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Dog Bites and the Law


Dog Bite Claims

Dog bite claims fall into the area of personal injury law. If you or a loved one is involved in a dog bite, you have the legal right to be compensated for wounds caused by the dog bite. Even if the bite does not break the skin, you may have a claim as long as a dog's jaws come in contact with your skin. If a dog bites, the dog's owner may be held liable for your injuries, regardless of whether the owner acted in a negligent or careless way, violated a leash law or kept a dog with a history of attacking.

Dog bites and attacks by dogs are a fairly common occurrence. Most dog bite victims are children. It is the second leading cause of injury to minors. Most of the time the victim of a dog bite is familiar with the dog and the dog’s owner. If a dog has assaulted you or a loved one, you're entitled to compensation for your damages. In general, a dog bite victim has the right to seek compensation from any party whose negligence caused the dog bite attack.

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Applicable Laws in Dog Bite Cases

California has enacted statutes (laws that are passed by the legislature) which hold a dog owner liable for a dog bite attack even if the dog has never bitten anyone. This is called strict liability. California laws make the owner of any dog strictly liable for a dog bite. The keeper or caretaker of the dog can also be liable, but not under strict liability. A keeper must have prior knowledge of the dog's vicious propensity before the keeper can be held liable. A keeper might also be liable in a dog bite attack if they were negligent in handling or controlling the dog. All that the dog bite victim needs to show is that the dog owner or handler was not reasonably careful in handling or controlling the dog, and that the victim’s injuries were a direct result of the owner or keepers lack of proper care.

Landlords can be held liable for a victim’s injuries in a dog bite attack in some circumstances. A landlord must 1) have knowledge of the dangerous propensities of a tenant’s dog, and 2) have the right to remove the dog from the premises. In the case of commercial properties, the landlord has a stringent duty to inspect the premises in order to discover any dangerous conditions, including a vicious dog. The landlord cannot avoid liability by claiming that he or she had no knowledge of the dog, because the landlord has a duty to inspect his commercial properties.

Another negligence theory is called negligence per se. This means that an owner or keeper is automatically presumed to be responsible for a victims dog bite injuries if a local law, such as a leash law or other animal control law, is violated and the violation is the cause of the dog bite victim’s injuries. If the dog owner or keeper has no justification for the violation, then they are responsible for the dog bite and there is no need to prove that the owner or keeper failed to exercise due care in their control of the dog.

In California, you only have a limited amount of time to file a personal injury claim. This is called the statue of limitations and in most cases, victim’s have up to two years to file a claim. If you or a loved one have been injured in a dog bite, do not hesitate to contact the Sacramento dog bite attorney’s at the Crow Law Offices.

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What To Do If You Have Been Involved in a Dog Bite

If you or a family member has suffered a dog bite, the following steps are some of the you should take:

  • Seek medical treatment. Dog bites, especially where there is a puncture wound, will require antibiotics and may require sutures. It is also important to consult a plastic surgeon immediately after the dog bite or animal attack. A plastic surgeon can recommend surgeries (if any) and a future course of treatment in order to reduce scarring and recover from the injury.
  • Contact Animal Control and police.
  • Get the name and contact information of the dog's owner. Identifying all responsible parties in a dog bite attack case is critical to a successful lawsuit, especially if the dog owner is unable to fully compensate the victim.
  • Get the name and contact information of any witnesses.
  • If the dog cannot be identified or if the owner cannot provide proof of vaccinations, preventative measures against rabies will be needed.
  • Take pictures of your injuries and the dog.
  • Take photographs of the location where the dog bite happened.
  • Save any clothing damaged by the dog
  • Identify the breed of dog involved. If the breed is unknown write down a detailed description.
  • Research the background of the offending dog to see if it has any previous attacks.
  • Find out the dog or animal owners insurance carrier. If the animal owner refuses to speak to you, then we can obtain this information for you. If you are successful in obtaining the insurance information, we strongly advise against speaking to the insurance company.
  • Do not accept any settlement or admit fault with the dog owners insurance company.
  • Contact the Crow Law Offices. Our attorneys are experienced in handling Sacramento dog bite cases and will diligently represent you. We offer a free consultation to discuss your dog bite case and answer any questions you might have.

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Proving Your Dog Bite Claim

Proving a dog bite injury case requires prompt action to preserve evidence, take witness statements, and photograph the location of the attack, even though the State of California makes the owner of a dog strictly liable for personal injuries caused by dog bites.

There are a few things you need to prove to prevail in your dog bite claim:

  • The defendant owned the dog
  • The dog bit the plaintiff
  • The plaintiff was lawfully on the premises where the dog bite took place
  • The dog bite caused the plaintiff injuries The fact that a dog does not have prior attacks, or that the owner has no awareness of a dogs viciousness does not mean that you are not entitled to compensation.

