Man’s best friend can suddenly become man’s worst enemy. If you have been attacked by a dog in California, the Ventura Dog Bite Guide was created by personal injury attorney Craig Murphy to help residents answer their questions.
Dogs make wonderful companions and pets, but they can also be very dangerous. Sometimes this danger is intended, such as having a dog protect its owner or when the dog is part of the police or military force. But other times, the owner of the dog never intends for anyone else to be bitten by the dog.
Unfortunately, dog bites are common, with thousands of dog bite insurance claims being filed each year. This is only a fraction of the total bites. Estimates put the actual number of humans bitten by dogs at around 5 million each year.
If you’ve ever found yourself the victim of a dog bite, you may be lucky enough to only have a sore leg, hand or arm. But if you aren’t fortunate, you can end up with serious injuries resulting in hospitalization, sky-high medical bills and missed work. If this happens to you, you should consider taking legal action against the owner of the dog.
No, you aren’t trying to take advantage of an insurance company or cash in on a minor accident. Imagine you get bitten on the hand, requiring stitches and immobilization of your hand for several weeks. Also, imagine you need to use both your hands for your job. This can include almost any job, from cashier to plumber to accountant. With your hand unusable, you may have to miss work or take unpaid days off. At the very least, you will be unable to work at full capacity. All you’re trying to do is make sure your medical bills get paid and any lost income or other expenses are taken care of.
This is perfectly reasonable, but many dog owners and insurance companies refuse to provide this basic level of compensation. When this happens, you might need a Ventura dog bite lawyer to help you make a full recovery from your dog bite injuries.
California Dog Bite Laws
California is one of many states that impose strict liability on dog owners whose dogs bite others. Strict liability refers to a legal theory where someone can become legally liable for certain types of harm, no matter what actions they took (or didn’t take) to prevent the harm. Within the context of dog bites, this means a dog owner is legally responsible for the injuries resulting from its dog biting another person. This liability exists regardless of whether the owner knew the dog could engage in such behavior and any steps the owner took to prevent the bite from happening.
There are a few exceptions to this strict liability dog bite rule. First, if the victim was trespassing when they were bitten, the owner isn’t likely to be liable for the dog biting the trespasser. Second, if the victim was harassing or taunting the dog when they were bitten, they cannot sue for the dog bite injuries. Third, dog owners of police and military dogs who bite a victim during the course of their duties will not be legally liable.
California’s dog bite laws differ from earlier dog bite laws where the dog owner would only be legally responsible if they knew the dog had a propensity to bite others. In reality, this meant that the dog owner was only legally liable for the dog’s second bite (with the first bite serving as notice to the owner that their dog has a propensity to bite others). This led to a somewhat cynical saying among legal professionals that “the first bite is free.”
What You Need to Do If You’ve Been Bitten by a Dog
If your injuries are serious, dial 9-1-1 or get immediate medical attention. Your first thought must be to avoid further injury and make sure your injuries do not worsen.
If possible, get as much information as you can about the dog’s owner. This is important because it’s the dog owner (and the dog owner’s insurance company) that is legally responsible for paying for your injuries. As you can imagine, a court can order a dog owner to pay you, but not a dog.
After things have settled down, you should report the dog bite. Ideally, this will be the appropriate local animal control agency or department, but it may be a local police department depending on where you live.
Finally, gather evidence of your injuries and the harm you have suffered as a result of them. Take pictures, get copies of your medical records and have your boss or human resources department document the work you had to miss (if applicable) because of your injuries from the dog bite.
You should also consider hiring an attorney who handles dog bites. In theory, the homeowner’s insurance policy of the dog owner will be able to fully compensate you for your injuries and losses. But there is often dispute over the extent of the injuries or whether you also played a part in the dog deciding to bite you. Therefore, you may be in for a lengthy battle with the dog owner’s insurance company. Additionally, even if the insurance company cooperates and pays out, it may not be enough to fully compensate you. As a result, additional legal action may be required and it’s nice to have an attorney to be able to take that next step if necessary. At the very least, contact a Ventura dog bite lawyer for a free consultation to get a better idea of your legal rights.
