What You Need to Know About Dog Bites in California

When animals attack, the injuries can be catastrophic. In California, over half of all households contain a pet. California ranks among the states with the lowest pet ownership. In some states, the number is closer to 70%. So, it is probably no wonder that there are quite a few dog bites and animal attacks each year. Millions of dog bites, in fact. Fortunately, California law provides specific remedies for dog attack victims.

Strict Liability Laws in California

Each state determines how to handle animal attack claims. In some states, the owner of a dog gets one strike, so to speak. Also known as the one-bite rule, this policy allows a dog’s owner to escape liability if the dog has no prior history of aggressive tendencies or biting people. California does not use this rule. Instead, California applies a “strict liability law.” Under this law, the owner of an animal (not just dogs) is responsible for the injuries caused by the pet, regardless of whether the animal has previously attacked someone.

Proving Your Case Against a Dog Owner

Under California law, you can seek compensation from the owner or handler of an animal that attacks you. While the law is geared toward liability against the owner, there are circumstances in which the owner hands over the responsibility to someone else, such as while a dog is in a kennel or under the supervision of a groomer. If the animal is allowed to attack someone while outside of the owner’s control, the victim may need to file a lawsuit against the temporary custodian of the animal instead.

To prove liability against the owner of a dog or other pet in California, you will need to show the following things in general:

  • Defendant owned the dog

  • You did not provoke the animal

  • That you were harmed

  • The dog bite caused you harm

  • You were bitten/attacked by the animal while you were in a public place or lawfully on private property

Do I Need Special Insurance?

Not usually. You might want to check to see if your own homeowner’s insurance policy covers injuries caused to others by any pets you own, and you might ask your agent or broker whether you have medical payment coverage in the event you are bitten on someone else’s property. But in general, the dog’s owner will be liable.

What to do After a Dog Bite

After a dog bite, you need to call the authorities to make a police report. Animal control will need to secure the animal and test it for rabies and other diseases. In the meantime, get to the hospital and receive emergency medical attention right away. Finally, call an attorney to learn more about your rights.

Other Options for Compensation

California law does not stop at the strict dog bite liability statute. There are times when a dog or other pet may injure someone without biting them. For instance, perhaps a large breed dog jumps up and knocks an elderly person down, causing a hip fracture. The damages can be extremely painful and expensive, yet the strict liability statute does not protect the victim. Instead, the victim would need to bring a traditional personal injury action against the dog’s owner and/or handler, alleging that the individual was negligent in failing to control the animal.

Other similar scenarios include:

  • An animal chasing someone and causing him or her to fall or get hurt

  • Animals on leashes causing trip hazards

  • Animals running into the street causing a car accident

  • Animals scratching, clawing, or pummeling people

Compensation Available in Personal Injury Cases Involving Animals

The compensation available is roughly the same, regardless of the theory used to prove your case. As the victim of an animal attack or other injury caused by a pet or animal in California, you may be able to recover money for:

  • Medical bills and expenses

  • Future medical costs

  • Lost income from missing work

  • Potential for lost ability to earn a living

  • Disfigurement and disability

  • Pain and suffering

  • Emotional distress and anxiety

  • Loss of enjoyment of life

Who Pays for Injuries After an Animal Attack in California?

Depending on who is responsible for your injuries, there may be a number of potential sources of compensation, including:

  • The dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy

  • The dog handler’s business insurance policy

  • A negligent business owner’s insurance policy or umbrella coverage

  • The animal owner’s personal assets

Most homeowner’s insurance policies have provisions covering injuries caused by pets that are owned or allowed to be present on the premises. Many insurance companies will argue that they were unaware of the animal’s presence on the property, but this argument usually fails. The best way to avoid delays and make sure your claim is protected is to speak with a California personal injury attorney right away.

When do I Call a Personal Injury Lawyer?

California provides a standard two-year statute of limitations for the vast majority of personal injury claims, including dog bites and animal owner negligence cases. If you have been hurt by a dog or other pet, you should definitely speak with an attorney sooner rather than later.

The longer you wait, the harder it may be to recover compensation, so call the Law Offices of Jake D Finkel today to set up a free initial meeting with a skilled and experienced local attorney near you. The call is free, and our attorneys never take a fee unless successful in recovering money for you.