In Some Cases, a Dog Bite May Lead to Punitive Damages

Dogs are often praised for their loyal and obedient temperament. People invest time and money trying to teach their dogs how to be well behaved. However, sometimes these attempts can be futile and a seemingly sweet dog can turn into a vicious perpetrator. As experienced attorneys in dog bite cases, our San Francisco personal injury firm knows firsthand what can happen when a dog causes injuries to an unsuspecting victim. In California, a dog owner is expected to take responsibility for their dog’s actions. According to the California Civil Code 3342, “the owner of a dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place.” Typically when a dog bites a victim, it is to the owner’s shame and disbelief. But what happens when a dog attacks a victim because its owner gave the command?

Woman Attacked by Pit Bull Under Unusual Circumstances

According to Inside Bay Area, a 22-year-old woman was attacked by a pit bull in Berkeley last Sunday. What makes this news story different from most dog bite stories is that the owner of the pit bull gave the dog a command, instructing him to attack the woman. The pit bull bit the woman on the arm and she was treated at Berkley Hospital. It is undisputed that the owner of the dog will be held liable for the injury caused by the pit bull. However, because the owner ordered the pit bull to attack she may be entitled to more than just the typical compensation awarded to dog bite victims.

Victims of Dog Bites May be Awarded Various Types of Compensation

Typically, the owner of a dog who bites someone can be responsible for the victim’s medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and property damage. However, in some cases, where the owner’s conduct is deemed particularly outrageous, the victim may also be entitled to punitive damages (a monetary compensation awarded to an injured party to punish the defendant). The California Civil Code 3294 provides that: if it can be proven by clear and convincing evidence that a defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice; the plaintiff may recover damages for the sake of example and by way of punishing the defendant in addition to actual damages. The Code defines malice as: conduct that is intended by the defendant to cause injury to the plaintiff. Thus, an owner who instigates his/her dog to attack may be forced to compensate the victim for punitive damages in addition to other damages. This makes sense because it would be unfair to impose the same monetary burden on an owner who didn’t intend to have his/her dog attack as an owner who intentionally causes his/her dog to attack.

If are a victim of a dog attack, please call one of your experienced Northern California dog bite attorneys for a free consultation. We will evaluate the facts specific to your case and will make sure you receive the compensation you deserve.

See Related Blog Posts:
New Information on Dog Mauling of Bay Area Boy Refocuses Attention on an Old Problem

San Francisco Personal Injury Lawyer on Assigning Legal Responsibility in Dog Bite Cases