A Complete Guide to Dog Bite Claims in California
Recently, the average dog bite settlement amount has increased significantly, mostly because of pandemic puppies. These emotional support animals grew up in isolation, and their owners were usually around 24/7. Now, these full-grown dogs are alone much of the day, and they’re unaccustomed to other people. When creatures brood and are thrust into unfamiliar environments, they usually become aggressive.
Dog bites are a serious problem. Animal attacks send hundreds of thousands of people to hospital Emergency Rooms every year. As outlined below, these attacks cause serious, and often permanent, physical and emotional injuries.
On top of the medical issues, California law is quite complex in this area. Only a very good Dog Bite Attorney in California can navigate through these minefields, arrange for proper medical care, and successfully resolve a legal claim. This successful resolution usually includes compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Understanding California Dog Bite Laws
Medical Treatment Issues
Physical dog bite injuries usually begin with the knockdown. That’s particularly true if, as is often the case, a large pit bull or other such dog lunges at a small child. Frequently, the animal outweighs the victim in these situations.
Sudden, violent knockdowns usually cause head injuries and broken bones. The motion of a fall causes the brain to slam against the insides of the skull, causing bleeding and swelling. The extreme weight of the animal usually crushes bones, typically in the legs and pelvis. Broken legs usually mean permanent loss of motion in the knee, ankle, or another joint. A broken pelvis could be life threatening.
Then, when dogs bite, their teeth usually cause gruesome surface lacerations as well as deep puncture wounds. Surface lacerations, like broken leg bones, are usually permanent. Doctors can address the wounds, but the physical scars remain. Severe puncture wounds usually cause severe internal bleeding that’s hard to spot and even harder to stop.
We mentioned child victims above. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a very common injury in these situations. You read that right. PTSD is a physical brain injury, not a sensory disorder. Extreme stress, like an animal attack, alters the brain’s chemical composition.
Unfortunately, we’re not finished. Dog bites usually get infected, usually with staphylococcus or streptococcus bacteria. Staph and strep infections are very serious, especially if the victim has a pre-existing medical condition.
Building a Case
California has a strict liability law. If a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer proves, by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not), that an animal attack substantially caused injury, the owner or custodian is liable for damages as a matter of law.
Strict liability cases are relatively straightforward, but they often don’t go over well with jurors, most of whom are probably pet owners. Section 3342 is so broad that, according to some, it penalizes pet owners who rescue animals that have been abused in the past.
For these reasons, scienter (aka the one-bite rule) might be a better option, if the facts support it. If the owner or custodian knew the animal was potentially dangerous, and the animal attacked someone, the owner or custodian is liable for damages. Evidence on this point usually includes pre-bite behavior, such as:
- Menacing snarling,
- Aggressive barking,
- Baring of teeth, and
- Sudden lunging.
Custodians and owners who ignore warning signs and don’t control animals simply appear irresponsible, even to pet owner jurors.
Other legal theories, most notably ordinary negligence and negligence per se, may be available as well.
Basically, ordinary negligence is a lack of care. The standard is very high in these cases. For example, teachers are negligent if they permit students to play with strange animals. Negligence per se is a violation of a safety law, such as a fence or leash law. If a safety law violation substantially causes injury, victims are entitled to compensation.
The Provocation Defense
No dog bite legal guide is complete unless it addresses the provocation defense. This doctrine is a complete defense in strict liability claims and a partial defense in negligence claims.
Nervous dogs often over-react to loud noises and sudden moves. They also over-react to a perceived threat, like verbal teasing.
Under California law, these actions cannot provoke a dog. Instead, provocation is an intentional and physical act that’s almost like torturing an animal. For this reason, young children usually cannot provoke an animal, as a matter of law. Dog bite victims are entitled to substantial compensation.
Contact Our Experienced California Dog Bite Lawyers Today
For a free consultation with Experienced Dog Attack Attorney Los Angeles, contact Attorney Sharona Hakim, at the Law Offices of Eslamboly Hakim. We routinely handle Dog Bite Person Injury matters throughout Southern California.
Sharona Eslamboly Hakim, Esq. is a successful personal injury attorney and the principal of the Law Offices of Eslamboly Hakim firm in Beverly Hills, California.