Dogs are said to be man’s best friend, and most people love dogs. We enjoy playing with them, petting them, and just being with them, whether they are our own or someone else’s.
However, that “best friend” can cause serious harm if it bites you or a loved one. When a dog bites, the bite can result in scarring and infection or other permanent damage. The Fontana personal injury attorneys of OnderLaw, LLC have represented victims of dog bites for nearly two decades. We can answer your questions, help you explore your options, and develop a plan to get you the compensation for damages you need to help make yourself whole again.
Don’t wait. Call us today. Your initial consultation is free.
How Dog Bites Occur
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), there are a number of reasons dogs bite people. Most of the time, the bite is a reaction to something. Here are some examples:
- Stressful situations. A dog under stress can lash out with his or her teeth. This stress may occur during play or some other incident where the dog may find itself in unfamiliar surroundings.
- Fear. A frightened animal is much more likely to bite and defend itself. This is particularly true when the animal may not have the ability to run away and so feels trapped.
- Feeling threatened. When a dog finds itself cornered or otherwise senses danger to itself, the dog is likely to bite.
- Protection. Some dogs are very protective of their owner or owner’s family. If the dog believes the owner or family member is under attack, the dog will react accordingly. A dog may behave in the same way to protect its litter of puppies, favorite toy, or food bowl.
- Illness. A dog that is under the weather may want to be left alone, even one that is normally affectionate towards people. If the illness is serious enough, such as rabies or tetanus, the dog may not be in his or her “right mind” and may act in a way that is counter to their expected behavior.
- Play. For many dogs, normal play includes nipping at the person who is playing with them. Unfortunately, a dog may get carried away, and the play can result in dog bites.
Common Injuries Suffered in Dog Attacks
In the United States, there are roughly 4.7 million dog bite incidents, with the largest amount occurring in California. According to the Centers for Disease Control:
- Approximately 800,000 required medical treatment.
- Roughly 50 percent of people injured in a dog bite incident are children. The AVMA reports that children between the ages of five and nine have the highest incidence of bite accidents.
- Almost two-thirds of children four years old or younger suffer head and neck injuries.
- Boys are more likely to be bitten than girls.
- The most likely victims of dog bites are children, the elderly, and postal workers.
The most common types of injuries from a dog attack are:
- Puncture wounds. The teeth may pierce the skin or, if deep enough, pierce the bones.
- Broken bones. A hard enough bite may result in broken arms, legs or fingers.
- Eye injuries. When a dog bites the head, the bite may occur in the eye area, which can result in a torn retina, a damaged cornea, or a damaged lens. A scratch in the eye can be extremely painful as well.
- Scars. A bite can result in the tearing of skin or leave deep enough punctures to cause disfigurement or permanent scars.
- Head and Neck Injuries. The majority of bites from a dog occur in children. Since a child is much closer to the size of an adult dog, a lot of the time, dogs will bite the head or neck area of a child. The resulting injury may harm the ears, nose, or eyes of the child. Oftentimes, a dog will seek to grab the throat, which can cause neck injuries and punctures and can have severe or fatal consequences.
- Crushing injuries. A dog’s bite can bring great pressure to bear. This can crush bones such as a collar bone or fingers, even leg and arm bones.
- Abrasions. The teeth of a dog can scratch the skin, causing bleeding and bruising.
- Diseases. A dog who bites may be suffering from a disease that can be deadly to humans as well. Rabies, tetanus, and other such illnesses can be transmitted through a dog bite to the victim.
Dog Laws/Regulations in California
The California Civil Code lists the following requirements for dog owners.
- The owner of the dog is liable for damages. This liability applies when a person is actually bitten and that the person was in a public place or lawfully on someone’s private property. This includes anyone doing a legal action on private property, such as a meter reader or postal worker delivering mail. The owner does not have to have knowledge that the dog has bitten before or that the dog may have a tendency to bite.
- Government agencies are exempt. This is the case only if the dog bite occurs while the dog is in the act of doing what he or she is trained to do while assisting law enforcement agencies. The exception to this rule is if a dog bite victim was not suspected of participating in the crime under investigation.
Compensation for a Dog Bite
Since most dog bite incidents take place in the home of the dog owner, the vast majority of victims are family members, friends, or acquaintances of the dog owner. You may be reluctant to file an insurance claim or bring a lawsuit against a friend or family member. However, in many cases, homeowners insurance can cover dog bites. If that’s the case, OnderLaw, LLC would deal directly with the homeowner’s insurance company, and you would not have any face-to-face confrontations you’re your friend or family member. California does not require insurance to cover bites, and some insurance companies may deny coverage for certain breeds.
There are two types of damages that can be sought in a dog bite case. One type is called “compensatory,” and the other is “exemplary.” Compensatory damages are designed to pay you for out-of-pocket expenses and non-monetary losses and can be obtained through a settlement or lawsuit. Exemplary damages are designed to act as a punishment for bad behavior by the dog owner and can only be awarded by a judge or jury.
Under compensatory damages, a person can seek:
- Medical expenses, including doctors’ visits, emergency transportation, rehabilitation, prescriptions, therapy, hospitalizations, and more
- Lost wages, present or future
- Property repair or replacement for items damaged in the attack
- Pain and suffering, including anxiety, depression, and PTSD
- Disfigurement, which may result if the bite was severe enough to require skin grafting or sutures
- Loss of consortium, if the injury resulted in a change in the victim’s relationship with family
- Loss of enjoyment, should the injury prevent the victim from engaging in activities they enjoyed prior to the bite
Exemplary damages are only available in certain specific circumstances. A judge or jury may award these damages if you can show, with clear and convincing evidence:
- The defendant acted with the intent to oppress, commit fraud, or with malice. If the dog owner misled the victim into believing the dog was safe, or if the dog bite was a deliberate action on the part of the owner, exemplary damages may apply.
- The attack was deliberate. When the owner intentionally commands the dog to attack, this introduces the likelihood of exemplary damages.
Exemplary damages are intended to act as a deterrent for future bad acts by the owner and are rarely awarded. Discuss the possibility of whether these damages may be available in your case with your OnderLaw, LLC attorney.
Statute of Limitations on Dog Bite Claims
As for most personal injury lawsuits, California has a two-year statute of limitations for dog bite cases. The victim has two years from the time of the dog bite to file a lawsuit. Two years may seem like a long time, but if the insurance company is reluctant to pay and drags out the settlement negotiations long enough, the statutory deadline may pass. If you try to file a lawsuit after the deadline, your case will likely be dismissed, and you will lose your opportunity to pursue compensation through the court system.
Why Choose OnderLaw, LLC ?
OnderLaw, LLC has a history of working with victims of dog bites. We’ve been handling cases like yours since 2002, and we have the experience you are looking for to represent you against insurance companies and defense attorneys. We know California laws regarding dog bite cases, and we will apply our knowledge to your claim. We will work with you, keeping you abreast of how we are handling your case and working with you to make the decisions that will best help you to achieve your goals.
So far, we have achieved more than $4 billion in settlements for our clients. The same determination that helped us obtain that money for them will help get results for you, too.
Contact Us Today
OnderLaw, LLC wants to help you through this trying time. We want to hear from you. You can call us or reach out to us online. The first meeting will be free, and we can help you determine which course of action is best for you. Let us help you get the compensation you need to heal after your dog bite. Call now.