Throughout human history, we have had a symbiotic yet dualistic relationship with canines. This is to say that “man’s best friend” can also be a dangerous adversary. Dogs have long provided us with companionship and protection and can be trained to perform difficult specialized tasks that we can’t do for ourselves. Many Americans even consider their dogs full-fledged family members. However, dog attacks occur fairly regularly, sometimes with formerly well-behaved family pets. Dog attacks can range from mild to severe, or even fatal, resulting in medical expenses and emotional damages.
The historical record shows that people have understood the potential dangers of living near canines for thousands of years. Over 75 million dogs are living among us in the United States, and the unsettling reality is that even small dogs, friendly dogs, and dogs with good owners can potentially snap and be involved in a serious attack when put in certain circumstances or confronted with certain stimuli. In fact, over four million people are bitten by dogs every year in this country. This is why it is essential that dog owners train their animals, remain aware, and practice good leash etiquette.
When a dog owner fails to control their pet, leading to a situation wherein someone is bitten and injured, that owner becomes legally liable for the injury. If you have suffered dog bite injuries in the Elk Grove area, a qualified personal injury attorney can help you seek the recompense you are entitled to.
California Dog Bite Laws
The laws surrounding wrongful injury cases vary from state to state, but many, including California, have specific language related to dog bites. In California, common dog bites are covered under Civil Code section 3342. Some of the details included therein include:
A dog owner can be held liable for damages suffered by the bitten party, regardless of whether the bite occurs in a public or private place.
If occurring on private property, the bitten party must have been there lawfully, which means they were explicitly invited, implied to be welcome there, or on the premises legally in the course of going about their job duties (e.g., a postal worker bitten in a private yard while delivering the mail).
The dog’s history of “former viciousness” has no bearing on this liability, nor does the owner’s “knowledge [or lack thereof] of such viciousness.”
The code explicitly does not authorize any legal action against a government or military dog who bites someone in the course of defending itself from harassment, provocation, or “annoying” behavior. Additionally, bites that occur while such a dog and its handler are investigating a crime, serving a warrant, or apprehending a suspect are exempt from legal action if the bite victim was a reasonable suspect in the criminal activity being addressed.
Dog bites can become rather complex legal issues, depending on where they occur, what injuries are sustained, who is involved, the long-term aftermath of the bite, and other factors. For this reason, additional laws and codes may also apply to your California dog bite case. Your Elk Grove dog bite attorneys at The Ward Firm can determine the exact laws that apply to your situation and prepare the correct legal strategy to seek and obtain maximum damages.
How Much Is a Dog Bite Lawsuit Worth in California?
When you have been injured in a California dog bite incident, your rights are much the same as anyone else who suffers a wrongful injury due to someone else’s negligence or malfeasance. This means you can sue the dog’s owner for:
Medical expenses related to your injury and recovery.
Lost income due to your inability to work in the aftermath of the animal attack.
Damages for your pain and suffering.
Because these factors can vary greatly from case to case, there is no simple way to put a dollar amount on how much a dog bite case is “worth.” It is also not uncommon for dog bite cases to be settled out of court, so your attorney’s ability to negotiate the terms of a settlement can also play a major role in the damages you receive. The Ward Firm is a Sacramento-based team of highly qualified personal injury attorneys led by Justin L. Ward, with a track record of success representing the people of Elk Grove.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average payout for a dog bite claim in the United States is just under $50,000. Minor injuries can result in significantly smaller settlements, but extreme circumstances can also lead to much larger payouts. In Chicago, Illinois, in 2013, a 120-pound mastiff with a history of biting people attacked a minor teen for nearly a full ten minutes before a neighbor was able to intervene successfully. The settlement awarded in that case was over a million dollars due to the ongoing trauma suffered by the victim.
California sees more dog bite cases than any other state, with over 2,000 annually. Millions of dollars are paid out to dog bite victims every year throughout the state.
What Type of Attorney Handles a Dog Bite Case?
If you have been injured by a dog bite, you will want to seek out a qualified and experienced personal injury attorney. You are unlikely to find lawyers whose specialties are so niche that they advertise themselves specifically as “Elk Grove dog bite attorneys,” but dog bite accidents are common enough that any competent, successful personal injury attorney in the State of California is likely to have at least some prior experience with dog bite cases.
Personal injury is an important field of law because personal injury lawyers help people obtain the support and resources they need after they have been injured. This complex and multi-faceted legal field is usually associated with civil court, wherein an injured person sues the responsible party. Personal injury law can also be relevant to criminal cases, however, if concepts like assault, endangerment, or illegal workplace practices are involved. For example, if someone deliberately trained and commanded a dog to attack you, they would be guilty of a serious crime and not merely subject to civil liability for your injuries.
