Experienced Long Beach Dog Bite Attorney Ready To Serve You
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.
Case Spotlight$300,000 Settlement Amount
Dog Bite Case
The Beliz Law Firm resolved a dog bite case for the homeowner’s policy limits of $300,000.00. The client, a 25-year male, was skateboarding home after a long day of work along a public street in Compton, California. At the same time, a pit bull was able to get out of his yard through an open gate and ran towards the client. The pit bull bit the client’s inner left thigh. Luckily, the client’s training in mix martial arts came into play and the client was able to punch the dog repeatedly to get it off of him. The client’s thigh was bloody and ripped up.
A neighbor drove the client to the emergency room at Long Beach Memorial Hospital. The client had puncture wounds and a hematoma with pain levels of 10 out of 10. Before discharge, the wound was dressed and the client was given an over-the-counter medication. Five days after the dog attack, the client had to undergo a surgery procedure of an incision and drainage of a large abscess to his left thigh.
About six months after the dog bite, the client presented for a plastic surgery consultation. The doctor recommended the procedure of a scar vision but told the client to wait a year due to the severity of the wound. A neurologist also saw the client. After a thorough examination, the neurologist opined about the client’s chronic pain levels.
REACHING A SETTLEMENT
The client retained The Beliz Law Firm to bring a personal injury claim for the bodily injuries sustained in the dog bite. The Beliz Law Firm was able to gather evidence through the county’s animal control report. This information was used to contact the dog owner and homeowner. The Beliz Law Firm gathered all of the pertinent information about the facts of the dog attack and injuries to the client and delivered it the dog owner and homeowner’s insurance company. The Beliz Law Firm gave the insurance company a short amount of time to accept the policy limit offered. The insurance company accepted the policy limit offer of $300,000.
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.
Common Dog Bite Injuries
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.
Steps to Take After a Dog Bite
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.
Step 1: Call 911
The first step after a dog attack is to call 911 so the police and/or the animal control
department can get control of the dog. Having the dog help in get the proper information onto the report and for any personal injury claim.
In addition to controlling the dog, calling emergency personnel will take down a report, which is critically for any claim. Therefore, you want to describe the incident to the authorities.
An animal control report will state what took place and where it where the incident took place. It will have information on the type of dog and on the owner of the dog, if they can find that information immediately. It will also have information of the injuries sustained. Finally the report may state the deposition of the dog and what may happen to it.
Step 2: Determine the owner of the dog
The next step is to find out the owner of the dog. This is a critical step because the dog’s owner will be the one responsible for any injuries sustained in the attack.
Step 3: Assess your injuries
A person can suffer serious injuries from a dog attack. The most common form of injuries is a puncture wound to the skin. Puncture wounds of the skin may cause significant bleeding. You need to assess any wounds, cuts, and bleeding from the dog attack to determine if you need immediate medical attention or can you wait to see a doctor.
Step 4: Go see a medical provider for treatment and evaluation
The fourth step is to go seek a medical provider for evaluation and treatment to your injuries. Treatment for a dog attack may be wound care like cleaning any open wounds out to sutures for more severe ones. Needle shots are not uncommon for rabies, in addition to medication for antibiotics and pain.
Step 5: Take photos
With almost everyone owning a smart phone it is easy for someone to document the attack. Taking photos of the scene, the dog, and injuries will help out with a potential personal injury claim.
Step 6: Speak to a Long Beach Dog Bite Lawyer
You will also want to contact a reputable personal injury lawyer who has experience with dog bite cases. Most dog bite lawyers provide free case reviews, so it’s well worth talking to one.
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 attorney can help determine the owner’s liability.
How Long Do I Have to File a Dog Bite Claim?
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 Long Beach, CA. They will be able to determine the appropriate timeline for your case.
Validity of a Dog Bite Claim
As a Long Beach dog bite attorney, I determine the validity of a dog bite lawsuit by looking at three primary items:
- Liability: Who’s at fault?
- Damages: How significant are the injuries?
- Insurance: Who’s going to pay?
In California, the dog bite law is considered strict liability. This means that liability is imposed onto a person without a finding of fault or carelessness. Therefore the person that was bitten does not have to prove negligence on the dog owner. All the person that was attacked needs to do is fulfill the elements. Strict liability also means that there is no defense if all of the elements are met.
In California, a dog bite does not actually have to break skin in order to be a valid case. However, the claim would be more potentially valuable if serious injuries and scarring take place.
Determining insurance coverage is the big question mark in dog bite cases. The most common way to get compensated from a dog attack is through the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy. Therefore, the dog owner would have to be a homeowner and have a homeowner’s policy in order for this to be a valid source of recovery.
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 Long Beach 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 Long Beach 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 Long Beach dog bite attorney about your situation.
How Our Dog Bite Law Firm 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, P.C. 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 Long Beach 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, P.C. we’ll aggressively fight on your behalf so that you can focus on recovery. To schedule a free consultation, call us or contact us online. We proudly serve clients throughout California from our office in Long Beach.
Download the California Dog Bite Guide
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 Lawyer
A Long Beach dog bite attorney 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.
We also handle clients with other types of cases, including:
- Motorbike accident claims,
- Auto accident claims,
- Trucking accident claims,
- Pedestrian accident claims,
- Bike accident claims,
- Lyft accident claims,
- Uber accident claims,
- Bus accident claims,
- Brain injury claims,
- Premises liability claims, and
- Wrongful death claims.
What Else Should You Look For In A Long Beach Dog Bite Attorney?
When you’re looking for the best legal representation for your personal injury case, you want to find someone you can trust.