According to State Farm Insurance, California has more dog bite claims than any other state. Much of the time, dog bites are minor and do not require any treatment. Other times however, dog bites and attacks are serious and require extensive medical treatment. In some instances, they even cause permanent scarring and disfigurement.
When a person suffers these and other serious injuries from a dog bite, he or she often wonders if there is any available recourse. In California, there is.
California Law on Dog Bites
According to Section 3342 of the California Civil Code, dog owners are strictly liable for any injuries their dogs cause. Strict liability means that the dog owner can be held liable even if the dog had never shown a history of violent or aggressive tendencies before.
The legal statute applies to nearly every person who is injured in a dog bite or attack, although there are some exceptions. One exception is if the person bitten provoked the dog. If it is found that a person was teasing, taunting, or causing harm to a dog before the animal bit or attacked, a court will likely bar that person from receiving compensation.
Trespassers entering private property that are bitten by a dog on that property are also ineligible for receiving compensation. In order to receive damages for a dog bite, the bite or attack must happen while the dog bite victim is on public property, or while the person is lawfully on private property.
Damages Available in Dog Bite Cases
In any personal injury case when a person is in an accident or is attacked, the victim can file a lawsuit to claim compensation for any expenses related to the incident. Some of the most common damages awarded to dog bite victims include:
- Medical expenses
- Physical therapy
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of the use of a limb
- Psychological counseling, when the incident has instilled a fear of dogs in the victim
In some personal injury cases, the California courts may also award punitive damages. This type of compensation is different from those listed above. While compensatory damages are intended to restore the victim’s quality of life to the same as it was before the incident, punitive damages are meant to punish.
Due to this, punitive damages are not awarded in every case. Instead, they are only awarded when the defendant, or the dog owner, showed malice with total disregard for the safety of others. For example, if a dog owner trained the dog to attack, or saw the attack was happening and did nothing to stop it, the courts may consider this malice.
Statute of Limitations for Dog Bites
It is important that when a dog bites someone and that person wishes to file a civil lawsuit, that he or she does so as soon as possible. California’s statute of limitations on dog bite cases is just two years. This means that dog bite victims must file a lawsuit within two years from the date of the dog bite or attack. The courts are likely to throw out any claims filed after this time.
Been Bitten? Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer in San Francisco
Dog bite cases may seem fairly straightforward, but they are not. The insurance company providing homeowner’s insurance to the dog owner may get involved. The dog owner will also likely try many defenses to reduce the amount of compensation he or she is required to pay. A San Francisco dog bite lawyer can help.
If you have been bitten or attacked by a dog and have sustained serious injuries, contact the personal injury lawyers at Willoughby Brod at (800) 427-7020. We know that accident victims have rights, and we will fight to ensure those rights are upheld. You do not have to recover from your injuries on your own. We will stand by your side and help you recover any damages you deserve.
(image courtesy of Deonny Rantetandung)