A dog bite or an attack from another person’s pet is a common event and must be dealt with. Animal bites require immediate medical care, no matter how ‘safe’ the pet was. In many cases, pet attacks result in serious, costly injuries. In fact, a study revealed that the average cost of dog bite claims in California is $51,265 per claim (as of 2019). Our state leads the US in terms of number and cost of dog bite cases.
If you or a family member was seriously harmed by a dog bite, you will likely need compensation for the damages. The good news is that California law holds pet owners strictly liable for their pet’s behavior. Talk to us at Barrios & Machado to see your legal options for compensation. Call or text us at (714) 515-9696.
California Law on Dog Bites and Domestic Animals
California Civil Code 3342 clearly states: “The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.”
There are some important points to note from this statute. One is that the dog owner would be liable even if the bite occurred in a public place – for example, if you were a bystander who encountered the animal while the owner was walking it.
If you were bitten in the owner’s private property, you must have been there “lawfully” – meaning, as a guest or invitee. This law does not protect trespassers or persons who broke into the premises.
Another important point included in California law is that pet owners are liable “regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.” Many other states either don’t have a dog bite law at all or have a “one bite rule.”
The “one bite rule” means that a pet owner is considered responsible only if they had previous knowledge that their pet had the tendency to bite people. If this was the dog’s first bite, the owner could defend themselves by saying they previously did not know that their pet could be that aggressive. Essentially, the dog has ‘one free bite’ before the owner could be considered responsible.
Since California imposes strict liability on pet owners, the one bite rule does not apply here. This gives more leeway for injured parties to pursue a compensation claim.
Common Concerns Around Dog Bite Injury Claims
We’ve met with many people who were injured by someone else’s pet, and most of them had some concerns that are unique to dog bite compensation claims. Here are answers to some common questions you may have:
What kind of medical care is needed for a dog bite?
It is best to see a doctor immediately after getting bitten by a dog. The physician will wash the wound with a disinfecting solution and then decide whether it needs sutures (stitches). If the wound is small enough to heal on its own, you will only get an antibiotics prescription. But for wounds that are deep, wide, jagged, or bleeding profusely, the doctor will likely recommend stitches.
Talk to your doctor about immunization. Ideally, you should have pre-immunization against infections like rabies and tetanus, but if you don’t, your physician should give you anti-rabies or anti-tetanus shots immediately after the animal attack. This applies even if the pet seemed well-groomed – even the most domesticated animals may carry viruses and bacteria.
Some dog bites are particularly injurious that they cause skin damage, skin loss, bone injuries, or nerve damage. These will require more intensive medical interventions such as skin grafts, nerve grafts, or a plastic surgery called z-plasty.
What if it was a friend’s dog that bit me?
You might be reluctant to file a claim when the pet owner is your friend or acquaintance. This is expected, as you wouldn’t want to damage your relationship with them. But this shouldn’t stop you from claiming your much-needed compensation, especially if the pet attack cost you a lot of money.
One of the best things you can do is to hire an attorney who is skilled and sensitive when dealing with people. Also remember that in most cases, the dog bite would be covered by the pet owner’s insurance, so your friend or acquaintance would not have to pay you out of pocket.
What if someone else other than the owner was in charge of the pet?
Dogs are often left in the care of dog walkers, sitters, and veterinary staff. If the dog bit you while under the supervision of someone else other than the owner, that person in charge may be held liable, too. However, there are specific details to cases like this that need to be considered. For instance, does the dog-walking service have a liability waiver? Does the pet owner’s insurance cover these situations? You’ll want to consult an attorney for answers about your particular case.
Free Consultation with Barrios & Machado
Our attorneys are Barrios & Machado are competent in handling delicate compensation claims such as that for your dog bite. Talk to us and see how we can help you. Your initial consultation with us is absolutely free and confidential. Call or text us at (714) 515-9696 today.