Being viciously attacked and bitten by a dog can be a horrifying experience. While fatalities due to dog bites are relatively rare, dog attacks are by no means harmless, leaving many victims with serious injuries and long-lasting consequences. Victims may suffer puncture wounds, lacerations, infections, nerve damage, scarring and disfigurement, and even emotional and mental issues such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Sometimes, the attacking canine is owned by someone the victim knows—a neighbor, friend, family member, or co-worker—which can put great strain on personal relationships. Many victims are left with questions about who’s liable for their injuries and how to determine if the dog owners have insurance to cover the necessary medical expenses.
Strict Liability for Dog Owners
California law imposes strict liability for dog owners. This means when a dog bites or attacks someone in a public or lawfully private place (such as a private residence), the owner of the dog is liable for the injuries—even if the dog had no previous history of viciousness or violence. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. For example, the owner may not be liable if the victim was trespassing or if the dog in question was provoked.
Is the Dog Owner Insured?
Dog attack victims may be reluctant to pursue compensation for their injuries from someone they know and care about, particularly if the person has no significant assets. Fortunately, dog bites are often covered by homeowner and renter insurance policies. In fact, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III), dog bites account for more than a third of all homeowner insurance claims. Dog bites and attacks may also be covered by other types of liability insurance policies such as umbrella policies or excess policies.
Unfortunately, finding out if the dog's owner is insured can be a challenge. The easiest and most straightforward way to obtain this information is to ask the owner directly about their insurance status. However, they may not know if their policy covers dog bites, may be reluctant to find out, and may even purposely offer incorrect information in the hopes that you'll just forget about the incident. The only way to know for sure whether a dog owner is insured is to file a lawsuit, during which the insurance information will be made available as part of the case's “discovery” and “disclosure” phases.
Do You Need Help Pursuing Compensation for a Dog Bite?
If you were bitten by a dog, you don't have to suffer in silence or bear the financial burden of unexpected attack-related expenses. Thanks to California's strict liability law for dog owners, dog bite victims can pursue compensation for injuries, including:
- Medical bills related to the bite (including trips to the emergency room, doctor visits, prescriptions, and even cosmetic surgery to repair the attack-related injuries)
- Property damage related to the incident
- Lost wages due to missed work
- Pain and suffering (including anxiety and mental anguish)
However, because of some complexities in the California dog bite laws, the frequency of incidents that involve someone known to the victim, and dog owners who may or may not be forthcoming with their insurance information, dog bite cases are best handled by a seasoned personal injury attorney.
The skilled injury recovery professionals with the Inland Empire Law Group have extensive experience representing dog bite and animal attack victims. They're ready and willing to work diligently on your behalf to ensure that, if you're entitled to a financial award, you receive one that's fair and just. Contact the Inland Empire Law Group's offices in Victorville or Rancho Cucamonga for a no-cost evaluation of your California dog bite case.