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Dog Bites FAQS

California is a statutory strict liability state. Its dog bite statute makes the owner of a dog strictly liable for any dog bite from the moment that ownership begins, provided that the victim was not trespassing, provoking the dog, injured by his employer’s dog while on the job, or performing a paid service involving the dog.

The owner of the dog that bit you would be liable. But someone else may also be liable as well, if any of the following is true:

• Someone besides the owner was taking care of and had control over the dog.
• The dog’s owner is less than 18 years old.
• The owner’s landlord knew the dog was dangerous but didn’t do anything about it.
• The dog was on someone else’s property, and that person was negligent in not removing the dog.

Many people hesitate to file dog bite lawsuits, because they feel conflicted about compelling dog owners to pay their medical bills and damages out of pocket. The dog owner in your case might be a neighbor, friend or even a family member. But, dog bite claims are typically paid by the dog owner’s renter’s or homeowner’s insurance policy, so there’s really little need to feel uncomfortable about pursuing a claim.

Many of those injured in dog bite incidents feel reluctant to seek legal action against the dog owner due to misconceptions of liability, insurances, and homeowner policies. Some victims are under the impression that California applies the “One Free Bite” rule to dog bites. However, this is another example of a common misconception that is wrong. Due to the severe nature of dog bite injuries and the many misconceptions concerning dog bite liability, it is important that you hire an experienced Orange County dog bite attorney.

Dog bite cases fall within the category of personal injury claims and with personal injury claims and the majority of attorneys will take on the case on a “contingency.” This means that your attorney is only paid a fee if there is a recovery in the case.

A person may be attacked by any breed of dog. However, there are some dog breeds that are generally identified as being more dangerous than others, because of the number of resulting human fatalities. Insurance companies are aware of this fact. For this reason, some have lists that restrict the breed of dogs that they will not provide coverage due to their perception that those breeds have greater aggressive tendencies. The following are the top 7 breeds that the CDC has listed to be the most dangerous based on the number of fatal human attacks.

1. Pitbulls
2. Rottweilers
3. German Shepherd
4. Husky
5. Malamute
6. Doberman Pinscher
7. Chow Chow

Animal attacks from the most dangerous dogs account for the greatest number of human fatalities, but animal attacks can also occur with dog breeds that have traditionally been perceived to have little aggressive tendencies. Animals may become hostile, because it believes that you are encroaching on its territory. Or, it may become violent when its eating and you interrupt them. Also, the animal may have not been properly socialized around people. Although you should exercise extreme caution around dog breeds known to be dangerous, it is important that you take care around unfamiliar dogs that don’t share in that notoriety.

A dog owner may be able to successfully defend a lawsuit if it can be proven that you had provoked the dog. Some acts that may constitute provocative acts, for example, would be hitting or teasing a dog. Of course, the success of this defense depends on the ability of the defendant to prove the provocation. Merely the accusation that you provoked the dog, by itself, does not necessarily mean that you don’t have a case.

“Leash laws” generally require dogs to be on a leash and under control whenever they’re off their owners’ property, unless a specific area is designated for unleashed dogs. The laws are different from state to state and the ordinances in cities are not uniform.

There are several things that you should do if you are bitten by any dog. First, obtain the names and addresses of witnesses, the dog owner, and the people who had custody of the dog when it bit you. Second, take photos of your injuries. Third, you should see a doctor to document your dog bite incident and obtain treatment. Fourth, go to the agency that does animal control in your jurisdiction and make a report, and then cooperate fully with the investigating officers. Finally, consult an Orange County dog bite attorney as soon as possible.

People who suffer dog bites may hesitate to take legal action. They may not want the dog to be hurt. They may not want to cause trouble for neighbors or friends. Although, well-intentioned, ignoring a dog bite can have serious negative consequences. All dog bites should be reported and, when appropriate, legal action can be pursued. This keeps dog owners accountable and everyone safe from dog attacks.

Many different injuries can be caused by an animal, among them may be the loss of a part of a person’s body. We have seen cases where the animal would bite onto someone’s nose and tear it off. There are other cases where the animal has bitten viciously the person all over their body and left bite and scratch marks all over the victim’s body.

A person’s rights following a dog bite will depend on fault. If the victim was not at fault, he or she should be able to recover from the dog owner an amount that compensates the victim for any medical bills, missed time from work, emotional distress damages, and any other types of personal injury damages a judge may deem appropriate. However, if the victim shares fault for his or injuries that person contributed to the dog bite the judge or jury will determine the amount of fault that is attributable to each party, then the victim’s recovery is reduced by an amount proportionate to his or fault.

The amount of time it takes for a dog bite case will vary. After you have received medical treatment and arrive at your maximum medical improvement or are released from a physician’s care a demand will be made to the dog owner’s insurance. A claim will have been opened shortly after the incident, but remember that a “claim” does not mean you are filing a lawsuit in court against the dog owner. A claim is very different than a lawsuit. A claim is merely an investigation performed by your attorney and an insurance adjuster working for the insurance company of the dog owner. It is not a formal civil court action. Usually, most dog bite claims will be settled at the claims stage without having to go to court. Assuming there’s a settlement at this stage, a dog bite claim would be resolved within six months of the dog attack. However, in cases where a lawsuit is needed, this will lengthen the time period.

1. Identify the dog. The most important first step you can take after a dog bite is to identify the dog. Find out who owns the dog or where the animal lives. If the dog is a stray and you cannot identify it, you may be forced to undergo a series of rabies shots, which are expensive and painful.

2. Seek medical care. Depending upon the severity of the bite, contact first responders (9-1-1) for medical attention or have someone drive you to emergency care. Always seek medical care after a dog bite. The risk of infection from a dog bite is far too great to ignore.

3. File bite report. After you’ve been medically treated — even if the injury was minor — file a bite report with your city or county animal control or Sheriff’s department. This legally documents your case and provides help to the next victim who may be harmed by the same dog. Without a paper trail, authorities cannot enforce effectively.

4. Gather information. To protect your future rights as a victim, obtain the name and address of the dog owner, in addition to the dog license information. Find out if the dog has a record as well. Has the dog bitten a person or dog prior to biting you? Has the dog been labeled “potentially dangerous” or “dangerous?”

5. Photograph injuries. Take photos of your injury, even if you need to unwrap gauze. Confer with a doctor or nurse as needed. They will tell you a safe manner in which to do so. It is recommended that you photograph all of your wounds, including bruises, as well as torn, bloody clothing and the location of the attack.

6. Contact attorney. Contact a dog bite attorney now — not later. The issues surrounding dog bites are complex and difficult to navigate through. Your dog bite lawyer (or personal injury lawyer) is the only person besides the doctor that treats your wounds who will look after your best interest from this point forward.

7. Begin journal. Lastly, if you seek medical reimbursement for your injury, start a journal as soon as you can. Spend a little time each day recording your thoughts for the few first weeks after the attack. Dog bite claims can often take several years to complete. Anticipate keeping this journal on a biweekly basis over the course of this time.

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Santa Ana, CA 92706
Tel: (714) 697-8600