If you live in Los Angeles, enjoying our year-round great weather might include jogging or relaxing in a nearby park with your children. But what started as a pleasant outing can quickly turn into a nightmare if you or a loved one suffer a dog bite.
California led the nation in insurance claims due to dog bites in 2018. Many of those victims suffered serious injuries that required hospitalization. If a person is bitten by a dog while lawfully on someone’s property or in a public place, California Civil Code 3342 gives them the right to sue for their injuries and subsequent medical bills.
The Los Angeles dog bite attorneys at The Dominguez Firm want you to know that we are here to help if you or someone close to you has suffered a dog bite. Below you’ll find answers to some common questions regarding dog bites as well as your rights.
Do I Need a Lawyer if I Was Bitten by a Dog?
In most cases, yes. Being attacked and bitten by a dog is one of the most traumatic events a person can endure. What may seem like a minor bite can quickly turn serious. If the skin has been broken, which is very common, immediate medical attention is crucial. This is due to the risk of infection or rabies. In more severe attacks, major injuries can occur. These include:
- Nerve damage
- Torn ligaments
- Eye injuries
Besides their injuries and medical bills, victims may be unable to work and are often psychologically traumatized. If you’ve suffered a dog bite, you have the right to sue the dog’s owner for your medical bills and lost wages, as well as any pain and suffering. An experienced Los Angeles dog bite lawyer can effectively evaluate your case and make sure you are justly compensated while you concentrate on your recovery.
If a loved one was killed in a dog attack, you also have the right to sue for such an untimely death. And while no amount of money can make up for your loss, the dog’s owner should be held accountable. Often, obtaining justice can help provide surviving family members with a sense of closure during such a difficult time.
What Kind of Lawyer do you Need for a Dog Bite?
Dog bites fall under the area of personal injury law. If the owner of the dog unleashed the dog on the victim, or if the dog attack resulted in serious injuries or death, criminal charges are also likely to be filed.
Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they only get paid when they recover compensation for a client. That means you don’t have to worry about any out of pocket expenses when you hire a personal injury attorney to represent you in a dog bite case.
What Will a Dog Bite Lawyer Do?
A dog bite lawyer can evaluate your case and make sure you receive the compensation you are entitled to for your injuries. This not only includes your medical bills but any rehabilitation costs and lost wages.
In addition, an experienced dog bite lawyer knows that any damages must include the cost of long-term therapy and psychological counseling. Even what seems like a minor dog bite can cause the victim to experience flashbacks, nightmares and even symptoms of PTSD.
The Los Angeles dog bite attorneys at The Dominguez Firm have over 30 years of experience handling dog bite cases and we know what a fair and just compensation amount should look like given the particulars of each case.
Can You Sue if a Dog Bites You?
California is a strict liability dog bite law state. That means the defendant (the dog’s owner) will be found liable if their dog bites someone, even if it has never bitten anyone before. So, save for a few exceptions, you’ll probably be able to sue for a dog bite. Those exceptions are:
- If you were trespassing on someone’s property, intentionally or not.
- If you provoked and/or harassed the dog in any way.
- If you work in a field that could put you more at risk of a dog bite, such as a trainer or veterinarian.
- If the dog was performing its duties as a police or military dog in an appropriate manner while in the line of duty.
In some neighboring states, dogs get a “free pass” if it’s the first time they’ve bitten someone. California doesn’t have that allowance. So, if a dog bit you, and none of the exceptions outlined above apply, you can sue for damages.
What is the Average Settlement for a Dog Bite Case?
The settlement amount in a dog bite case will depend on several factors. Chief among them are:
The extent of the victim’s injuries – Any dog bite can be traumatizing, both physically and emotionally. But some may cause very serious and permanent injuries. These can include nerve damage, amputations, severe facial scarring and traumatic brain injuries. They can impact the victim’s quality of life and the ability to ever work again. In short, the extent of the victim’s injuries plays a major part in determining their final settlement amount.
A dog bite is one of the most horrific events a person can go through. Being attacked by a dog is the stuff of nightmares and usually leads to emotional distress. Victims may develop an intense fear of dogs, be afraid to leave their home and even suffer from PTSD. Victims that have been disfigured will most likely need years of counseling. All of this needs to be considered when deciding on a settlement amount.
If the injuries further aggravated a victim’s pre-existing condition – If the dog bite caused a person’s pre-existing condition to worsen, then the dog owner may be liable for any medical complications that arise. A clear example would be an elderly person who suffers a heart attack while being bitten by a dog. If the elderly person suffered further health issues, the settlement amount may be quite high. This is especially true if the attack eventually leads to their death.
If the dog’s owner acted in a particularly reckless or negligent manner – A court may also award punitive damages if a dog owner acted in a particularly reckless or negligent manner. Of course, setting a dog loose on someone because of a personal gripe against them would fall into the realm of criminal law as well. But it could be something more benign, like repeatedly allowing their dog to roam free in the neighborhood, unattended, leading to the dog biting someone.
