Previously California had a “1 Bite Statute” that only imposed liability on the dog owner, if the dog had already bitten one person. In other words the courts thought the owner had to have NOTICE of some kind that their dog had a propensity to bite. Today we have Strict Liability. This means that if a dog bites someone, then the owner is strictly liable, even if this is the first time the dog has bitten anyone.
The courts have decided that the dog’s owner has a duty to keep his/her dog under reasonable control at all times, and to keep that dog from running at large. A person who breaches that duty is subject to civil liability for any damages suffered by a person who is injured by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in or on the private property of another.
Factors that cause a dog to bite are; 1) training, 2) breed, 3) health, 4) socialization, 5) provocation, 6) aggression, 7) heredity, and 8) the behavior of surrounding humans. There are exceptions to this law as follows: 1) military dogs, 2) if the victim was trespassing 3) if the victim was threatening the dog’s owner 4) if the dog was in an enclosure, or 5) if the victim was provoking the dog.
An experienced Dog Bite attorney will not only encourage their client to go to the ER or Hospital right away, but to also have the bite examined by a plastic surgeon. The doctor should prepare a report estimating the cost of repairs and the chances of scarring. In addition, a good attorney will also suggest that the client see a psychologist if he/she has developed a phobia about being bitten again or nightmares of the incident etc. Obviously a bite to a woman’s face or a part of her body that shows is more serious than a bite to a man’s fanny etc.
A bite injury is only the first half of what a good attorney should address. I always teach my new lawyers that documentation is the name of the game in law. This would include not only seeking treatment with the appropriate doctors, but also taking pictures of the bite/scar and keeping a daily diary explaining how this bite affected the client’s life. Did the bite cause the victim to have to cancel a vacation? A party they were throwing or attending? A family picture photo session? Their daily golf and tennis game? Etc.
The cost of dog bite claims for insurers has risen to over $500 million in recent years, with the average settlement at $29,396 but varies from county to county etc. This increase has been attributed to increasing medical costs and the increasing value of settlements, jury awards, and verdicts for plaintiffs. These have outpaced inflation and other accident cases. Thus, many insurance policies now exclude certain breeds of dogs from coverage which means you must check your homeowners policy to be sure you are covered.
It is common sense that an owner has a legal responsibility to ensure that an unprovoked dog is safe and will not attack passersby’s regardless of a dog’s nature and upbringing. If you or any of your friends have been bitten by a dog, please seek medical attention ASAP. Then go to the hospital or ER. After that, you should contact a local accident attorney that has successfully handled these cases.
Remember: Silence is Golden and Handcuffs are Silver so DON’T TALK to Police or Insurance Company without your lawyer’s permission. Merely report the unprovoked bite. It is often not what you say but rather what the Police or Insurance Adjuster THOUGHT they heard you say.
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