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What are my legal options if I or my child was bitten by a dog?

On Behalf of | Feb 16, 2023 | Dog Bites

Americans love dogs, and rightly so. They are valuable companions, and many begin to feel like members of the family. Because dogs are still animals, however, there is always the risk that they will bite or attack humans. Sadly, the most common and most severely injured victims tend to be children.

If you or your child was bitten by another person’s dog, it’s important to understand your legal options. In this post, we’ll discuss dog bite liability in California and how you can increase your chances of a successful financial recovery.

Two types of dog bite laws

Although exact laws differ from state to state, there are generally two principles of dog bite liability. Many states recognize a principle called the “one-bite rule.” Under this principle, if a dog attacks or bites someone, the owner is only liable if they knew or should have known that their dog was dangerous based on previous attacks. This feels more than a little unfair, of course, if you are the first person that a given dog attacks.

Other states, including California, follow the principle of “strict liability” when it comes to dog bites. Under Cal. Civ. Code § 3342(a), dog owners are liable when their pet attacks someone simply because they own the dog. It doesn’t matter whether the animal has a history of aggression.

There are some exceptions to strict liability, including if the victim provoked the dog or if the victim was trespassing on the dog owner’s property when the attack occurred. Liability also does not apply when police dogs attack suspects during an arrest or while protecting police officers.

Who compensates victims, and for which types of damages?

When the dog owner is found liable, they are responsible for compensating the victim. However, in most cases, the money actually comes from insurance companies in the form of payouts from homeowners insurance and renters insurance claims. According to the Insurance Information Institute, California is often the state with the highest number of annual claims, with 2,026 claims in 2021 alone.

The value of a case depends on the nature and the extent of the injuries. If you or your child was bitten by a dog, you may be able to seek compensation for things like:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages from time spent unable to work
  • Pain and suffering (and psychological trauma)
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Permanent disability
  • Wrongful death (in extreme cases)

Insurance companies want to deny claims when they can, and to settle for as little as possible when they must. That’s why it is wise to consult an experienced personal injury attorney, who will understand how to maximize the value of your claim.

Put Decades Of Experience On Your Side

At Woods Williford, P.C., we represent clients in a wide variety of personal injury scenarios, including dog bite claims. When you contact our firm, you’ll benefit from our decades of legal experience as well as our belief that each case and client is important. You can expect open communication and exceptional service from attorneys who care about you and your injuries.

If you’d like to learn more, contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.