How common are dog bites and other dog-related injuries?
Approximately 4.5 million people are victims of dog bites each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 885,000 people require medical attention as a result of dog bites, and about half of those seeking medical care are children. More than 27,000 people in 2012 required reconstructive surgery after being bitten by dogs. Most victims of dog bites know the dog that bit them; family pets account for the vast majority of dog bites.
When do I need a dog bite lawyer?
Dog bite injuries range from marks on unbroken skin to permanent disabilities to death (in 2010, 34 people died from dog bites). In California, dog owners are responsible for damages caused by their dogs biting people in a public place or on private property where the victim is legally allowed to be.
California’s dog bite statute does not require the owner to know that his or her dog is likely to bite someone. In states without dog bite statutes, the “one bite rule” usually applies, meaning that until a dog bites someone, the owner is not automatically liable for the damage from a bite. Under the one bite rule, the first time a dog bites someone, the victim has to prove that the dog was dangerous or vicious, or the owner was negligent or violated a leash law or other similar rule.
California’s dog bite statute says that if a person owns a dog and the dog bites someone, the owner is liable for all damages that result. So the victim only needs to prove which dog did the biting, who owned the dog, that the victim was not trespassing while bitten, and that damages resulted from the bite. The statute includes exceptions for dogs engaged in police or military work.
Despite the clarity of California’s dog bite statute, a dog bite lawyer may be needed when the
- dog owner is a friend or family member of the victim and a third party negotiator can help preserve the relationships.
- damages include emotional and psychological harm.
- dog owner disputes whether the victim had permission to be where the bite occurred.
- dog owner disputes the damages (such as time missed from work).
- dog owner claims she or he cannot pay any damages and has no insurance.
- dog owner’s insurance company refuses to pay.
- damages are caused by the dog, but not from a bite (such as when a large dog knocks down a person).
- victim of the dog bite is an animal, not a person.
- victim or the person who was “in control” of the dog was under the age of 5.
- city or county where the bite occurred may have a local dog liability statute.
- dog is owned by the victim’s employer and the bite occurs in a work situation.
- victim is injured while performing job duties that may include interacting with dogs (such as delivery person).
- dog’s owner causes the dog to bite the victim.
What kind of damages can be awarded in dog bite cases?
Personal injuries seen by dog bite lawyers include:
- Skin abrasions
- Severed ligaments and tendons
- Torn muscles
- Broken bones
- Spinal Cord Injuries
- Concussions (from falling or being knocked down)
- Lost wages due to time off from work
- Vaccinations for rabies and tetanus
Recoverable damages related to these injuries may include but are not limited to:
- Medical care and related expenses
- Lost wages and future loss of earnings
- Emergency services
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Travel expenses
- Legal costs
- Emotional distress and mental anguish
- Pain and suffering
- Value of household services
- Loss of consortium
When the victim is another animal such as a cat, dog, or pet bird, damages to the owner of the injured animal could include emotional and psychological injuries, veterinary bills, time off from work to care for the animal’s injuries, and financial loss if the animal dies.
When a dog causes property damage in additional to bodily harm, damages can include the costs of repairing or replacing the damaged property.
Are damages caused by dogs covered by insurance?
Many homeowners insurance policies cover dog bites and other damage inflicted by dogs. Individual policies vary and policy holders should check their insurance coverage before adding a dog to their household. Some insurance companies will not cover certain breeds of dogs that are considered inherently dangerous and others will not cover dogs will a history of biting or aggressive behavior.
If a dog owner rents rather than owns, renters insurance may cover injuries caused by the dog, but the availability of such a policy may depend in part on the property owner’s rules regarding dogs on the property.
The number of dog bite claims paid by insurance companies has increased over recent years, according to a study by the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm. In 2013, California insurance companies received 5.5% more claims for dog bites than in 2012; a total of 1,919 claims that cost approximately $64.7 million. Nationally, in 2013, insurance companies paid about $484 million for claims based on dog bite injuries. The average cost per claim nationally in 2013 was $27,862.
How will a dog bite lawyer help me?
A knowledgeable dog bite lawyer can help a dog bite victim get the full amount of damages to which he or she is entitled. Most dog bite cases do not go to court —a good dog bite attorney can negotiate with the dog owner and/or the owner’s insurance company to reach a fair and appropriate settlement without litigation.
Several situations involving injuries caused by dogs are not covered by the California dog bite statute. In these situations, an experienced dog bite lawyer will know what other avenues are available to recover damages. For example, if the victim was injured by his employer’s dog while working, worker’s compensation insurance will probably cover the injury, or a cause of action may be brought under California’s Labor Code. Similarly, if the victim of the bite was another pet, or if the injuries were caused by the dog’s actions but not a bite, the dog bite statute may not apply but other causes of action may be available.
Proving damages beyond out-of-pocket expenses in a dog bite case can be difficult. Expert witnesses may be needed to show psychological damages or the full extent of physical harm resulting from the bite. Attorneys experienced in dog bite cases know how to present a case to maximize the likelihood that victims will recover the full amount to which they are entitled.
While most cases are negotiated and settled outside of court, some dog owners fight the claim. These dog owners might say that the victim identified the wrong dog, the victim was trespassing, or the victim intentionally provoked the dog. Skilled dog bite attorneys know how to respond to these defenses.
How much does it cost to hire an experienced dog bite lawyer?
Dog bite attorney fees vary by law firm, but in general, the firm receives a percentage of the award or settlement in a personal injury dog bite case. The lawyers get paid after the case is resolved.
Cerritos Legal Services provides a free confidential consultation to evaluate your case. Once we take your case, you pay nothing until your case is settled. Our law office provides personalized service including referrals to claims specialists and medical experts. Our team helps you and your family handle your affairs while your case is being resolved. We even work with doctors and specialists who can provide treatment on a lien basis until your case is resolved.
Contact us today for your free consultation with a dog bite attorney at Cerritos Legal: 562-865-9356.