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Beware of Dogs: Do I Need A Personal Injury Lawyer?

Updated: Jan 26, 2022

Bit By A Dog? Was It Because Of An Irresponsible Owner? Find Top Rated Personal Injury Attorneys In Los Angeles To Help


Acknowledging the risks that even the most domesticated canines can pose in certain situations, California has passed legislation making dog owners "strictly accountable" for bite victims' injuries. This means that, with very few exceptions, dog owners should recompense bite victims even if they're not culpable in causing the attack to happen. However, this does not imply that obtaining compensation is simple. Owners (or, more typically, their insurance companies) frequently fight back, and in most situations, you'll need the help of an expert Dog Bite Injury Attorney to get the recompense you deserve.

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Many people believe that there is no such thing as a nasty dog and that many violent dogs are the result of mistreatment and harmful living conditions. While human influence plays a significant role in most dogs' temperament, no one can ever predict how a dog will conduct in every circumstance. Many dogs with no documented history of hostility strike people without warning, and it's impossible to say why. This is why dog owners must be cautious and vigilant in protecting others from their potentially deadly pets.

Dogs are also useful to the military and law enforcement. If a police dog bites and restrains a fleeing suspect, the suspect may be unable to sue because the biting occurred while the dog was doing its responsibilities. Furthermore, those who provoke dogs to attack or abuse dogs are barred from claiming a dog attacked in self-defense or revenge.


Who can help you get the compensation and fair results you deserve if you've been gravely hurt in a dog attack in California? Who can guarantee that your rights will be safeguarded if a dog bite results in medical bills, scarring, or other injuries?

Bites from dogs are caused by a variety of factors


When dogs are intimidated or afraid, they may bite. However, there are many occasions when a dog bites someone for reasons beyond their control.

The following are the most common causes of dog bites:

  • Illness. Though a dog is unwell or in agony from an injury, it can become aggressive even if it has never been violent before. They're constantly on the defensive and may bite someone who touches a painful bodily region.

  • Fear. If a dog is scared, it may attack. You might be approaching them too closely or in a way that puts them on the defensive. Even if you weren't attempting to provoke them, your actions could be interpreted as a threat.

  • Play. Dogs enjoy playing. However, if things become too rough or the dog becomes extremely excited, a seemingly harmless pastime might result in a dog bite injury.

  • The dog is startled. Even if you didn't do anything to startle the dog, they might take out their fright on you if you're standing or sitting close by.

  • Possessiveness. Dogs can be obnoxious about their toys, food, and other possessions. If the dog wants the toy you're holding; an innocent attempt to entice them to play fetch could result in a dog bite injury.

  • Maternal instincts. Female dogs, in particular, can be fiercely protective of their pups. A mother dog may see your approach to the puppies when they are unattended or nursing as a threat to their safety. You should be entitled to claim compensation for your losses if you did nothing to incite the dog to bite.

What Does a "Bite" Mean Under California's Dog Bite Law?


It's possible that if a dog grabs someone with its teeth but doesn't break the skin, it's still considered a bite. The court ruled that the animal's owner was accountable for the injuries after a worker fell from his ladder after a dog closed its jaws on his jeans.


After a Dog Bite, What Should You Do?

The aftermath of a dog bite can be confusing and frightening, but it's also critical for gathering the evidence you'll need to pursue compensation for your injuries. If you've been bitten by a dog, you should follow these precautions to avoid further harm and illness, as well as to preserve evidence for your future case.

  • After a dog bite, get to safety as soon as possible. To get away from the dog, go inside, hop in a car, or knock on someone's door. You can seek assistance as soon as you are safe from the hostile animal.

  • Make a 911 call. This will result in the arrival of police officers and medical personnel on the scene. Speaking with a police officer will result in the development of a police report, which will serve as important evidence in your case. The police can also assist you in locating and identifying the dog's owner if you do not know who he or she is.

  • As soon as possible, get medical help. Dogs' mouths can have a lot of hazardous bacteria, which they can transmit to the human bloodstream through bites. Infections including tetanus, rabies, and sepsis can all result from dog bites. The sooner you get therapy, the better your chances of avoiding these problems are. Furthermore, your medical records will be an important piece of evidence in your case. Keep as much documentation as possible. Take pictures of the scene, your injury, and anything else that might be useful in a claim. Along with the photos, write down everything you remember about the attack, including the agony you're in from the injuries and any loss of mobility or function. It's critical to have detailed information about what happened, and writing it down will help you remember details that are crucial to your case.

