Being attacked by a dog is an incredibly traumatic experience, both for the victim and their family. Unfortunately, docile pets can pose a risk, even if they have no history of aggressive behavior. If you find yourself injured by a dog, Long Beach personal injury lawyer Michael A. Beliz is here to help. Here’s everything you need to know about dog bites and how to file a claim against the responsible owner.
Dog Bite Statistics for California
The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that there are more than 4.5 million people bitten by dogs in the U.S. per year. On average, about 20% of these bites require medical attention. While this may not seem like a lot, the statistics for California show a different picture.
According to a joint study by the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I) and the National Dog Bite Prevention Coalition, California is the number one state for dog-related injury claims. In 2020, there were 2,103 dog bite claims filed in California. That’s about 70% more claims than Florida, the state with the second most dog bite injuries. In addition, Triple-I found that insurers paid out a total of $854 million for dog bite claims throughout the country.
Any type of dog attack has the potential to cause severe injury. This is especially true if the victim is a child or elderly. Some of the most common dog-related injuries include the following:
- Broken bones,
- Head and neck injuries,
- Eye injuries,
- Nerve damage,
- Disfigurement, and
- Emotional trauma.
Every case has unique circumstances, and as a result, not every injury involves a dog bite. Sometimes, victims sustain injuries trying to get away from the dog, like being knocked down or tripping. In these cases, you may still have a case against the owner, even if your injuries aren’t directly caused by a dog biting you. Even if your injury seems minor at first, we recommend discussing your case with a California dog bite lawyer.
What to Do If You Get Bit
- If you find yourself being attacked by a dog, you should get to safety as soon as possible.
- Promptly call and report the dog bite incident to the police or contact animal control. With the proper authorities, describe the attack and the dog. Inform them where the bite occurred and your injuries.
- Try to determine the biting dog and the possible owner of the dog.
- Take photos of your injuries including wounds, bite marks, cuts, lacerations, scratches, and bruises. Documenting your injuries is important. Do not delay in taking photos. In addition, keep taking photos of your injuries to show the healing progress.
- If possible take photos of the attacking dog(s), locations where the bite occurred, and the owner of the dog.
- Find witnesses of the dog bite. Obtain their names, addresses, and phone numbers.
- Immediately seek professional medical attention. Dog bite injuries may require wound cleaning, stitches, injections for infections, and in the more serious injury cases consultations for plastic surgery and neurology.
- Contact a California dog bite lawyer.
California Dog Bite Law
The state of California follows a “strict liability statute” for dog bites. The statute, under CIV § 3342, states that a dog owner is liable for any damages suffered by a person attacked by their dog.
To prove a dog bite under the “strict liability statute”, the following four elements must be established:
- The defendant owns the dog;
- The dog bite happen in a public place or you were lawfully on private property;
- You were harmed by the bite;
- Your harm was from the owner’s dog.
Under this statute, a dog owner is held responsible for the harm from their dog, even if the dog was trained or on a leash. The only exception to this rule is if you were trespassing at the time of the bite.
In addition, a victim may not bring an action against a government agency using a police or military dog if the dog was assisting in:
- Apprehending a criminal suspect;
- Investigating a crime;
- Executing a search warrant; or
- Defending a peace officer or other person.
This section of the statute only applies to suspects of a crime. Ultimately, if a dog bites you while you were on public lands or given permission to be on private property, the owner will be responsible for your injuries regardless of the dog’s behavioral history. Our California dog bite lawyer can help determine the owner’s liability.
How Long Do I Have to File?
Like other states, California has a time limit for personal injury lawsuits, including those involving dog bites. Under CCP § 335.1, dog bite victims have two years from the date of the attack to file a lawsuit. This is a very strict deadline, so it’s important to start building your case as soon as possible. If you try to bring a case after the statute of limitations expires, the court will most likely dismiss the case.
There are a few situations where the statute of limitations may be postponed or changed. The standard time limit may not apply if:
- The victim is under 18 or is incapacitated—If the victim is a minor, the two-year clock doesn’t start until that minor reaches 18 years of age. In addition, the limit does not apply to victims who lack the legal capacity to make decisions until they regain that capacity.
- The defendant leaves the state—In some cases, the defendant may leave the state after the incident but before the victim can file a lawsuit. For this situation, California tolls the statute of limitations until the defendant returns.
- The defendant is a government employee—This case is most likely to apply if you are attacked by a police dog unprovoked. Unfortunately, you only have six months from the date of the attack to send a claims notice to the responsible government entity.
If you believe any of the exceptions apply to your case, we encourage you to contact a dog bite attorney in California. They will be able to determine the appropriate timeline for your case.