Personal injury law can encompass many different types of situations, including:
Injuries sustained due to the negligence of a business or property owner
Injuries sustained in the course of an assault or other illegal action
Dog bites and other animal attacks
What Questions Should You Ask Dog Bite Attorneys?
Before you begin researching Elk Grove dog bite attorneys, you will want to have some things in order on your end. At the time of the animal attack, document the situation to the best of your ability. This isn’t always easy to do in the immediate aftermath of a scary and painful situation, but the more information you gather at the scene of the attack, the better your case will hold up in court.
Before you begin contacting attorneys, try to have all of the following:
Photographs of your injury and the scene of the attack from every relevant angle. Include street signs and other identifying markers so that investigators and court officials can clearly understand the logistics of the incident.
All paperwork and records related to medical treatment you sought for the injury. This includes both acute/emergency care immediately after the bite and any long-term physical therapy or other extended treatments (including psychological care) deemed necessary by your doctor.
Contact information for any witnesses who can verify what happened.
If you have been in direct contact with the dog’s owner, your attorney will appreciate their full name, address, attorney’s name and contact information, and their homeowner’s insurance information, if relevant. If, however, the pet’s owner is confrontational or threatening after the dog bite occurs, do not attempt to demand information or escalate matters. Record the interaction for evidence and your own safety, then attempt to disengage from the situation. It is okay to let your legal representation and the proper authorities handle the process of contacting the dog owner, serving the lawsuit, and verifying whether they are insured.
Once you have everything in order, you can begin calling attorneys for consultations. When choosing someone to represent you in a dog bite case, there are several questions you will likely want to ask. These may include:
Do you have experience with dog bite cases or similar personal injury cases?
How long have you been practicing?
What is a rough estimate of the payout you would expect to seek for this case?
How successful have you been with personal injury cases in the past?
Are you familiar with the local court system?
Do you need any additional information from me?
Essentially, you want to use your first contact with an attorney to ensure that the attorney you choose to represent you in your California dog bite case has a solid understanding of your situation, a record of success working in the local courts, and adequate experience.
Justin L. Ward, founder of the Sacramento-based Ward Firm, has experience on every side of a courtroom, having served as a prosecutor for the government for years before building his successful private practice. His firm offers world class legal representation for personal injury victims in addition to winning defensive strategies for citizens accused of a crime. Ward and his team work hard to understand the particular intricacies of each and every case and know that dog bite cases can become extremely emotional due to the traumatic nature of the injuries sustained and the bond shared between pets and owners. The Ward Firm will navigate your Elk Grove dog bite case to a successful conclusion with empathy, compassion, and the utmost professionalism.
How Long After a Dog Bite Personal Injury Can You Sue in California?
Typically, you have two years to sue for a dog bite. A dog bite is a particular type of personal injury case. In The State of California, you have two years from the date of an injury to take legal action against the responsible party.
There are exceptions, but they are few and limited in scope. For example, if the injury was not immediately apparent at the time it was sustained, you have one year from the discovery of the injury to pursue legal action rather than two years from the time of the injury itself. Dog bites, however, would very rarely be subject to this exception since their effects are immediate and obvious, often gruesomely so. Unless a seemingly minor bite resulted in unseen internal injuries—an unlikely occurrence given the mechanics of how a dog’s jaw and teeth work—the statute of limitations for all California dog bites is two years.
Generally, the “right” time to file your lawsuit is as soon as possible, but don’t be in such a hurry that you rush through the process without getting quality legal help. Improperly completed or misfiled paperwork can undermine your case before it begins. Your best defense against this potential problem is to work with an experienced Elk Grove personal injury attorney.
Once you have seen to your immediate medical needs, gathered all of the necessary information, and retained the services of a qualified legal team, serving the lawsuit to the responsible party is the likely next step. This is almost always better done sooner rather than later so that you can begin the process of receiving the settlement you need to support yourself and your family while you recover from this ordeal.
Get Help With Dog Bite Injuries Compensation in Elk Grove, CA
If you or a loved one has endured a dog bite in Elk Grove or the surrounding areas, you could be entitled to significant compensation under California law. The Ward Firm will develop an airtight legal strategy to help you seek the maximum damages on the speediest possible timeline. Please contact us through our website today to set up a consultation. Our qualified, compassionate staff is standing by to help put you on the road to recovery and healing with the financial support you need and deserve.
Schedule a Free Consultation
At your free initial consultation, you will meet directly with Justin, and he will explain how he can best help you with your case. If you decide to work with us, we will immediately get started on creating a strategy that protects your interests.
To get more information, call our office at 916-443-2474 or send us an email using our contact form. We are available by phone 24 hours a day. Se habla español.
The Ward Firm is open and actively assisting clients with personal injury, criminal, and employment related matters, and we do not anticipate any interruption in representation. However, please understand that all appointments will be telephonic as we observe the CDC's recommended social distancing.