A dog bite attack is one of the most traumatic experiences a person may face. It is terrifying and can leave you grappling with pain and fear. According to the CDC, nearly one in five people bitten by a dog requires medical attention—often extensive medical treatments. Not only can a dog bite mean a trip to the emergency room, but it can lead to time missed from work, rehabilitation, and even permanent disfigurement.
Although we may see dogs as beloved family members, they are technically considered property under California law. This means dog owners can be held liable under the legal standard of premise liability. Dog owners are responsible for their pets even if they are not around during the accident (e.g., the dog is at the park with a dog walker).
You have a legal right to seek compensation for the damages you incur if someone’s dog injures you. The damage caused by a dog bite is usually covered under the owner’s home insurance policy. Contact Frederick Law to learn more about your legal rights.
Three Steps to Take After a Dog Bite
If a dog has bitten you or a loved one, you may be shocked by what happened. However, you should take three essential steps after a dog bite injury. The purpose of these steps is twofold: to ensure the victim’s safety and to preserve information for reporting the bite and pursuing legal action later. In California, as in most places, the rationale behind dog bite reporting is to keep track of potentially dangerous dogs.
Step 1: Seek Medical Treatment
Dog bites can be severe and gruesome. Or they may be relatively minor. No matter the extent, you should seek immediate medical care to treat the wound.
There are two main types of dog bite wounds: puncture and superficial. A superficial injury is generally on the skin’s surface—a scratch or cut— and will usually be treated by cleaning the wound and applying topical antiseptic care.
A puncture wound, on the other hand, is usually much more severe and can damage muscles, tendons, and even bones. No matter the severity of the bite wound, it is imperative to seek medical treatment immediately. You may also need a rabies vaccination.
Step 2: Document the Evidence
If you are able, document what you can of the injury and scene immediately following the attack. You should also save any records about the injury or attack. This may include:
- Pictures of the wound,
- Medical bills and records,
- Description of the dog,
- Owner information, and
- Potential witnesses and their contact information.
If you choose to proceed with legal recourse, having this documentation can be crucial to the success of your claim.
Step 3: Speak with an Experienced San Luis Obispo Dog Bite Lawyer
Speaking with a knowledgeable lawyer is in your best interest. A San Luis Obispo animal attack lawyer will assess your case, review your options, and assist you with choosing the best course of action. For more information on filing a lawsuit or the steps to reporting a dog bite, contact the attorneys at Frederick Law Firm.
Dogs Bites and California Law
Under California law, a dog owner is liable for the injuries sustained by any person bitten by their dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private area—including the dog owner’s property—if you were invited or otherwise legally present.
Dog bite liability in California follows a strict liability standard. Strict liability holds people responsible for their actions, even if they were not negligent. Even if a dog owner had no reason to believe their dog would bite or become aggressive, they are liable for the injuries caused by their dog if they happened in public, or the victim had a lawful right to be there. If a dog bit you, you may be entitled to damages for your injuries. However, there are exceptions to strict liability, such as a law enforcement dog or if the victim was trespassing. You should also know that dog bite reporting in California is required by a doctor that treats or evaluates the injury, regardless of severity.
Dog Bite Lawsuit
The plaintiff must prove the defendant is liable for the attack to win a dog bite lawsuit.
Generally, you must prove the following:
- The defendant owned the dog,
- The dog bit you while you were in a public place (e.g., park, sidewalk) or while you were lawfully on private property (e.g., a guest at the owner’s house, postal worker, meter reader), and
- The dog bite was at least a substantial factor in your injuries.
There are exceptions to a dog owner’s liability, including:
- If the victim was trespassing on private property,
- The dog is a law enforcement K9,
- The victim assumed the risk of an animal attack, or
- The victim was partially at fault (such as provoking the dog).
To better understand your rights, contact our dog bite lawyer in San Luis Obispo, CA, to discuss your situation.
Child Dog Bite Victim
Generally, in California, you have two years from the date of the accident or injury to file a personal injury lawsuit. If a dog bites you, you must file a court complaint within two years of the attack date. However, the statute of limitations for a child dog bite case is two years from their 18th birthday. While this is technically the law, it is always best to speak with a dog bite attorney in San Luis Obispo immediately after the accident. Generally, the sooner you file the lawsuit, the better because memories are fresh, and evidence is less likely to be lost or misplaced.
San Luis Obispo Dog Bite Attorney
With over three decades of experience representing accident victims in California’s Central Coast, Frederick Law Firm knows precisely what is necessary to hold the dog owner responsible for your injuries. Contact us at your convenience to schedule a free consultation.