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Can I Sue for a Dog Bite Injury in California?

Dog bites happen every day across the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 4.7 million dog bite incidents occur every year in the U.S. Around 16% of these dog bite incidents result in death. 

California currently leads the nation when it came to dog bite injuries. Just last year, around 2,396 dog bite incidents were recorded. 

So what happens if a dog bites you in California? Can you sue someone for your injuries? 

The short answer is yes. You can sue the dog owner for your injuries. 

California currently imposes strict liability on owners. This means that regardless of whether the dog in question has never displayed violent tendencies in the past, the dog owner must still face liability in a civil lawsuit for the victim’s injuries. A dog owner cannot use the defense that he or she had no prior knowledge of the dog’s viciousness, as this is irrelevant to the law.

Victims of dog bite incidents can sue the owner to receive compensation for the damages they’ve accrued. The injured party may receive compensation for the following: 

What is Considered a “Dog BIte” Under California Law? 

Regardless of whether the dog’s teeth pulled the victim’s skin or not, it can still count as a bite. 

Dog owners are also held liable if their pets happen to close their jaws on a worker on a ladder, and the person fell as a result and sustained serious injuries. 

When Are Dog Owners Liable for the Bite? 

For the victim to sue the owner for their dog bite injuries, the following circumstances must be met: 

The injured person must prove that the said dog bit them.

The victim must be either in a public place or must “lawfully be in a private place” at the time of the incident. This also covers delivery men who are constantly on private property as they carry out their jobs. 

There are also some exceptions to this statute. 

Who Are Ineligible to Sue for a Dog Bite Incident in California? 

People that have been injured by a canine bite can’t sue if: 

  • They were trespassing on private property. 
  • It’s proven that they provoked the animal to bite them. 
  • The dog was just acting defensively and was trying to protect its owner from the other person. 
  • The injured party could not sue the owner if they were bitten by a military or police dog that was doing law enforcement work. However, if the injured party did not commit any crime but was bitten by a military or police dog, they may sue the city for their injuries. 

How Much Time Do I Have to File My Claim? 

Under California’s statute of limitations, a personal injury lawsuit must be filed two years after you sustained your injuries. If you fail to file your claim within the deadline, the defendant will be exempted from giving you compensation for your injuries, and you won’t be able to hold them legally liable anymore. 

Dog Bite Liability Defenses

Dog owners can use any of the defenses to defend themselves against the injured parties’ claims. Here are the following common dog bite liability defenses owners use against the other party: 

  • No proof of ownership – This is commonly used when a stray dog just happened to be roaming around on their property. Just because a dog is on their property, it does not necessarily mean that they own it. The owner of the dog is someone who has control over the animal. To verify who the owner is, you can look through animal control records and veterinarian records to see if there is any information on the dog that bit you. 
  • The victim was trespassing – If you were on the dog owner’s property without their permission at the time that the bite occurred, then you may lose your right to file a claim for your injuries. 
  • The injured victim provoked the dog – If the victim was proven to have provoked the dog in any way before the attack (e.g., hitting the dog, attacking it with an object, intentionally annoying it), then the dog owner will not be liable for the damages. 
  • The victim was not bit by the dog – If a dog jumped on the victim, tripped over the person, or scratched them, then it is not considered a bite. Therefore, they will not be liable for a dog bite injury claim. 

How Much is a Dog Bite Claim Worth? 

Each case is unique, but the average nationwide payout for a dog bite claim was over $44,000 (in 2019). 

Dog bite cases can be worth a significant amount depending on the circumstances and the severity of your injuries. If the victim sustains an injury to the face or was significantly scarred, dismembered, or disfigured, your claim may exceed $100,000. 

To ensure that you are properly compensated for your injuries, you must work with an experienced California dog bite lawyer. They can help you understand dog bite laws better and talk to insurance companies on your behalf. 

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