Long Beach Dog Bite Attorney
Dogs have been “man’s best friend” throughout history, but they do harm people from time to time. While some dogs act out of protectiveness or fear, it is still every dog owner’s responsibility to understand the dog bite laws in their area. The state of California follows a statutory strict liability statute when it comes to dog bite law. A dog’s owner is completely liable for any dog bite at any time, with very few exceptions and little room for defense.
If you’ve suffered a dog bite injury in Southern California, you should consider your legal options by speaking with a knowledgeable Long Beach dog bite attorney. A dog bite is usually painful, and significant bites can puncture the skin, leaving victims open to infections and other medical complications. If a dog owner was negligent in his or her handling of the dog, injured victims can file personal injury lawsuits to obtain compensation for their injuries.
California Dog Bite Laws
Each state has varying regulations about dog bites. California is one of the “strict liability” states. It makes the owners responsible for a vast majority of dog bite injuries. Under the strict liability rule, an owner does not need to have had prior knowledge of his or her dog’s tendency to bite for the court to find him or her responsible. The owner cannot use the defense that he or she did not know that the dog was vicious.
However, the strict liability law does not apply to every dog bite incident. A victim can only use the strict liability law if a dog bit him or her in either a public place or when he or she was lawfully allowed on private property. For example, it is legal for a mail carrier to be on private property, so if a dog bites him or her on the property, the owner could be responsible under the strict liability law.
In some situations, a dog causes an injury without biting anyone. Because the dog did not actually bite the victim, he or she cannot use the strict liability law. However, the court can still find the owner liable if he or she was careless. For example, if a dog owner takes his or her dog off the leash in a park and the dog chases after a bicyclist that falls as a result, the court could find the owner liable because his or her negligent action caused the accident.
California has separate regulations that apply to dangerous dogs. Law enforcement officers can file a petition with the court if they believe that a dog is a potential danger. If the court agrees that the dog is dangerous, the owner will need to make changes to ensure that the dog does not hurt anyone. Examples of tasks owners would need to do include keeping the dog indoors, on a secure leash, or in a fenced yard. If owners do not adhere to the court’s requirements, the court can fine them. California courts will consider a dog potentially dangerous if the dog:
- Forced people to defend themselves from an attack at least two separate times in the past three years
- Bit and injured someone unprovoked
- Killed or injured a domestic animal twice in the past three years
Anyone can file a civil case against the owner of a dog who has bitten someone twice in separate incidents or against the owner of a trained attack dog who seriously injured someone, even if the dog only bit the person once. As punishment, the court can order the owner to act to prevent future attacks such as removing the dog from the area. In especially severe situations, the court may rule that the owner needs to euthanize the dog.
The court could also convict a dog owner of criminal charges. The owner could face criminal charges if he or she knew that the dog was prone to mischievous or aggressive behavior and did not take the necessary steps to keep everyone else safe, and the dog killed or seriously injured someone. It is a felony if the dog killed the victim and a misdemeanor or felony if the dog injured someone. For additional informationr regarding the laws in California, reach out to a skilled Long Beach dog bite attorney.
Why Do Dogs Bite?
Many people believe there is no such thing as a bad dog, and that many violent dogs are products of mistreatment and dangerous environments. However, while human influence has a great deal to do with the temperament of most dogs, no one can ever predict how a dog will act in every situation. Many dogs with no known history of aggression suddenly bite people, and it’s impossible to tell why this happens. This is why dog owners must exercise caution and protect other people from their potentially dangerous animals.
Dogs also perform valuable services for the military and police. If a police dog bites and restrains a fleeing suspect, the suspect may not be able to file a lawsuit for the bite since the bite happened as part of the dog fulfilling its duties. Additionally, people who provoke dogs to attack or who abuse dogs cannot file claims for a dog biting in self-defense or retaliation.
What to Do After a Dog Bite in Long Beach
After suffering a dog bite, it can be difficult to know what to do next. After you leave the scene, seek medical attention. Not all dogs have the proper vaccinations, and it is important that you ensure you do not contract rabies or another infection from the bite. Take pictures of the wound before you see a doctor so you have proof of the severity of your injury.
