In the United States, dogs are an incredibly popular pet. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), 36.5% of all American households have dogs. That is the equivalent of more than 43 million households with one or more dogs — and just under 70 million dogs across the U.S.
While tens of millions of Americans love their pups and treat them like family, dogs are still animals. This means that dog bites can and do occur, sometimes with alarming frequency. In a one year period, approximately 4.7 million people were bitten by dogs — and 800,000 of those people needed medical treatment for the bite.
In California, owners of dogs who bite other people can be held financially responsible for any injuries that may occur. An experienced San Rafael dog bite attorney can work with dog bite victims to help them get the compensation that they are entitled to under the law.
Common Dog Bite Injuries
Dog bites can happen to anyone, including dog owners, visitors, and total strangers. Children are particularly vulnerable to dog bites. They also may be more likely to be targeted by a dog given their relatively small size and tendency to run around and be more active.
People who are bitten by dogs may suffer a range of injuries, including infection from untreated bites, nerve damage, fractures or broken bones, scarring or disfigurement, and even death. Beyond physical injuries, many people who are attacked by dogs deal with emotional trauma, including anxiety. Severe dog bites or attacks may result in injuries that require hospitalization and long-term treatment.
The most important thing that you can do after a dog bite is to seek medical care as soon as possible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 1 in 5 people who are bitten by a dog will require medical attention. Even if you don’t believe that the bite was serious, it is important to get the wound checked out to ensure that you do not develop an infection and that you haven’t contracted a disease such as rabies, Pasteurella, MRSA, and/or tetanus.
When Are Dog Owners Liable for Dog Bites?
California is a “strict liability” state for dog bites. This means that it does not matter if the dog has bitten anyone before or if it has a history of aggression. There is no “one bite” rule in California; in most situations, if a dog bites you, then its owner will be held responsible for any injuries that you suffer.
Under California law, if a dog bites a person while they are in a public place or legally in a private place (including the dog owner’s property), then the dog owner will be liable for any injuries or losses suffered by the dog bite victim.
However, there are exceptions to this general rule. The owner will not be held strictly liable for a dog bite if:
- The victim was trespassing on private property;
- The victim provoked the animal;
- The dog was protecting its owner or another person; or
- The dog was a military or police animal being used appropriately.
In these situations, a victim may not be able to recover for a dog bite at all. For example, if an intruder breaks into someone’s home and the family dog attacks them, the intruder cannot file a personal injury claim against the dog’s owner for the injuries that he suffered.
In most cases, obtaining compensation for a dog bite involves filing a personal injury claim through the dog owner’s insurance policy. Both homeowners and renters insurance policies cover these types of claims (with some exceptions for certain dog breeds), so even if the dog owner is a loved one, you can still pursue a dog bite case without worrying that it will hurt them financially. Often, the insurance company will simply pay you for your losses.
Despite California’s strict liability law for dog bites, insurance companies often try to deny or minimize dog bite claims. They may offer you a low ball settlement that doesn’t take into account the full amount of damages that you suffered, or deny your claim outright. In these situations, a California dog bite lawyer can advocate for you to get the maximum recovery.
In a California animal attack case, you may be able to recover for all of the injuries that you have suffered, which may include medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. In some cases, punitive damages may be available if the dog owner acted with malice.
Dog bite lawsuits, like other types of personal injury cases, must be filed within two years of the incident. This is known as the statute of limitations. If you fail to file a lawsuit within this period of time, then your claim may be barred entirely.
How We Can Help
Dog bites can be incredibly scary and may result in permanent injuries or long-term damage. If you have been hurt in a dog attack, a personal injury attorney can work with you to help you recover the compensation that you need to move forward with your life.
At Kuvara Law Firm, we represent people who have been hurt through the negligence of other people, from car accidents and truck crashes to dog bites and product liability claims. With law offices throughout the Bay Area, we are well-positioned to advocate for clients in the San Francisco region. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact our law firm today at (415) 479-7070 or email us at any time.