What to Do if a Dog Bites You: Know the Law in CA

Mar 21, 2023 | Personal Injury

Dogs are wonderful companions, and many Californians enjoy spending time with our furry family members. However, not all dogs are friendly, and even the most well-behaved dog can turn hostile at any time and bite someone.

Dog bites can result in serious injuries, psychological trauma, financial strain, and in extreme situations even death.

If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog in San Diego or elsewhere in California, a qualified dog bite injury attorney can help you seek damages from the dog’s owner.

In this article, we’ll go through actions you should take after a dog bite to protect your health and legal rights.

Which Laws Apply to Dog Bites in California?

California holds dog owners “strictly liable” for any injuries brought on by their canines while on their property or in a public space.

Strict liability means that the dog owner is held responsible for injuries caused by their dog, regardless of whether they were aware of the dog’s dangerous tendencies. So, to receive compensation, a dog bite victim doesn’t need to demonstrate that the dog’s owner was careless or that they knew or should have known that their dog was aggressive.

The only requirement is that the victim was lawfully on the private property where the bite occurred or was in a public place. If the victim provoked the dog, was trespassing on the owner’s property, or committing a crime, the strict liability law may not apply.

To prevent dog bites, California dog owners are required to take reasonable precautions to keep their pets from harming others. This includes keeping their dogs on a leash when in public, and ensuring that their dogs are properly contained when at home.

What Should You Do after a Dog Bite?

If a dog bites you in California, it’s important to take the following steps:

  • Seek medical attention: Even if the bite seems minor, it is crucial to have it examined by a doctor to rule out any infections that, if left untreated, could lead to serious health issues.

If you decide to file a personal injury claim, the medical report from a doctor will also be good evidence. It will be used to demonstrate the severity of the injuries and could affect the amount of compensation awarded.

  • Document the incident: If you can take photos of your injuries immediately after the dog bite and as they heal. These photos can also be useful evidence in any legal proceeding. 

You could also snap photos of the location where the dog bite happened and record the contact information of any witnesses who saw the attack and the dog’s owner.

  • Report the dog bite to the local animal control agency or police department. After you report the occurrence, the authorities will start an investigation, and they may uncover valuable information that will support your claim for damages.

They’ll also ensure the dog is not loose, preventing more attacks from the same dog, or quarantine it to monitor rabies. Make sure you receive an incident number after reporting.

  • Talk to a personal injury lawyer. It is not wise to pursue damages for a dog bite on your own because you’re unlikely to receive the compensation you deserve.

Because of this, you should work with a knowledgeable San Diego dog bite lawyer who will, among other things, assist you in gathering information about the attack, investigate if the dog was current on shots, get formal confirmation that the dog was vaccinated for rabies, negotiate a fair settlement with the dog owner or their insurer, and represent you in court if necessary.

What Compensation Can You Get for a Dog Bite in California?

Your California personal injury attorney might be able to help you recover the following damages:

  • Medical expenses: You may be able to recover the costs of medical treatment for your injuries, including emergency care, hospitalization, surgeries, medications, and rehabilitation.
  • Lost wages: If your injuries keep you from working, you could be entitled to collect lost income for the period you were absent from the workforce as well as future lost wages if your injuries prevent you from resuming your previous line of work.
  • Pain and suffering: This is compensation for the physical pain, emotional distress, and diminished quality of life caused by the dog bite.
  • Property damages: If the dog damaged your personal property during the attack, such as your clothing or cell phone, you may be able to recover the cost of repair or replacement.
  • Punitive damages: In some cases, you may be able to recover punitive damages, which are meant to punish the dog owner for particularly egregious behavior, such as knowingly keeping a dangerous dog or ordering the dog to attack you.

What Is the Statute of Limitation for Dog Bite Lawsuits in California?

The statute of limitations in California for filing a personal injury lawsuit after being bitten by a dog is two years. Any lawsuit filed after this deadline will likely be dismissed by the judge without a hearing.

So, if a dog bit you in California, act fast and get legal counsel from a competent personal injury attorney as soon as you can.

Waiting too long to initiate your dog bite case can also make it harder to gather evidence and build a strong case because witnesses may forget crucial details about the attack, or evidence may be lost, which could result in you losing your right to compensation.

Contact Gallagher Krich, APC, for Help with Your Dog Bite Case

You should consult a personal injury attorney who has experience handling dog bite lawsuits if you’re bitten by a dog in California. A knowledgeable attorney can help you understand your legal rights, gather evidence to support your case, negotiate with insurance companies, and pursue fair compensation for your injuries.

Additionally, a dog bite attorney can help you navigate the complex legal system in California and ensure that your case is handled correctly from start to finish.

At Gallagher Krich, APC, we have over 30 years of legal experience and have successfully represented hundreds of dog bite victims in California. We understand the devastating impact a dog bite can have on your life, and we’re committed to helping you get the compensation you deserve.

Call us today at (858) 926-5797 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced California dog bite attorneys. We’ll listen to your story, answer your questions, and help you evaluate your legal options. Don’t wait – contact us today to get the help you need.

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