  • Contact with both the dog owners and their insurance companies should be avoided. You are under no obligation to talk with the dog owners or their insurance provider. You might often make an innocent statement that is later exploited against you. If the insurance company tries to give you an offer of compensation, don't agree to anything or sign any paperwork until you've spoken with a knowledgeable California Attorney For Personal Injury.

When Dog Owners Don't Take Care of Their Pets

The strict responsibility laws in California will not aid victims who were harmed by dogs that did not bite them, such as when the dogs attacked their bicycle wheel or chased them on a motorcycle, resulting in an accident. That isn't to say they don't have any other options. If injured people can show that their injuries were caused by the dog owners' negligence, they may be eligible to claim compensation. Assume a dog leaps on a child who is playing on the sidewalk and scratches his or her eye. If the victim's parents file a lawsuit, they must show that the dog's owner failed to exercise reasonable care in controlling the animal, such as keeping it on a leash or in a fenced-in yard.

California's Dangerous Dog Laws


While California's strict liability dog-bite laws apply regardless of the animal's history, another state law holds owners liable for taking "necessary efforts" to "eliminate any danger" of future attacks if their canines have previously bitten someone. Anyone can file a civil complaint against the owner of a dog that has bitten a human twice (in separate events) or a trained attack dog that has gravely hurt someone with even a single bite. The owner may be ordered to take action to avoid future assaults, such as removing the dog from the area or having it exterminated by the court. These legal proceedings cannot be predicated on a dog's history of biting trespassers or bites by police or military dogs in the field.



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A unique legal mechanism for controlling dangerous dogs exists in California. When animal control or law enforcement personnel believe a dog is a threat, they must file a petition for a hearing. (This suspicion could be founded on a sworn allegation from the public.) If the court determines after the hearing that the animal is potentially hazardous, the dog must be kept indoors, in a gated yard that keeps the animal in and the children out, or on a secure leash under the direction of a responsible adult. If a court determines that a vicious dog constitutes a severe threat to the public, the animal may be destroyed.

The owner may also be barred from owning any dog for up to three years by the court. If a vicious dog is not eliminated, the court must place restrictions on the animal's control in order to safeguard the public. Any infringement of these regulations will result in fines for the owners or keepers of dangerous or aggressive dogs.

A dog is regarded potentially hazardous if it possesses the following characteristics:

  • On at least two different occasions during the last three years, people have been forced to defend themselves against unwarranted, aggressive behavior (while off the owners' property).

  • Someone was bitten without being provoked, resulting in a minor injury.

  • In the previous three years, I've killed or harmed a domestic animal without provocation twice.

A dog is considered vicious by the law if it:

  • Without being provoked, the animal attacked and murdered someone.

  • It was already established by a court that it was potentially hazardous, and the dog continued to behave dangerously, or the animal's owner or caretaker failed to meet the legal requirements.

Do Dog Bites Carry Both Criminal and Civil Liability?

When a dog injures somebody while roaming free, anyone who owns or has authority over the animal may face criminal charges, but only when the owner or keeper recognized the dog was prone to "mischievous" conduct yet did not keep it under control. If the victim was killed, the offense is a felony; if the victim was just harmed, the offense is a "wobbler" (either a misdemeanor or a felony).

Even though criminal charges are brought in conjunction with a dog bite, the victim may still seek damages from the dog's owner. A claim for dog and animal bite injuries in California has a two-year statute of limitations. This is the deadline for settling or filing your lawsuit in court. If the state or a city is to blame, the time restriction is reduced to six months. In some cases, the time period may be extended.

What Are the Requirements for Proving Negligence?


In order to win a negligence case, the injured party must show that:

  • The owner had a responsibility to exercise reasonable caution in controlling the dog's behavior.

  • By failing to satisfy that obligation, the owner was negligent.

  • that the injured person was harmed directly (or "proximally") as a result of the defendant's negligence

In addition to all of these "elements," courts may consider whether the injury was "reasonably foreseeable," meaning the dog owner should have expected it to happen under the circumstances.

It's rare for dog-bite victims to claim solely on the basis of negligence. Most states have "strict liability" rules that hold owners accountable for most dog-bite injuries without requiring proof of negligence or knowledge of the dog's dangerousness.

In states lacking strict liability dog-bite statutes, or in situations where the law doesn't apply—for example, if the statute only covers bite injuries, but the damage occurred when a dog leaped on someone—victims commonly file a negligence suit. Victims who can't establish such knowledge may sue for negligence in jurisdictions that apply the "one-bite rule," which holds dog owners accountable for injuries only if they knew or should've known their animals were dangerous. (However, the dog's past may still be relevant in a negligence case; see below for additional information.)