California's strict liability law only applies if the victim is in a public place or lawfully in a private place at the time of the dog bite attack. A common defense is to claim that the dog bite victim was trespassing on the dog owners private property, which if true would eliminate a strict liability claim. A person who is deemed a trespasser would have to sue under other legal theories, such as common law or negligence. A person is legally on private property if their presence is allowed by law, such as a mail carrier or emergency service personnel, or if there was an invitation from the property owner.

Even if the victim is lawfully on private property, the dog owner is not liable if the dog bite victim kicked, teased, or otherwise provoked the dog. In such instances, a dog owner may raise the defense that the victim invited the injury by their conduct and therefore assumed the risk of the dog attack. The key factors are the dog bite victims knowledge and appreciation of the danger and a voluntary acceptance of the risk of being bitten. The defense of assumption of the risk in dog bite also applies when someone assumes control or possession of the dog.

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Why You Need an Attorney After a Dog Bite

After a dog bite attack you may be facing significant pain, medical treatments, medical bills, scarring, lost wages and perhaps pressure from an insurance company to give statements or settle quickly and cheaply. Time is of the essence after a dog bite attack. Your chances of success increase dramatically through effective investigation and representation by a skilled Sacramento dog bite attorney. Prompt action by your Sacramento dog bite lawyer is necessary to preserve evidence, locate witnesses, and identify defendants.

The insurance companies first interest is protecting themselves from claims. The information you give them can and will be used against you to defeat or minimize your claim. Do not attempt to settle the case yourself. You may have a right to certain types of compensation for damages you may not know exist, or not know how to assert.

The Sacramento dog bite attorneys at the Crow Law Offices have both substantial experience and the skill to ensure that our clients will obtain the best representation and recovery in Sacramento dog bite cases.

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Damages In Dog Bite Cases

Compensation for a dog bite may include payment for doctors' bills (both past and future), pain and suffering, mental anxiousness, fear, scarring disfigurement, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, punitive damages, lifestyle changes, lifetime care and medical costs (for severe cases such as brain injuries), psychological counseling due to your injury, and emotional damages. Most homeowner's insurance policies and renter's insurance policies cover liability for personal injuries caused by dog bites.

The Crow Law Offices are experienced in pursuing claims against owners of dogs (and other animals) that cause personal injuries to our clients. We will aggressively pursue your dog bite claim against the owner and the owner's insurance policy to ensure you are fully compensated for the dog bite injuries you have suffered.

Because dog bite and animal attack cases usually result in significant injuries, insurance companies strongly defend these matters without regard to the victim's injuries and painful recovery. Many victims will require future surgery for their scars, however future surgery will usually be considered to be cosmetic and therefore will not be covered by your own health insurance. The only way to get those costs paid for is to bring a claim against the dog owner or other liable person. An experienced Sacramento dog bite injury lawyer knows how to make an insurance company pay for future surgery.

The value of each case depends upon the circumstances surrounding the attack, the severity of the injury, the permanency of the injury, the prognosis, the type of medical treatment received, the necessity of future medical treatment needed, current and future medical bills, the extent of the emotional trauma, and the length of time needed to heal.

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Common Dog Bite Injuries

*Injuries from dog bites, mauling and attacks can range from minor to severe. The victim often needs costly medical treatments and suffers physical disfigurement and emotional distress. A victim could also suffer a major, life-altering injury such as fractured bones, tissue loss, nerve damage, puncture wounds, neck injuries, spinal cord injuries, infections and even death.

In the event of a dog bite injury or other animal attack, the medical expenses and pain and suffering can be overwhelming. Dog bites can cause serious and lasting injuries and infections, and it is vital that you have an experienced Sacramento personal injury attorney on your side. Even where it does not appear initially that the victim sustained serious injuries, a dog bite victim can sustain significant nerve damage without having the skin broken.

Dog bites can leave lifelong injuries and scarring. Injuries from dog bites, particularly those to the face, may require expensive reconstructive surgery. It is also common for those suffering from dog bites to suffer emotional trauma and develop a fear of dogs, especially children. In fact, the majority of dog bites involve children and the injuries can impact your child for the rest of his or her life. A Sacramento dog bite attorney at The Crow Law Offices has both substantial experience and the skill to ensure that our clients will obtain the best representation in Sacramento dog bite cases.

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Dog Bite Statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of dog bites requiring medical attention has been steadily rising. Around 1,000 people each day require medical treatment for dog bites. Dog bite injuries affect approximately 4.7 million people in the United States annually. Of these, about 800,000 dog bite victims require medical treatment each year. Dog bite attacks account for one out of three homeowners liability insurance claims, which translates into more than one billion dollars in pay-outs annually. According to recent statistics, one out of every six dog bite injuries requires medical care and one out of every fourteen requires emergency care. Only 15-20% of dog bites involve an unknown dog or owner.

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