Top Rated Orange County Dog Bite Attorneys
Were you bit and injured by a dog or has your dog bitten someone else? Then you need to know the law as it relates to dog bites. Every year, over 4 million people are bitten by dogs in the United States. It is no surprise that California is the leading state in the country for dog bites, as it is the most populous state. California has over 14% of the country’s dog bites, with 11% of the overall population. Many dog bite injuries are not severe and leave victims with only minor injuries if they are even hurt at all. However, victims require medical help in about 20% of the incidents.
Dog bites can leave victims with serious injuries. Making the matter worse is that roughly half of those injured are children, with the rate being the highest among kids aged 5 to 9. Many times, dogs see children as a threat to their territory, and kids are not able to read the dog’s language or intentions. This is a risk that the dog owner assumes when they buy a pet. What makes matters worse is that children are often bitten in the head and neck areas, where they will suffer the most significant injury.
Whether you or your child suffered injuries from a dog bite, you need to know your legal rights. Consult with an Orange County personal injury lawyer right away.
California Has Strict Liability for Dog Owners
There are some states that require a dog to have already bitten once before an owner is charged with the knowledge that they have a dangerous dog. This is known as the “one free bite rule.” The good news for those injured by dog bites in California is that this rule does not apply in the state. If a dog bites someone in a public place or if they bite you in a private place where you had a right to be, the owner is liable for damages. It does not matter what the dog has done in the past. This is called strict liability.
Even though there is strict liability, compensation for a dog bite injury is not a given. You would need to overcome the dog owner’s defenses they may offer. The usual way that the dog owner and their insurance company try to deny you compensation is by trying to argue that you provoked the dog. They may also say that you were trespassing when you were bitten. This is why you need a dog bite attorney for every case.
California’s laws do take a narrower view of dog bite injuries and strict liability. It only applies when you have been bitten by a dog. Other types of injuries such as being jumped on or otherwise attacked by a dog do not automatically mean that the owner is legally responsible. You can still recover for these types of injuries, but your Orange County dog bite attorney will need to go through a few more steps. In that case, you would need to prove that the dog owner was negligent.
What to Do After You Have Been Injured By a Dog Bite
After you or a loved one have been bitten by a dog, here are the steps that you should take:
- Call the police and have them issue a report on the incident. While a police report will not prove liability, it is a third-party account by a neutral observer that is helpful to have as documentation.
- Document the incident by getting witness contact information and taking pictures of the bite wound.
- Seek medical help immediately, so you have detailed records about the extent of your injuries.
- Keep a journal of your experience after the bite to help demonstrate pain and suffering.
- Contact a dog bite attorney as soon as possible so you can begin laying the groundwork for a claim.
Common Dog Bite Injuries
Dog bite injuries can be serious, especially given that children are most likely candidates to be attacked and where they have been bitten. Many of these injuries are above the neck, and they can result in permanent damage. Here are some common dog bite injuries:
- Infections at the site of the puncture wound
- Head and neck injuries
- Injuries to the eyes and face
Examples of Injuries from Dogs that Aren’t Bites
Many dog bite cases don’t involve injuries from dog bites. There are cases where people get injured by a dog who broke loose and knocked them down. Another common example is when a dog chases somebody on a bike and causes the person to crash their bike.
These types of cases are more complicated than true dog bite cases. These cases do not involve strict liability, because the dog didn’t bite. Instead, the case is a negligence case. You must prove that the dog owner was negligent. This is more difficult to prove.
Can I Sue Someone for a Dog Bite?
Yes. Someone who suffers from injuries due to a dog bite may sue. An owner of the dog that bit is strictly liable for the dog’s bite. This means if you are bit by a dog, then the dog’s owner does not have many defenses available to them. A few defenses they may have are that the person who was bit was trespassing or was in an unauthorized area. Another possible defense is the person who was bit was antagonizing the dog before the bite.
Can I Be Sued if My Dog Bites Someone?
Yes. If this happens, you will not have many defenses available. If your dog bites someone, then you will be held liable for that person’s damages. Again, some of your only defenses are if the person was trespassing or antagonizing your dog before they were bit. In short, the law requires you to control your animal.
Is a Dog Automatically Put Down if it Bites Someone?
In California, your dog is not automatically put down if it bites someone. If the dog is deemed a vicious animal and dangerous to the community, then it could be put down. In such cases, animal control euthanizes the dog. There would be a hearing before it gets to this point in a dog bite case. At the hearing, the dog’s owner can present evidence in their favor to show how and why their dog is not a dangerous animal.
What is the One Bite Rule?
In some states, there is such a thing as the “one bite rule.” This law basically gives your dog one free bite. If your dog bites somebody for the first time, you cannot be sued for that particular bite.
However, in California the one bite rule does not apply. Your dog does not get out of jail free because he’s never bitten somebody before. You are still liable for your dog’s first bite in California. It is good to have stricter laws, because dog bites are more common than most people are aware.
Can Posting a “Beware of Dog” Sign Help a Dog Bite Case?
Will posting a “Beware of Dog” sign on your property can protect you if your dog bites someone? Oftentimes, a “Beware of Dog” sign will not protect you. In fact, it could even hurt you.
If you put a sign up that tells other people to be aware of your dog, this sign could be used against you. A person bitten by your dog at your house could argue that you knew your dog was dangerous. Because you posted this sign.
If your dog escapes your house and bites someone in the neighborhood, then you will be liable for that bite. A “Beware of Dog” sign would not help you in this case either.
Landlords for a tenant who owns a dangerous dog may be liable for a dog bite. If the person bitten shows that the landlord knew its tenant had a dangerous dog at the property and didn’t do anything about it.
Don’t post a “Beware of Dog” sign thinking it will relieve you of liability if your dog bites someone. Only post such a sign for other reasons. Such as to discourage intruders, to warn delivery people that you have a dog, and to warn guests your dog may get out.
Factors that Affect Dog Bite Compensation
While State Farm statistics show that the average payout for a dog bite in 2019 was over $43,000, your individual claim may vary. Some settlement payments may be far more than the national average in the case of serious injury. Your compensation can depend on several factors, including:
- The amount of scarring
- Location of the bite
- Permanency of the injury
- Age of the victim
- The impact that it had on your life
While everyone should be fairly compensated for dog bites, injuries to children are paid even more since they tend to be more severe. Here is what is included in dog bite compensation:
- Payment for medical bills, including plastic surgery and other medical procedures
- Lost wages both in the past and future
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma (this can be even more when a child is the victim)
- Payment for permanent disfigurement
If you or a loved one have been bitten by a dog, chances are that the injuries would be covered by a homeowner’s policy. This is where you would turn to first to get the compensation that you legally deserve. While there may be some defenses, establishing liability is not the hardest part of a dog bite claim. Instead, the major issue is usually getting fair compensation.
Since there is an insurance company involved, it means having to jump through their hoops to get your settlement check. It requires an entire negotiation where you will likely have to reject one or more of the insurance company’s offers. This is where you need legal help to know how much your claim is worth and how to deal with the insurance company.
Experienced Orange County Dog Bite Lawyers
At The Law Office of Brent W. Caldwell, we are experienced personal injury attorneys with a track record of helping dog bite victims receive fair compensation for their injuries. We know how to deal with renters and homeowners insurance companies, and we make sure that you do not get pushed around. Call us today at (714) 844-1682 or contact us online to schedule your free initial compensation.