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What to Know if You Suffer a Dog Bite in California


Dog Bite California

Many people who encounter dogs often see these furry pals as friendly animals begging to be pet by the humans they encounter. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. A dog can quickly turn on you, even when you know the dog. That normally friendly canine can attack without warning. Every year, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs, many of whom need immediate medical treatment for injuries or infections resulting from the bite.

In California, more than 50% of households own a pet – this translates to roughly 35 million households. About 560,000 people experience a dog bite each year across the State of California. Costs for dog-bite-related injuries range from $416 to $1,917 for emergency room treatment. These figures don’t take into account how much additional medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering can amount to. Over the course of treatments, this can create high financial burdens for dog bite victims, along with much pain and suffering.

Experiencing a dog attack is a frightening event. If you or a loved one have gone through the trauma of a dog bite, you might not know what you can do. In California, you have rights. The compassionate attorneys at Ellis Helm APLC understand how traumatic the aftermath of a dog bite can be and want to help ease your pain and fears. Call us today at 951-875-6870 for a free consultation and to learn how you can receive compensation to help cover your injuries, losses, and suffering.

What are California Dog Bite Laws?

California imposes strict liability rules regarding dog bite injuries under California Civil Code §§ 3342. Owners (or other potentially identified at-fault parties) are almost always responsible if their dog bites another person. The dog’s prior history doesn’t matter.

Even if the canine has previously been friendly, has never bitten anyone before, and the owner had no reason to believe their dog would bite, this doesn’t factor in due to these strict liability rules. However, there are a few exceptions where the dog owner or other at-fault party might not be held liable if they can prove their case. In these situations, their attorney may try to argue under specific defense strategies, which we will outline for you below.

Do I Have to Prove Liability in a California Dog Bite Case?

Yes, to file a liability lawsuit against an at-fault party for a dog bite in California, you will need to prove a few factors to be true.

  • The defendant owned the dog that allegedly caused the plaintiff’s bite
  • The plaintiff was bitten in a public place or when lawfully visiting private property
  • The plaintiff suffered harm from the dog bite
  • Dog owned by the defendant caused the harm to the plaintiff

If these four items can be proven, you can file a claim to pursue compensation for your injuries, and the State of California will also permit you to file a lawsuit.

Can the Dog Owner Try to Blame Me for the Dog Bite Attack?

Although California law stipulates an owner is strictly liable when their dog bites someone, there are some defenses a defendant’s attorney can try to argue. The most common defense strategies include:

  • You were trespassing
  • You suffered a non-bite dog attack
  • Assumption of risk (e.g., you provoked the canine or were tasked with the care of the dog, thus assuming a level of risk)

There are a few other situations where a defendant’s attorney may attempt to place blame for your injuries on you. Working with a knowledgeable California dog bite attorney gives you the best chance of winning your case and disproving these types of arguments.

What if the Dog Had a Prior History?

In some cases, a dog has a history of biting or attacking people and may be classified under California law as either “potentially dangerous” or “vicious.” In this type of situation, the owner would not only be liable in a civil case to cover the cost of your injuries and losses, they might face criminal liability as well.

Determining whether the dog that bit you was classified in one of these two categories will prove important. For example, if the dog’s owner did not take precautions knowing their dog was classified in one of the two risk categories, this could work against them in a liability case.

What Should I Do if I Was Bitten by a Dog?

If a dog bites you, your child, or another loved one, you want to take specific steps as soon as possible to prevent further injury and preserve evidence of negligence or other fault.

  • Seek medical treatment ASAP. The sooner you seek treatment, the better your chances of reducing injuries and avoiding infections. If you can’t get to the doctor immediately, thoroughly wash the bite and follow these steps.
  • Identify the dog that bit someone. You want to make certain you identify the correct canine that bit you or your loved one.
  • Obtain owner information. Get the contact information for the owner and the address where the dog bite occurred. By law, they must give this to you within 48 hours.
  • Obtain dog vaccination information. By law, owners must vaccinate their dogs for rabies, and they must provide you with proof. They are also required to share any other health conditions about their pet.
  • Take photographs. Take photos of injuries and, if possible, the dog, location, and any other relevant details that back up your claim.
  • Report the dog bite to authorities. Have an official report filed – this will prove important down the road and make it easier to prove the dog owner’s liability.

Additionally, you’ll want to contact a personal injury attorney. Your attorney can determine the at-fault party and pursue compensation for you under the owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy. If necessary, they can also file a personal injury claim against the owner if they are uninsured.

Is There a Statute of Limitations for Dog Bites in California?

Yes, you must take action quickly if you suffer injury from a dog bite in California. The state sets the statute of limitations at two years, and if you don’t file before then, chances are strong that your case will quickly be dismissed. This sounds like a long time, but it’s important to remember that gathering evidence, documenting injuries, and putting together a good case takes time. It is in your best interest to file a claim as soon as possible. This way, you don’t miss out on being reimbursed for your medical costs and any therapy or other injuries and losses you suffered due to the traumatic effects of being bitten by a dog.

Obtain Compensation for Injuries Caused by a Dog Bite

A dog bite is a terrifying experience and can cause serious injury. You deserve justice for your suffering, especially if you sustained severe injury, high medical bills, and emotional anguish or distress. The caring and knowledgeable attorneys at The Ellis Law Firm APLC can file a claim or lawsuit on your behalf.

In California, you are eligible to pursue compensation for your economic and non-economic losses, including medical expenses, surgeries, skin grafts, therapies, counseling, lost wages, and loss of future wages. Other damages you can pursue include emotional distress, pain and suffering, disfigurement, scarring, and reduced quality of life.

Your well-being matters and is our priority. As your legal representation, we will stand with you every step of the way. You will never have to battle insurance companies or defense attorneys to defend yourself against claims you caused injury to yourself. To obtain a free case evaluation, contact Ellis Helm APLC today at 951-381-2609 or, if you prefer, fill out our contact form.