It might be a struggle to obtain the compensation you are entitled to for your injuries if you were bitten by a dog in Southern California or San Diego. The dog bite owner's insurance company may do whatever it can to deny or diminish your claim, but you can work with an experienced dog bite lawyer to protect the recovery you deserve.
Understanding California's dog bite laws and working with a San Diego dog bite lawyer can help you get fair compensation from the at-fault dog owner and any other negligent parties.
California's Dog Bite Laws
California has specific dog bite laws to protect victims of dog attacks. Claims you may be able to pursue include the following:
Strict Liability Law
Under California's strict liability law, a dog owner is responsible for any damages resulting from a dog bite, whether or not the owner knew the dog was dangerous. The victim does not need to show that the dog owner was negligent or at fault for the attack. Here are three requirements that must be met for you to pursue a claim under this law:
- A strict liability claim can only be brought against the dog owner
- You must have been bitten on public property or when you were lawfully on private property
- You must have suffered injuries due to the dog bite
Common Law Scienter
Common law scienter is a legal theory that you may be able to use to hold a dog owner liable for compensating you if California's strict liability law does not apply to your situation or if the dog is being cared for by someone other than the owner. You must prove that the dog owner or keeper knew or should have known that their dog had a propensity to be vicious or dangerous. If the owner knew of the dog's aggressive behavior and did not take reasonable precautions to prevent the attack, they may be liable for any damages resulting from the dog bite.
A dog is considered dangerous under California law if, within 36 hours, the dog is unprovoked and in two or more separate incidents:
- Engages in behavior that requires a person to use self-defense techniques to avoid an attack and is not on the owner's or keeper's property
- Has killed, severely bitten, or otherwise injured another animal in an attack that occurred somewhere other than the property of the owner or dog handler
The dog would be considered vicious under our state's laws if it caused a victim to suffer serious injuries or death when the dog was not provoked or if it is already considered dangerous and continues in these behaviors.
Negligence occurs when a dog owner or keeper fails to exercise reasonable care in preventing a dog bite. This may include failing to secure a dog with a history of aggressive behavior, failing to train a dog properly, or not supervising a dog around children or other animals. If the owner's or dog handler's negligence results in a dog bite, they may be liable for any damages.
Types of Compensation You May Be Entitled to if a Dog Bites You
You may be entitled to the following types of damages if you prove that the dog owner or dog handler is liable under California's dog bite laws:
- Medical expenses. If you have been hurt in a dog attack, you should be reimbursed for all of the medical expenses related to your injuries. This includes emergency room visits, hospital stays, doctor appointments, surgeries, medications, physical therapy, and rehabilitation.
- Lost wages. If your injuries have prevented you from working, you may deserve compensation for your past and future lost earnings, sick and vacation time, and other job perks.
- Pain and suffering. You may be entitled to compensation for physical pain and emotional suffering, such as chronic pain, emotional distress, and the loss of enjoyment of life caused by the dog attack.
- Property damage. If your personal property, such as clothing or a cellphone, was damaged during the dog bite attack, you should be reimbursed for the cost of repairs or replacement of the item.
- Punitive damages. You may be entitled to punitive damages if the dog attack was extremely vicious. These damages are awarded to punish the dog owner for their behavior and to deter others from engaging in similar conduct, not to compensate you.
How You Can Assist Your San Diego Dog Bite Lawyer to Win Your Case
You and your attorney are a team fighting with the insurance company for the compensation you are entitled to under our state's laws. Here are the ways you can best be a team player with your lawyer.
Honesty is critical in any legal case, and your dog bite attorney needs accurate and complete information from you to build a strong case. Be open and honest with your lawyer about all the details surrounding the dog bite incident, including the circumstances leading up to the attack.
You should also be truthful about the extent of your injuries and any pre-existing medical conditions the bite may have aggravated. Providing all relevant information to your lawyer will help them better understand your case and develop a strategic legal approach.
Preserving evidence is crucial in winning your claim. Types of evidence you should collect for your skilled dog bite lawyer include the following:
- Report to government officials. You are required to report the dog attack to your local health department. Complying with this California requirement and obtaining a copy of the report is critical. It will help your lawyer prove that the dog attack occurred if the insurance company disputes this.
- Take pictures. Take photos of the scene where the bite occurred, the dog that attacked you, and your injuries.
- Obtain witness statements. Obtain the contact information for any witnesses to your dog bite. Your lawyer will contact them and obtain written statements corroborating how the dog bit you.
- Keep medical records. Save your medical records and bills. They will help your dog bite attorney prove the seriousness of your injuries and the compensation you should receive for your medical expenses.
- Save wage loss documents. You should also provide your lawyer with paystubs and other documents establishing your wage losses.
Get Prompt Medical Care for Your Injuries
Seeking prompt medical care for your dog bite injuries is vital for your health and legal case. Be sure to follow through with all recommended medical treatments and appointments. Keep thorough records of your medical expenses, including bills, prescriptions, and related costs. Your medical records will be crucial evidence in establishing the extent and severity of your injuries and the damages you are entitled to and avoiding disputes with the insurance adjuster.
Respond to Your Lawyer's Requests for Information Quickly
Your dog bite attorney may request additional information or documentation from you to build a strong case on your behalf. Responding to these requests promptly and providing accurate information is essential. If you do not provide needed information or provide it late, you may make it take longer to settle your claim and hinder your attorney's ability to represent you effectively.
Cooperate With the Discovery Process
If you must litigate your claim, your case will go through discovery. The discovery process is a legal procedure in which both parties exchange relevant information and evidence related to the case.
Your attorney may request you to provide information or documents or participate in depositions or other legal proceedings. You must cooperate fully with the discovery process and provide all requested information truthfully and accurately. Failing to do so could weaken your case.
Follow Your Dog Bite Attorney's Advice
Your attorney is experienced in handling dog bite cases and has your best interests in mind. It is essential to follow their advice and guidance throughout the legal process.
Your attorney may provide you with instructions on how to communicate with insurance companies, what to say or not to say to other parties involved, or how to handle legal proceedings. Following your attorney's advice will help you avoid making mistakes that could harm your case and increase your likelihood of obtaining a favorable outcome.