Even yet, proving all of the elements of carelessness might be challenging. The outcome of any case is determined by the facts of the case as well as how the law has been read by other courts in the state.

What Does "Reasonable Care" Mean?

Many variables can influence a court's decision on whether a dog owner acted appropriately, including:


Warning signs, chains, and fences. If a dog is contained in the owner's property with a "Beware of Dog" sign, courts are likely to determine that the owner has taken sufficient precautions. However, a warning may not always be required. A court ruled that the owners of a dog were not liable for the injuries sustained by a house visitor who fell downstairs after being startled by the hosts' dog growling from another room. The owners had taken adequate precautions by keeping the dog behind a locked gate, and they didn't need to notify the guest.

The history of the dog. Even if their dogs have no history of harmful or mischievous behavior, owners may be judged negligent in most states. Even so, a dog's previous conduct will often influence how much control is fair. When a dog has a history of becoming agitated and growling when people approach it, for example, the owner should have notified a dog sitter or confined the dog. When dogs have a history of following people or cars in a dangerous manner, their owners may be negligent in allowing them to run uncontrolled.


As a result, they may be held accountable if cyclists swerve to avoid the dogs and fall. A court, on the other hand, determined that the owner of a dog with no aggressive tendencies was not required to take any additional precautions beyond keeping the animal inside a fence. That means the dog's owner wasn't careless in putting some cinder blocks out, which the dog used to climb to the top of the fence and bite the finger of a passer-by.


Was the Injury Caused by Negligence?

If a dog bites someone as a result of its owner's irresponsibility, it's very evident that the bite caused the injuries. When the dog hasn't really bitten or even touched the injured person, the concept of "proximate cause" becomes more problematic. The most obvious example is when someone is injured while fleeing or attempting to flee from a frightening dog. Courts have determined that the negligent owners were liable in numerous situations involving dogs chasing bicycles who then fell (described above). However, if the scared person acts erratically, such as quickly stepping into the street and being hit by a car, the outcome may be different; in that situation, the court may conclude that the car, not the dog, caused the harm.

Dog-Bite Laws with Strict Liability

Most states in the United States hold dog owners financially liable if their animals bite someone, even if the owner was not negligent or didn't realize the dog was dangerous. There may, however, be some exclusions and restrictions.

When a dog bites someone, the victim is likely to file a lawsuit against the dog's owner for medical bills and other damages. These claims may be based on rules that make the owner automatically accountable for most dog-bite injuries in more than half of the states. Because the injured person does not have to prove that the dog's owner knew the dog was dangerous (commonly referred to as the "one-bite rule") or that the dog owner was negligent, these laws are referred to as "strict liability" statutes.

What is the Liability's Strictness?

Strict-liability laws are based on the idea that everyone who owns a dog should be responsible for any damage it causes, period. However, a few jurisdictions have dog-bite laws that aren't very stringent because they only apply in circumstances that are outside the owner's control, such as when the dog is wandering "at large."

In addition, dog owners may be able to use legal defenses to avoid being held liable for dog bites. Exceptions to most dog-bite regulations exist, usually when the injured human was trespassing or provoked the dog. Many of the laws are also inapplicable if the dog was exercising its duty as a police dog at the time of the bite.

Some strict-liability statutes apply only to injuries sustained as a result of a dog bite. However, most of them also cover other types of injuries, such as those caused by a dog chasing a motorcycle or bicycle. However, depending on the circumstances, those regulations may not apply if someone is wounded while a dog is being playful or going about its business.


Dog-bite statutes do not modify the other rules for suing someone who is responsible for an injury caused by a dog in almost all jurisdictions. An injured person may suit based on a strict liability statute, the owner's negligence, or the one-bite rule, depending on the circumstances. If a judge determines that one of these does not apply, the lawsuit may nevertheless be allowed to proceed based on another legal basis.

Dog Bite Injury Compensation


When a dog injures someone, the owner of the dog may be held liable for the victim's past and future medical bills, pain and suffering, and other losses.


With so many companion dogs in American homes, it's no surprise that more than 800,000 people are treated for dog bites each year. This figure excludes other types of injuries, such as when a dog knocks someone down or causes an accident by chasing a motorcycle. Dog owners are often accountable if their canines injure someone, depending on the circumstances and applicable legislation. This means that the owners (or their insurance companies) may be liable to compensate the victims for their losses (or "damages"). The following are examples of possible damages:

  • medical expenses

  • pain and suffering

  • monetary loss

any incident-related property damage, such as shattered eyeglasses or a damaged motorcycle; and

If the owner's behavior was extremely severe, the court might award double or punitive damages.