In cases where a dog owner’s behavior was particularly flagrant, the courts may award damages in addition to any damages for medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering. This is done more to punish the dog owner, make an example of them and hopefully help avoid a similar incident from occurring in the future.
If the victim was in any way partially responsible for the dog biting them – California is a comparative negligence state. That means your total compensation can be reduced if the court finds that you were partially to blame for the dog biting you.
An example would be if you were invited to someone’s home and attempted to pet their dog. If the dog’s owner warned you that the dog might show aggression but you attempted to pet it anyway and it bit you, a court may find you partially responsible for the dog bite and reduce your final settlement according to the percentage of responsibility assigned to you.
How Long After a Dog Bite Can You Sue?
A dog bite victim typically has two years from the date of the bite to sue for their injuries. Do note that once the two years have passed, the victim has no legal recourse, no matter how severe their injuries.
As with other types of personal injuries, it’s best to file a claim right away. Waiting can weaken your case and potentially cost you. Also, as time passes, the exact details of the attack may not be as clear, also causing the value of your case to drop.
How Can Liability be Proven in a Dog Bite Case?
As previously noted, California’s dog bite statute favors the victim over the dog owner in most cases. This is especially true if the victim was a child under the age of 5. In California, the exception for provocation doesn’t apply if the victim was 5 years of age or younger.
For a dog bite victim over the age of 5, if none of the other exceptions previously noted can be applied, then you, the victim, do not need to prove anything else except:
- That you were in a public place or;
- In a private place that you were legally invited to enter
Do note that you must establish who owns the dog that bit you. Some owners will play a shell game to confuse or discourage the dog bite victim from suing. A good Los Angeles dog bite attorney can counteract this tactic quickly and effectively.
Dog Bite Statistics
- Total number of dogs in the United States – 78 million
- Total number of dog bites – 4.5 million
- The total amount paid out by insurance companies for dog bite claims – $530 million
Breaking down the statistics even more:
- Percentage of dog bite victims that are children – 51%
- Ages when children are most likely to suffer a dog bite – Between the ages of 5-9.
- The total number of mail carriers bitten by dogs. – 5,900 (2012, the most recent year a study was done by the USPS). Side note: Los Angeles was the most dangerous city in the country for mail carriers in that same year.
Dog Bite Fatalities
On rare occasions, a dog bite kills a victim. The attack and bite(s) may kill the victim immediately. In some cases, a bite can cause a victim to develop an infection or rabies and die a short time later. Those with certain pre-existing conditions, such as a compromised immune system, are most at risk.
This is one of the most horrific and senseless ways to lose a loved one. Sadly, children and to a lesser extent, the elderly are most at risk of dying due to a dog bite, but it can happen to anyone, regardless of their age.
If you lost someone close to you because of a dog owner’s negligent or reckless behavior, know that you have the rights beyond any criminal charges against the dog owner. You can also seek justice for your loss in civil court.
How Likely Are You to be Bitten?
Looking at this question from a purely statistical point of view, your chances of being bitten are about 1 out of 69. Of those bitten, 1 in 5 will require medical attention. This is based on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics.
Contrary to the popular image of an aggressive stray, over 50% of dog bites occur in a home, by a dog known to the victim.
According to the CDC, other factors that can increase your chances of being bitten by a dog are:
- Children are more likely to suffer a dog bite. And their injuries are often significant.
- People with two or more dogs in their household are five times more likely to be bitten.
- Men are more likely to suffer a dog bite than women.
What are the Most Dangerous Dog Breeds?
The following breeds were responsible for the most attacks on humans in the U.S. between the years 2005-2017:
- Pit Bull – 284
- Rottweiler – 45
- German Shepherd – 20
- Mixed-breed – 17
- American Bulldog – 15
According to these statistics, Pit Bulls were responsible for 66% of all fatal attacks on humans during this time frame. This, even though they make up only 6.5% of dogs owned in the United States.
Insurance companies will charge homeowners of these dangerous breeds more for their policies. Often, landlords will not rent to individuals with the breeds listed above. Other breeds that also raise concerns with insurance companies and landlords are Akitas, Chows and Dobermans.
The Los Angeles Dog Bite Attorneys at The Dominguez Firm Are Here to Help
If you or someone close to you has suffered a dog bite and injuries, the Los Angeles dog bite attorneys at The Dominguez Firm are here to help.
You should not have to handle medical bills, loss of income and most of all, the pain and emotional suffering that a dog bite can cause on your own. Negligent and/or reckless dog owners should be held accountable.
A dog bite and attack is one of the most traumatizing injuries a person can go through. Some victims require extensive reconstructive plastic surgery while others suffer paralyzing mental anguish and an understandably intense fear of dogs afterward. This is one type of personal injury that can take years to recover from.
Call the experienced Los Angeles dog bite attorneys at The Dominguez Firm at 800-818-1818 today for a free consultation. And if you’re worried about the cost of hiring an attorney, rest assured that you never pay anything out of pocket. Our promise to you is: if there’s no recovery, there’s no fee, so call us today!
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— Ashley Magana
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