People often hear about dog bites and attacks but rarely have to face them in their own lives. However, according to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dog bites are quite common. In fact, approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, and an estimated 885,000 dog bite victims require medical attention for injuries that range from puncture wounds and lacerations to nerve damage, disfigurement, and long-lasting emotional issues. These bites and attacks can have a devastating effect on the victim's life and finances when they face unexpected medical bills related to the attack, miss work while recovering from their injuries, and suffer from a potentially debilitating fear of animals.
Fortunately, California law protects the rights of dog bite victims by imposing strict liability on the offending animal's owner. This law can work in your favor when pursuing compensation for your injuries.
What Is Strict Liability and How Does it Protect Dog Bite Victims' Rights?
Under California's strict liability statute for dog bites, a dog's owner can be held liable for injuries when his dog bites or attacks someone—even if the dog isn’t prone to aggressive behavior and has never bitten anyone in the past. The strict liability statute applies to dog bites and attacks that occur in public places such as on public sidewalks or in public parks, as well as in lawful private places such as a private residence. Strict liability means that, unlike in other types of personal injury cases, you do not need to prove that the dog's owner was negligent or knew that the dog was likely to bite and injure someone in order for your claim to be successful. To prove your dog bite case under strict liability, you only need to show that you were bitten and attacked by a dog belonging to the owner in question. However, if you can prove that the dog's owner was negligent or knew that the dog had bitten someone before or the owner had advanced knowledge that the dog was dangerous (known as scienter), it can help your case.
Exceptions to Strict Liability and Other Considerations
While California's strict liability law seems relatively simple, it is a rather narrow statute, and there are a number of exceptions and other factors you must consider when attempting to pursue compensation in this type of personal injury case. For example:
The Statute Only Applies to Dog Attacks that Include Bites
If a large dog jumped on you and knocked you over—resulting in a broken bone—you could not pursue compensation under this particular statue.
The Statute Does Not Protect Trespassers
If you were on private property or in a private residence unlawfully, the dog’s owner may not be liable for your injuries.
The Statute Does Not Apply to Victims Who Provoked the Dog
If you purposefully provoked the animal, the court may consider you repsonsible for your own injuries.
The Statute Does Not Apply to Police or Military Dogs
Dogs that work for the police or the military and bite or injure someone while carrying out specific police or military duties are exempt from this statute.
The Statute Has a Time Limitation
In order to pursue compensation for damages in a dog bite claim, the victim must file their lawsuit no more than two years from the date of the injury.
Do You Need Help Pursuing Compensation for a Dog Bite?
If you were bitten and injured by a dog, you are not without legal options. In many cases, California's strict liability law allows you to pursue much-needed compensation for your injuries. However, because many dog bite cases involve someone the victim knows such as a friend, family member, or neighbor, victims may be unsure of how to proceed. A knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorney can help victims navigate this sensitive situation.
Contact the skilled recovery professionals with the Inland Empire Law Group today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation. Our seasoned personal injury attorneys in Victorville and Rancho Cucamonga are ready to help you fight for any financial award you may deserve.