Being viciously attacked by a dog or another animal can be a frightening experience. In the days following the attack, your attention may be focused solely on what you need to do to recover from your injuries and get back to your normal life. Missed work and expensive medical bills may make you worry about how you’ll handle the financial burden. Fortunately, California's strict liability law for dog bites and animal attacks may help you shoulder that burden. Filing a lawsuit against the animal's owner and pursuing compensation can assist you in regaining your financial and emotional stability. However, with these and other personal injury cases, it’s important to move quickly. Allowing too much time to elapse between the attack and filing the lawsuit can result in the dismissal of what might be an otherwise strong claim.
California's Statute of Limitations Means You Have Limited Time to File a Claim
Most states set a time limit—known as the “statute of limitations”—that determines how long a person has to file a lawsuit after a particular incident. In California, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases, including dog bites and animal attacks, is two years from the date the incident occurred.
It's also important to note that the statute of limitations applies specifically to the actual lawsuit. Some dog bite and animal attack victims may mistakenly believe that their legal rights are protected as long as they've filed an incident report with law enforcement or submitted an insurance claim during the two-year period. This is not the case. Even if victims have reported the attack to the relevant authorities and insurance agencies, the statute of limitations runs out after two years. You must file the lawsuit within that two years to avoid forfeiting your right to a legal remedy.
Exceptions and Other Considerations
There is a notable exception to California’s two-year timeframe for filing a personal injury lawsuit. The law allows for minors to delay filing a lawsuit until they turn 18, and they have until they turn 20 before the time limit expires. California extends the statute of limitations for minor victims because they're still growing, and the full effects of their injuries may not yet be apparent. However, waiting for a minor to reach 18 can sometimes work against a claim. For example, personal injury cases tend to be strongest when they're filed quickly—when victims and witnesses can clearly recall the incident. Also, while juries are often very sympathetic toward young victims, they may view those who wait until their late teens or early 20s to file suit as victims who are seeking attention or cash.
Were You Injured in an Animal Attack?
If you or someone you love suffered injuries in an animal attack, California's strict liability law makes it possible for you to file a lawsuit against the animal's owner and pursue compensation for:
- Medical bills related to the incident
- Lost wages if your injuries are serious enough that they cause you to miss work
- Physical pain and emotional suffering
Filing a personal injury claim can be daunting. That’s why it’s helpful to enlist the representation of a skilled attorney with experience handling dog bites, animal attacks, and other personal injury cases. Contact the injury recovery professionals with the Inland Empire Law Group for a free evaluation of your animal attack case. We're eager to answer your questions and help you fight for any financial compensation you may deserve.