DOG BITES AND CALIFORNIA LAW
Generally, when you suffer an injury that appears to be the fault of someone else (such as when you're involved in an auto accident), you must prove that the other party was somehow negligent in their conduct. When the law does not require such proof and liability is automatic, this is called "strict liability." When it comes to dog bite claims, California imposes strict liability on the owner of the dog. The law in California creates a liability when the victim is bitten by a dog without the usual necessity of proving a previous vicious act of the dog, or the knowledge of its dangerous habits on the owner’s part. Dog bites often result in significant, and sometimes permanent, scarring, and those personal injuries generally require evaluation by expert, plastic surgeons.
In Orange County California, as the injured party, you need to prove that the Defendant’s dog bit you and that the Defendant is responsible for that harm. People who own dogs can be held responsible for the harm from a dog bite, no matter how carefully they guard or restrain their dogs. To establish a claim, the injured party must prove all of the following: (1) That the Defendant owned a dog; (2) That the dog bit the injured party while he/she was in a public place or lawfully on private property; (3) That injured party was harmed; and (4) That Defendant’s dog was a substantial factor in causing the injured party’s harm. A bite through the skin is not necessary for these rules to apply. It should be noted the injured party must have been lawfully on the private property of the owner if he/she was performing any duty required by law or was on the property at the invitation, express or implied, of the owner.
A keeper of a dog, in contrast to an owner, is not an insurer of the good behavior of a dog, but must have knowledge of the vicious propensities of the animal before liability for injuries inflicted by such animal shall attach to him. Certain defenses may apply to any particular situation and this includes what is known as assumption of the risk or comparative negligence. These are rarely an issue in typical dog bite cases.
Dog Bite Claim Examples
Pit Bull Attacks Service Dog and Owner
An 88-year-old father was inside his home while his blind son was in the front yard with his service dog. Unbeknownst to the elderly gentleman, a neighbor's pit bull escaped from his yeard and ran down the street (roughly half a mile) and to the victim's front yard. Suddenly, the client heard a commotion and screaming in the dark of his own front yard. He immediately ran to the front of his home and out the door to the yard. Upon his arrival, he found his son and service dog being violently attacked by the pit bull. Without any other choice, the elderly victim attempted to intervene and stop the attack by physically pouncing on the pit bull and pulling him off of his son and his dog. In the process of protecting both his blind son and his son’s service dog, the client was bitten on the left hand, suffering eight puncture wounds.
In spite of a comparative negligence issue and relatively modest scarring, the claim settled for $39,000.00.
Large Pit Bull/German Shepard Mix Attacks Small Terriers and Their Owner
While walking to the post office near her home with her two West Highland terriers in tow, the client's small dogs were suddenly attacked by a large pit bull/German Shepard mix, after escaping its own yard through an open gate. The attack occurred on a public street within about 50 feet of the pit bull's back yard. At about this point in the vicious attack, the pit bull's owner arrived on the scene and grabbed her dog's collar, trying to pull him off of one of the little terriers. Her efforts were in vain as the attacking dog would not release its hold on the much smaller dog. Left with no alternative, the client attempted to rescue her dog, and that is when pit bull turned on her, biting her right hand, leaving an open, jagged, bleeding wound. The client was treated by paramedics and an emergency room on the date of the incident. The wound healed without complication or infection, and medical expenses were just over $5,000.00.
The client's claim settled for $19,000.00.
What To Do If You're A Victim
When you or a loved one has been the victim of a dog attack, it is important to get the medical and legal help you need. While some of these cases may seem straightforward, they are often defended vigorously by insurance carriers who may try to blame the victim or at least discount the severity of the injuries and damages sustained. Injury attorney Paul W. Ralph has nearly three decades of experience at handling dog bite claims and lawsuits. Take the first step toward recovery of the compensation you deserve.