Sacramento Dog Bite Attorneys
If you or your child suffered a dog bite, you have rights under the law. You may be entitled to compensation from the dog owners, the dog owner’s landlord, or possibly even your own insurance company. Additionally, you may be able to see that the dog is removed from your neighborhood, or if necessary put down. Our Sacramento dog bite attorneys are very familiar with these cases, and represent victims exclusively in dog bit cases.
Dog Bite Laws
California provides various remedies and theories of liability for dog bite victims. In many situations, the victim need only establish that they were bitten to recover. In other situations a more traditional standard of negligence is required to recover for your injuries. To see whether your case is governed by an applicable dog bite statute or general negligence, please give one of our Sacramento dog bite attorneys a call.
Damages from Dog Bite Cases
Dog bite cases are unique to many other areas of law. Most car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accident, and construction accident cases involve primarily orthopedic injuries. In those traditional cases, victims often suffer from neck, back, brain injury or other spinal cord injuries.
Our Sacramento dog bite injury attorneys are accustomed to handling the most common injury resulting from dog bites: physical scarring. Physical scar cases are particularly complex because of the need so often to have plastic surgery in areas of the body that are oftentimes visible and sensitive. There are also complexities in anticipating future scar surgeries (known as scar releases), as well as follow-up surgeries as the body changes.
Many dog bite victims also suffer emotional scarring, mental trauma and stress from the attack. Whether you grew up a fan of Lassie, Benji, or Marley, we all have had a warm spot in our hearts for dogs. For many of our dog bite clients, the lasting fear of being attacked again is very frustrating and troublesome. Our dog bite attorneys are experienced in dealing with this mental scarring.
If you have suffered a dog bite injury your first goal is to get necessary medical treatment. Once you have, please contact one of our dog bite attorneys so that we may work with you to make a report to the proper authorities and determine the ownership of the dog. We will also want to obtain photographs of the dog and the location where the event occurred.
Just like in a Medical Malpractice or Wrongful Death case, if you have been injured by a vicious dog, do not attempt to settle the case on your own. Insurance claims adjusters are skilled at placing doubt in your mind as to the value of your case and your rights. Oftentimes they can convince dog bite victims to settle their case prematurely. There is no fee to meet with one of our dog bite attorneys to evaluate your case, and if you hire us there is no fee unless we win.
Frequently Asked Questions about Dog Bite Injuries:
The first two things that should be done when someone is bit by a dog is get medical treatment and see that the dog is restrained so that no one else is injured. Once the person bitten has been treated and the dog is restrained, a report should be made immediately. Depending on where you live, one should make a report with either the local animal control department or the local police/sheriff’s department. Depending on their availability and the seriousness of the attack, they will investigate. Even if the authorities do not investigate, a report should at least be made on-line or over the phone to establish a record of the bite.
In addition to making a report, it is important to determine early on who owns the dog and where the dog lives as this may impact liability. It is also very important to document the bite itself. Take multiple pictures from different angles using a high quality camera. Of course, it is also important to call an experienced Sacramento dog bite attorney to assist you in determining whether you have a claim for the dog bite and to determine how best to handle the claim.
You should NOT discuss your claim with an insurance carrier or insurance claims adjuster without first speaking with a Sacramento dog bite attorney.
Anytime a dog causes an injury it should be reported to the police. While you may later decide not to file or pursue a claim, the dog should be reported to assist in documenting a problem with the dog. How do you think you would feel if the dog later attacks and seriously injures someone else and you did not file a report?
If a dog bites you, there are several things to be concerned about. You should seek medical treatment no matter how small the injury may seem if the skin is broken. You could be unknowingly subjected to infection or disease, and will need to rule out those concerns immediately.
Depending on whether the dog was properly registered and had a proper vaccination history may determine whether the dog needs to be quarantined. A responsible dog owner will have proof of both registration and vaccination. Likewise, animal control will need to make an assessment as to the dangerous propensities of the dog. If it appears to have been an isolated incident, the dog will likely be returned to its owner. On the other hand, if the dog has dangerous propensities or a prior history, the dog may need to change environments or be putdown.
The good news is that rabies is very rare in domesticated animals in the United States. Through vaccinations, education, and effective animal control very few people are bitten by dogs with rabies. However, rabies is a very serious disease and is not taken lightly. If you have been bitten by a dog that cannot be 100% confirmed as having been properly vaccinated for rabies, it is extremely important that you contact your physician immediately and let them know of the dog bite. You and your doctor should make an informed decision about the best course of action. If your physician is not immediately available, you should go to a hospital emergency room or urgent care facility.
Any dog bite that punctures or breaks the skin should not be treated by novices. Proper medical treatment should be obtained. Disease and infections are very serious concerns after a dog bite.
The amount received in a dog bite settlement varies greatly. You should not expect to get punitive damages, or money to “punish” the dog’s owner. Those are very rare suits that occur only in circumstances of outrageous behavior. A dog bite settlement is like most other personal injury lawsuit settlements; the goal is to recover your actual damages: medical expenses; wage loss; pain and suffering; disfigurements/scarring; and similar damages.
A dog bite lawsuit in California is almost always filed in the Superior Court in the county where the dog bite occurred. Sometimes, you can file it in other counties depending on restrictions in the law, but the county where the bite occurred is the most frequent. While police reports, animal control reports, and similar reports and claims need to be filed, they do not take the place of a lawsuit if the case cannot be resolved amicably.