Make sure to exchange information with the dog owner and anyone else involved in the incident. It is important that you can easily contact them later, especially if you choose to file a claim against the owner. Get the owner’s contact information, address, and name.
Obtain the contact information for any witnesses, even if they were simply onlookers. If you file a claim, your Long Beach dog bite lawyer will want to contact the witnesses to acquire statements to strengthen your case. They can provide a perspective that you cannot, as they saw the situation unfold. They can also offer an unbiased description of the events that can be effective, especially if your case goes to court.
Document as much as you can. Take pictures of the scene, your wound, and anything else that could be relevant to a claim. Along with pictures, write down everything you can remember from the attack and describe the pain you are experiencing from the injury or any decreased mobility or function. It is important to have thorough information about what happened, and writing it down will prevent you from forgetting details that could be significant to your case.
Once you gather information and see a doctor, contact animal control to find out if the dog has a history of aggression. Additionally, animal control’s investigation into the attack may strengthen your personal claim.
How to File a Dog Bite Report
File a dog bite report as soon as possible after the incident. It gives you legal documentation for the insurance company, helps authorities enforce dog bite laws, and protects other people from falling victim to the dog’s aggression.
Contact your local animal control agency. It may be a division of the police department, the humane society, the health department, or some other organization. They will have forms for you to fill out with information about the attack. The agency may want to consult you during the investigation. Cooperate with their requests so they have a thorough report about what happened.
Filing a Lawsuit for a Dog Bite Injury
Anyone who suffers a dog bite injury in California has a two-year statute of limitations for hiring a Long Beach personal injury lawyer, filing a lawsuit, and pursuing damages. It’s also important to remember that the plaintiff must prove that his or her damages were the result of a dog bite and that he or she suffered the bite while lawfully present at the incident’s location. Dog owners owe a duty of care to lawful visitors on their private property, and to the general public when taking their dogs into public spaces.
Dog owners do not owe the same duty of care to trespassers, such as criminals who break into a home and then suffer wounds from the homeowner’s dog. This is basically the only viable defense dog owners have in California when facing lawsuits for dog bite injuries. California law is also very specific concerning its strict liability for injuries caused by dogs. Scratches or injuries suffered from a dog knocking a victim to the ground are not held to the same strict liability statute as bites.
Compensation for Dog Bites in California
If the court finds the defendant responsible for your injuries, it could award you various types of damages for compensation. You could receive compensation for is medical expenses, which include doctor and hospital services, physical therapy, medication, psychological treatment, and any other medical bills you have because of the dog bite.
The defendant also may have to compensate you for pain and suffering, which covers physical pain as well as mental and emotional suffering. Dog attacks can lead to serious emotional trauma that may affect the victim for a long time. If the court believes that the pain and suffering will continue, the defendant could be responsible for future expenses, as well.
The court could also award you compensation for lost income, which covers wages you lost from days off work that you needed to recover. Additionally, it covers the difference in salary if the injury caused your earning potential to lower.
If the victim’s relationships suffered because of the injuries, the defendant could have to compensate the victim for loss of consortium or services, encompassing lost companionship or intimacy.
California’s dangerous dog law adds another possible area of compensation. The defendant may have to pay double or triple damages if authorities declared that his or her dog was a dangerous dog prior to the incident.
Finally, the court could order the defendant to compensate the victim for punitive damages, which are meant to punish the defendant when he or she was especially reckless or negligent. If the court believes that the other compensation is not enough punishment, it will assign punitive damages.
Call a Long Beach Dog Bite Lawyer Today
Winning a dog bite case in California is fairly simple. A plaintiff must only prove that he or she was lawfully present at the location the bite took place, and the dog actually bit him or her and caused injury. The logic behind this strict liability is that dog owners must be willing to shoulder the liability for injuries their dogs cause if they wish to keep them. Anyone in the Southern California region that has suffered a dog bite should look to qualified and reliable legal counsel to manage their cases. At Harting Simkins & Ryan, LLP, we work tirelessly on behalf of our clients to secure the compensation they need to return to normal life. Call our office at (562) 981-1010 or contact us online to schedule a consultation about your dog bite case, and we will let you know how a Long Beach dog bite attorney at our firm can help.