing their job of enforcing laws or defending someone cannot hold the dog handler liable for injuries that occurred. This exception does not apply if the dog bite victim was not suspected of participating in the crime. An innocent bystander who was attacked by a police or military dog may be able to file a lawsuit under California laws on dog bites.
In most cases, dog owners are not liable when their dog bites a veterinarian or veterinary assistant because these are professionals trained to handle discontent animals.
Dog Bite Versus Owner Negligence
According to California dog bite laws, a bite is defined as any time a dog grabs someone with its teeth. There may be some situations where the bite caused damage but did not break the skin because clothing created a barrier between the teeth and the skin.
Dog bites are not the only situation where injuries could occur because of owner negligence. Someone who receives severe scratches or is injured while being chased by a dog may potentially make the connection between an owner’s negligence and the injury.
Any type of owner negligence, whether it involves a bite, may constitute a personal injury claim. An experienced attorney can help you determine if you have a valid claim.
What to Do If a Dog Bites You
Your health is the most important thing in any circumstance. If your injuries are severe, seek medical help immediately. There may be situations where injuries are painful but allow time for you to gather important information.
- Acquire the contact information of the dog owner;
- Request the contact information of any witnesses who may have seen the bite occur;
- Take photos of the injuries and the dog;
- Call the police or emergency medical personnel if necessary;
- Receive medical attention as soon as possible;
- Do not admit fault to anyone or accept any settlement offers;
- Request vaccination records for the dog; and
- Contact an experienced California dog bite law attorney.
Keep all medical records and records of expenses associated with the injury. You can reach out to an attorney at any time to help you through the process of contacting the insurance company, filing a claim, or pursuing litigation.
Compensation for a Dog Bite in California
There is no standard compensation amount for dog bite cases in California. The severity of your injuries and circumstances surrounding the bite will have a large impact on the damages you are entitled to. Some of these damages may include:
- Cost of emergency treatment,
- Doctor visits,
- Bandages and other wound care,
- Lost wages,
- Pain and suffering,
- Emotional distress, and
- Permanent scarring or disfigurement.
Compensation for dog bites can range from several thousand dollars to over a million, depending on the situation. Knowing the value of your claim is the first step in receiving the amount you are entitled to.
Insurance companies often offer fast settlements for lower than what you need and deserve to care for the expenses and hardships associated with the injuries you have received. These companies are betting on the fact that you need resources to cover the medical bills that are coming in, so you will be willing to accept a low offer. Though the amount may seem reasonable to get you through your immediate needs, it is important to take future expenses and long-term impact into consideration. Do not settle for less than what you deserve.
Choosing a California Dog Bite Lawyer
Henderson Law Firm can help you determine the value of your claims, understand your rights under California dog bite laws, and negotiate with insurance companies. If a fair settlement cannot be reached, we can guide you through the litigation process.
We have over 25 years of experience in California personal injury law and have settled over 100 cases for victims and their families. You have already been through enough and should not have to navigate the legal system alone. Let us help you receive the compensation you deserve. Contact us to schedule your free case consultation.