Depending on the state, the legal theory backing the action, and the individual circumstances, victims' total compensation may be lowered if they share some of the culpability for their injuries.


Medical Expenses

Medical costs, such as expenditures for doctors and hospital services, medicine, physical therapy, and any necessary psychiatric care, are the most evident expenditures associated with dog-related injuries.


If a victim's pre-existing medical condition is worse as a result of the incident, the final bill may be substantially more than you think. The general legal rule is that if you injure someone, you are accountable for all injuries that result from your actions, even if those injuries are exacerbated by a pre-existing condition in the victim. Consider the case of an older person with a bad back who is knocked over by a dog. For someone who is younger and healthier, the fall may not be dangerous, but it could result in surgery in this case because it aggravated the victim's back issue. Instead of what it would cost if the victim were healthy, the dog's owner will be accountable for the actual medical expenditures.


Pain and Suffering

Injuries from a dog bite or mauling are frequently painful, causing both physical and mental or emotional distress. Physical pain and extensive medical procedures can cause emotional anguish. It could also be a result of the attack's trauma. Victims may suffer from a crippling dread of dogs (which makes it difficult to walk outside), as well as anxiety, shock, insomnia, sadness, and other psychiatric symptoms. They may even develop post-traumatic stress disorder in extreme circumstances (PTSD). When a victim's discomfort and emotional issues are predicted to persist, he or she may be entitled to an award (or a settlement sum) for future pain and suffering.


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What is a reasonable monetary value on pain and suffering? It's difficult, yet jurors have to do it all the time. When lawyers and insurance companies are negotiating a settlement, they do the same thing. Nonetheless, the compensation for pain and suffering received by victims varies greatly. Judges will sometimes overturn a jury's award if it is deemed disproportionate under the circumstances.


Here are some elements that may influence how much a victim receives, whether through an insurance settlement or a trial:


To calculate an amount for pain and suffering, some California Attorneys For Personal Injury employ a "multiplier," which means they compound the entire medical expenditures and lost earnings (typically by a factor of 1.5 to 4) to arrive at a figure. However, this is merely a guess, and it does not apply in all circumstances. As a result, you shouldn't expect to receive (or pay, if you're the dog owner) that amount.


If a victim suffers a lifelong disability or "disfigurement" as a result of the dog bite (such as scarring, a lost sight, or persistent nerve damage), this will be taken into account when calculating pain and suffering. Long-term psychological impacts of disfigurement include loss of self-esteem, avoidance of social relationships, and sadness. However, the amount awarded for future pain and suffering should be proportional to the amount of permanent bodily damages.


Dog bites may cause more dread and trauma in children than in adults. In addition, juries are more sensitive to young victims. A court concluded that a jury's verdict of $50,000 for past and future pain and suffering was not unreasonable in a case where a two-year-old toddler had permanent facial scars and continued to be fearful, clinging, and sleepless following a dog mauling. In most cases, parents are not entitled to compensation for their own pain and suffering as a result of their child's injuries caused by a dog attack.

If there is proof that the victim will require additional medical treatment in the future, the jury will most likely consider a future pain and suffering award. However, as the court pointed out, just because future medical costs aren't expected doesn't mean future pain and suffering awards can't be made.

A few jurisdictions have placed restrictions on non-economic damages like pain and suffering in personal injury claims, but those restrictions are too high to influence most dog-bite cases.

  • Income that has been lost. Victims are entitled to compensation for lost wages if they are forced to take time off work for medical diagnosis, treatment, or recovery. If the injuries would make it difficult for them to work in the future, they should be reimbursed for lost wages (referred to as a "loss in earning capacity").

  • Loss of Services or Consortium. Dog-bite victims and their spouses may be entitled to compensation for "loss of consortium," which includes lost companionship or intimacy if the injuries have an influence on their relationship. Some states also allow compensation for the effects on a parent's and child's relationship when one of them is hurt.

  • Multiple Damages. Some states, towns, and counties have "dangerous dog laws," which require the owner of a dog that has been labeled dangerous or vicious to pay double or treble damages if the dog injures someone. When a dog that has previously bitten someone bites someone again, more broad dog-bite statutes may hold the owner accountable for repeated damages.

  • Punitive Damages. An owner whose actions were exceptionally rash or outrageous—for example, regularly allowing a violent dog to run loose—could be fined an additional sum in addition to the amount required to recompense the victim. These "punitive" or "exemplary" damages are intended to inflict financial pain and send a strong message to deter future similar behavior.