Potential Damages Available in a Dog Bite Case
For dog bites, there are three types of damages you may pursue: economic, non-economic, and punitive. While the role of each damage type varies, your California dog bite lawyer will help determine the full extent of your losses and which damages apply in your case.
Special or economic damages serve as the pillars of any dog bite case. These are any of the calculable losses you sustain due to your injuries, including but not limited to:
- Hospital treatment fees;
- Medical bills (doctor’s visits, medications, etc.);
- Lost wages during recovery;
- Loss of future earning capacity; and
- Property damage.
While not all of these losses may apply to your case, they often appear in dog bite claims. For example, during a dog bite incident you break your eyeglasses , the owner may be responsible for property damage in addition to your physical injuries.
General or non-economic damages are another major part of your dog bite claim. Unlike their economic counterparts, non-economic damages are the subjective losses you endure after an injury. These damages are especially common in cases where the injury causes lifelong difficulties for the victim or their surviving family. This includes:
- Permanent scarring;
- Full time disability;
- Loss of quality of life;
- Loss of companionship;
- Loss of consortium for a spouse;
- Mental anguish; and
- Pain and suffering.
Determining non-economic damages is much more difficult than economic damages. This is because there is no receipt or invoice you can look at to accurately measure the value of mental anguish. As a result, every dog bite lawyer in California has a different way of calculating these losses.
Although rare, punitive damages sometimes play a role in dog bite cases. These damages aren’t meant to compensate for a victim’s loss but rather to punish the defendant for excessively reckless, wanton, or intentionally wrongful behavior. For example, if the dog owner orders the dog to attack you, the court may find punitive damages appropriate. However, this may be difficult to prove, so it’s best to speak with a California dog bite lawyer about your situation.
How Our Long Beach Dog Bite Attorney Can Help
When you or a loved one receives a serious injury from a dog attack, you need an attorney who represents your best interests. Attorney Michael Beliz understands how devastating these injuries can be and the impact they have on victims and their families. From day one, The Beliz Law Firm will help manage every aspect of your case, like:
- Collecting evidence from the scene;
- Finding potential witnesses;
- Negotiating with the insurance company;
- Making timely claim filings;
- Calculating your damages; and
- Preparing your case for trial if necessary.
Our goal is to fiercely advocate on your behalf and keep you updated on your legal options. In addition, Michael A. Beliz is available to answer any of your questions 24/7.
Our Results for Dog Bite Cases
While there may be many dog bite attorneys in California, not all of them have results like Michael A. Beliz. Consider one $100,000 settlement we resolved for a 33-year-old client attacked by a dog outside her home. When she showed up to urgent care, she had 14 bite wounds on her legs that needed 12 sutures. There was also no guarantee that plastic surgery would fix her scarring. After making a policy limit demand on the dog owner, we successfully settled the case for $97,500 more than the client’s medical charges.
Injured by a Dog? Contact a California Dog Bite Lawyer Today
If you’ve been bitten by a dog, don’t rely on the insurance company to give you the compensation you need. At The Beliz Law Firm, we’ll aggressively fight on your behalf so that you can focus on recovery. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 562-452-3772 or contact us online. We proudly serve clients throughout California from our office in Long Beach.
Dog Bite Articles:
- The Proper Steps to Take Following a Dog Bite or Wild Animal Attack
- Understanding California Dog Bite Laws
- Validity of a Dog Bite Claim
- Understanding Liability for Dog Attack Injuries in California
- How Does Insurance Work in Dog Bite Injury Cases?
- Are There Specific Dog Breeds That May Not Be Covered Under Homeowner’s Insurance?
- The Most Common Injuries That Result From Dog Attacks
Understanding dog owner liability in California
Long Beach dog owners can fall under two theories of liability from their dog causing injuries.
The first theory is strict liability where a dog owner can be held responsible for the harm their dog causes, no matter how carefully the owner guards or restrains their dog . Basically, the law states that there is no free bite.
To prove a dog bite case under strict liability, the following four elements must be established :
- The defendant owns the dog;
- The dog bite happened in a public place or you were lawfully on private property;
- You have injuries;
- The dog hurt you.
Under the second theory, negligence, a dog owner may have liability if he or she fails to use a reasonable standard of care to prevent harm or injuries.
Contact a Long Beach Dog Bite Attorney
A Long Beach dog bite lawyer like Michael Beliz can assist you during the legal procedures of claiming personal injury damages against a dog owner. Remember to choose a lawyer who deals only in personal injury cases and that has a history of working on dog bites cases.