Common dog bite injuries are generally more than the pain and suffering of the actual bite itself, as well as any resulting physical scar. Dog bite injuries also include medical bills incurred past and present, as well as potential loss of wages, and in some situations emotional injuries as well.
The question seems fairly simple, but it is more complicated than one might suspect. We would generally consider a dog bite to be the clamping of the upper and lower mandible of a dog on a person. However, is that really a fair definition? Would a dog bite include nipping under that definition? Would it include accidental bites or scrapes? While technically all of those events qualify as a dog bite, the more conventional definition of a dog bite is an incident where a dog deliberately inflicts injury to a person with its teeth.
In California, a person bitten by the dog has the right to sue. If the person bitten was married, their spouse may have a claim for what is commonly known as loss of consortium. Loss of Consortium claims are generally claims for the loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and sexual relations.
If the person bitten is a minor, they can potentially wait until they are adult and then sue (some exceptions require actions sooner than that with government entities), or they can have a Guardian ad Litem sue on their behalf. A Guardian ad Litem is someone who is appointed to be the guardian of the minor for the limited purpose of the lawsuit. It is typically a parent, family member, or close friend.
It is possible that a person who witnessed the dog bite may also have a claim. However, these claims are very difficult and only allowed in limited circumstances.
With few exceptions, the owner of the dog is liable if his/her dog bites someone. In addition to the owner being liable, it is possible that a landlord or property owner may be liable, particularly if they knew or should have known of the dangerous propensities of the dog.
Most property insurance policies cover dog bite cases. These policies include homeowner’s policies, renter policies, and landlord policies. Not only do these policies typically provide liability insurance, but many of them also have special provisions that help with medical bills even if the policy holder is not liable.
California has a strict liability statute for dog bite cases. Strict liability means that with a few exceptions the owner is liable if his/her dog bites someone even if the dog had not previously bitten or attacked someone.
However, the strict liability statute only applies to an actual dog bite. It does not cover cases in which someone was injured by being knocked down or chased. While the strict liability statute may not apply in those circumstances, general negligence theories may apply and the owner may still be liable. In other words, if the owner knew or should have known of the dog’s dangerous propensities, and the owner failed to take reasonable steps to secure the dog, then the owner may be liable if it knocks someone down. Of course, to have a meaningful case for being knocked down, it is important that the injured person has actual and real damages, and not just trivial injuries.
Dog bite cases are like most other personal injury cases in California. You are entitled to recover for damages proximately caused by the bite such as past and future medical bill and expenses, loss of past or future wages and income, as well as pain, suffering, and disfigurement/scarring, when appropriate.
How quickly you file a lawsuit in a dog bite case is defined by several factors. At the outset, you want to bring a case before the statute of limitations has expired. For most personal injury matters the statute of limitations is two years. However, for some cases involving children it may be longer, and for cases involving government entities it may be as short as six months.
However, the statute of limitations is only one concern. The longer you wait to bring a claim for a dog bite, the greater the chance that evidence has disappeared or is harder to locate. You should contact an attorney immediately after a dog bite to ensure that evidence is preserved.
The best Sacramento dog bite attorneys will not necessarily rush to file your case. They may spend some time gathering evidence before filing, and more importantly waiting to determine how your injuries are going to heal. Settling your case too soon can be as bad as waiting too long to file. Far too often we receive phone calls from clients complaining that their previous attorneys settled their case too soon. Before settling your case, you should be comfortable that your injuries have either resolved, or at least reached a plateau so you know your permanent conditions.
One of the most frustrating things for attorneys to see is a poorly represented case. Parents often think they are doing their children a favor by avoiding hiring an attorney. However, that could not be the further from the truth. Injuries suffered by children are unique in and of themselves. You should always hire an attorney for your child. If you want to assist your child in the case you may do so as a guardian ad litem.
Unlike breach of contract or failure to pay under a promissory note cases, damages in a dog bite case are not readily calculable. There is no magic formula to decide the value of a dog bite. A veterinarian bitten by dog may have little to no emotional scarring compared to a small child bitten on her birthday. Similarly, a large iron worker bitten and left with a 6″ scar on his shoulder has much less in damages than a runway model bitten with a 2″ scar on her face.
Each dog bite case has a different value, and that value can vary dramatically from case-to-case. To determine the value of your case, please contact one of our Sacramento dog bite attorneys.
The length of time it takes to settle a dog bite case is determined by many factors. First, you do not want to settle your case until your physical condition has stabilized. In dog bite cases, this usually means waiting until such time as the scars have resolved or have reached a permanent stage in the healing process.
Once the medical condition has stabilized, a claim could be resolved in as quick as a few days, to as long as two years. The length of time to settle the case is dependent on such factors as: was the claim timely made and investigated; do you have good documentation of the injury and the incident; did you keep and maintain good photographs; was a police report or animal control report made timely; is there a dispute over ownership or control over the dog; is there permanent scarring, or the need for further treatments for scarring (e.g. scar revisions); does the dog owner have insurance; are there applicable limitations on the dog owners insurance limits?
Under California’s dog bite statute, a dog’s owner remains liable for dog bite even if the dog was being petted by the victim before the attack.
If you or someone you know has been bitten by a dog, please give one of the Sacramento dog bite attorneys at Eason & Tambornini a call.