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Dog Bites: Is an Owner Responsible for Injuries to a Trespasser?

Dog bites. They are more serious than what you might think, both physically and financially. Dog bites can be fatal if the dog attacks and mulls or if the dog has a disease like rabies. Dog bite wounds can also become infected, causing additional problems. As if the physical part wasn’t enough, dog bites are costly. The Insurance Information Institute reported in April 2017 that dog bite homeowners liability claims are more than a third of all homeowner’s insurance liability claims paid out to victims and that the number of claims increased nationwide by 18 percent in 2016. California leads the list. There were 1,934 claims in California, with an average cost per claim at $39,452 and total claim payout of $76.3 million. So, why do dogs bite? They bite for many reasons.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the primary causes are:

  1. stress;
  2. defense (defend self or territory); and
  3. illness or injury.

It doesn’t matter how cute and fuzzy the dog is, it still has teeth to bite. If it’s your dog biting someone else, then you may be liable for the costs. If you are the victim, then you have a right to compensation. In some cases, however, you may not be able to recover damages, specifically if you were unlawfully on the property of another person when you were bitten. For a free consultation, contact Johnson Attorney Group today.

California Dog Bite Laws, Liability & Trespassing

In California, you are liable if your dog bites another person. According to California Civil Code § 3342, your attorney will need to establish the following:

  • Defendant owned the dog
  • Dog harmed the victim
  • Incident happened on public property
  • Victim was on private property legally

Generally, in a “normal” negligence claim, liability is proven by satisfying four elements:

  1. duty of care;
  2. breach;
  3. causation; and
  4. damages.  

Dog bites, however, are not “normal” negligence claims; they are strict liability claims. Regardless of the dog’s history of violence or any knowledge that the dog may or may not bite someone if the dog is yours and the victim was lawfully on your property (express or implied permission), then you are liable. If your dog escapes or you are on public property with your dog and it bites someone, you are liable. The only time you may not be liable is if the victim assumed the risk by either provoking the dog or trespassing. Therefore, if you are the victim of a dog bite, but unlawfully entered the property of another and was bitten, you may not be able to recover damages. The only time you may be able to recover damages if you trespassed is if you were a child and the dog owner knew the dog could be vicious but failed to take proper measures to ensure the dog was contained on the property. The facts of each individual case will be important to determine liability.

California Dog Bites & Compensation

If you are bitten by another person’s dog and sustained quantifiable monetary damages, then you are entitled to compensation. In California, you have a right to recover economic and non-economic damages:

  1. Economic Damages. These damages include things already with a value attached to them, e.g., medical expenses, funeral expenses, treatment and/or therapy, past and future lost wages.
  2. Non-Economic Damages.These damages are intangible, e.g., pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium.

Unfortunately, dog bites can sometimes result in fatalities. Compensation for wrongful death is also available to surviving family members. Remember, however, if you or your loved one trespassed, then you may not qualify for compensation, even if death resulted.

Contact a Compassionate, Comprehensive Personal Injury Lawyer in California

When you are a victim of a dog bite, you will most likely file a third-party claim with the dog owner’s homeowner insurance policy. The process can be complex and daunting, and the deadlines are strict. While completing the claims process, you may still be trying to recover from your injuries, so the stress of the claim can compound your physical and emotional pain, and you may not provide all the information in the claim properly. Insurance companies prey on the innocent like you, they are trained to find holes in claims they can use to either reduce or deny the claims. A payout to you, after all, compromises their number one priority: profits.

If you or a loved one sustained personal injuries from a dog bite, you need an experienced advocate on your side who has your interests as his or her first priority.  You need a skilled negotiator who knows insurance companies’ strategies and can strategically counter those strategies. Our California personal injury lawyer has recovered more than $50 million for our clients over the past several years alone.  Johnson Attorneys Group does not charge any legal fees unless they successfully settle or win your case.  For a complimentary case evaluation, contact us today either online or call us at 1-800-208-3538.

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