  • If the victim is suing the owner under a state's "strict liability" dog-bite statute, punitive damages may not be authorized because those statutes hold dog owners accountable for bites regardless of the animals' history or the owners' negligence.

Liability Insurance for Dog Owners

The costs of a dog bite may be covered by the owner's liability insurance. However, keep an eye out for policy exceptions.

When dogs injure people or cause property damage, their owners are usually held accountable, which means they could face a high cost to recompense the victims. In many circumstances, insurance will cover at least a portion of the financial loss—at least for the first time. Insurance companies try to limit their losses as much as possible; therefore, they may ban all dogs, specific breeds, or any dog that has previously bitten someone.

  • Renter's or Homeowner's Insurance. Both dog owners and dog bite victims will be relieved to learn that dog bite damage is frequently covered by homeowner's or renter's insurance. A typical homeowner's policy covers any legal liability incurred by the owner as a result of negligence up to the policy's dollar maximum. More than a third of all homeowner's insurance liability claims in 2016 featured dog bites, according to the Insurance Information Institute's Dog Bite Liability study. Each claim received an average payment of $33,230.

  • The majority of these insurance cover the policyholder's legal liabilities even when they are not at home. As a result, if a dog bites someone on the sidewalk or in a park, the bite is frequently covered.

  • "Bad Dogs" Are Excluded. The good news is that this is the case. The bad news is that once a dog bites or injures someone, the insurer is likely to refuse to renew the policy, hike the premiums, or refuse to cover the dog altogether. If an insurer discovers that the homeowner has a dog that has already attacked someone or has demonstrated aggressive tendencies, it may refuse to offer coverage. Furthermore, some insurance companies refuse to cover particular dogs that appear in studies of breeds that are responsible for a high number of bites.

  • Additional Exclusions. Many homeowners' policies have "business pursuits" exclusions, which means the insurer will not pay claims arising from a homeowner's full-time or part-time business operations. For example, a homeowner who breeds and sells pups on the side may discover that his or her insurance will not cover a claim from a possible buyer who was bitten while inspecting a litter.

Significant changes in your circumstances should be reported to your insurance company, according to your policy. If you don't, the insurer may cancel your insurance or deny your claim. Significant changes may include the purchase of a dog (if you previously told the insurer you didn't have one), your dog biting someone, or your dog being designated dangerous or nasty under a municipal dangerous-dog statute.


Car Insurance


When a dog bites someone in a car, through a car window, or from the back of an open pickup truck, the owner's car insurance or homeowner's insurance may pay the claim (unless that policy excludes injures connected with vehicles). Frequently, the two insurance companies find up in court, each attempting to avoid a payment obligation.


Liability Insurance for a Dog


You may be able to get separate canine liability coverage if your homeowner's or renter's insurance does not cover dog bites. However, this could be costly, especially if the dog:

  • has bitten a person

  • is a breed required by local legislation to have breed-specific insurance, or

  • local authorities have classified it as unsafe

Multiple and Punitive Damages

Many insurance contracts oblige the firm to pay a policyholder's legal duty if the policyholder is injured or their property is damaged. In some areas, courts can double or triple a judgment or add "punitive damages" to penalize a dog owner whose negligence resulted in the bite or other damage. Standard insurance coverage does not always cover punitive damages, according to the courts. Punitive damages, on the other hand, will not be covered if the insurance language expressly excludes them.


Why Should You Hire a California Attorney For Personal Injury?

A CA Dog Bite Injury Attorney will ensure that the dog owner is held financially liable for his or her acts. Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer in California that specializes in dog bites not only ensures that your voice is heard in court but also assists you in determining how, when, and when to proceed with the case. They can also give you advice on best practices in relation to California legal law.

While there are many reasons to employ a Dog Bite Injury Attorney, one of the most crucial is to receive appropriate legal representation. A California Attorney For Personal Injury has the skill and experience to help you navigate the legal system. They are knowledgeable about the relevant legislation and know what it takes to succeed in court.

A Personal Injury Lawyer will take the intricacies of the legal system and reduce them to the key components so that you have a complete understanding of your legal situation. This could involve properly contesting evidence during the trial and timely filing of papers. These steps will increase your chances of winning your case and avoiding any potential problems.

Only 1% of dog bite victims receive compensation for their injuries. Even if you have a strong case, you will need a California Personal Injury Attorney to be able to recover damages. However, just because you employ a lawyer does not ensure your case will get to court.

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