Frequently Asked Questions | Ventura Dog Bite Guide
What Should I Do After a Dog Bites Me?
If you have been the victim of a dog bite here in California, what should you do? I am talking about a very serious and significant dog bite or mauling from a dog who has severely injured you. There are a couple of things that you need to do. Number one, you need to get to the emergency room or to a doctor to get treated. The reason that is critical that you get immediate treatment is there could be a severe infection that could develop from this dog bite if you don’t have it properly treated. There could be serious muscle and nerve damage if you don’t have it treated early on. As well as significant scarring that results from this attack if you don’t get it treated early.
In addition, you need to find out from the owner of that dog what the propensities are for this dog. Is this the type of dog that has vicious and dangerous propensities? Under California law, if you are bitten by a dog, that is not a mandate. In other words, it is not required that the owner of the dog knew that it was a vicious dog with vicious propensities. California law protects you in this situation. However, it’s good to know if that dog has ever done this before. You also need to contact and notify animal control because they need to investigate this. They need to see if this dog has all of its rabies shots. If this dog has a history of mauling people, they may take action. You not only have to protect yourself, but you have to protect other people as well.
How Do I Choose a Dog Bite Attorney?
Most people don’t deal with lawyers on a regular basis. You have to take some steps to find out who will be the best attorney for you. You have to take some interest in your case and make sure that you do what’s necessary to find the best attorney for your Ventura dog bite case.
You want to ask the attorney some questions. What is their experience and track record in dealing with dog bite cases? How are you relating to that attorney? What is your relationship like with that lawyer’s office? What you have to do is call a few lawyers and find out who you can talk to. Who’s going to spend the time that’s necessary to find out what your case is about, and how that dog bit has affected you and your family? You will know who you have the best working relationship with. Are you stuck with just talking to the receptionist or the intake person or do you get to talk to the attorney? Did that attorney take the time to listen to you and answer your questions?
Only by taking those steps, will you know who the best attorney for you is. Check their experience. Ask yourself to see who you think really cares about you. When you find that attorney, you will know they are the best Ventura dog bite lawyer for your case.
Whose Insurance Covers a Dog Bite?
The first layer of insurance that needs to be investigated is the owner of the dog. If they own a house, they typically will have homeowners’ insurance coverage. That coverage is going to be responsible for the dog bite or animal attack here in Ventura. If the owner of the dog is a renter, we need to find out if they have renters’ insurance. Sometimes renters’ insurance only covers property. Other times, renters’ insurance will not only cover property, but it could cover situations where someone has been attacked and bitten by a dog. That will take some type of investigation.
If there is no insurance that’s available from the owner of the dog, then we need to find out if there are other layers of insurance that could be responsible for paying for your injuries and damages. One, does your homeowners’ insurance have any responsibility for that? The only way to make that determination is for you to sit down with me and for us to review your entire policy and make that determination. Also, suppose that the person who owned the dog was a renter, how can you find out if the owner of that rental property could be held responsible? That is also going to take a very significant investigation because there may be limited circumstances where it can be proved that the owner had specific knowledge of the dangerous, vicious propensities of this dog and failed to do anything.
In those instances, there may be the basis to establish liability. If they didn’t know anything about it, there may not be insurance coverage that’s available. It is a factual determination. The only way that you’re going to find out and truly know is by hiring an attorney to conduct a full investigation into this.
What Are Good Dog Bite Cases?
People will often call and wonder if they have a legitimate dog bite case here in California if they have been bitten by a dog. The answer to that question is really two-fold. Number one, in most instances, California law will require the owner of that dog to be responsible for your injuries. They should take care of your medical care, your medical treatment, and your injuries and damages. It gets a little complicated once we get beyond that, because if the owner of that dog didn’t own a house; they just rented an apartment, then there is a real question as to whether or not there is any insurance that’s available to pay you for all of your injuries and damages.
The only way to figure that out is to get an attorney here in Ventura who deals with these types of claims on a regular basis because we are going to need to get out there, and conduct a quick investigation to figure out who is responsible, and whether or not there is anyone who has the financial responsibility to pay for your injuries and damages.
What Questions Should I Ask a Dog Owner?
If you’ve been bitten by a dog here in Ventura, you need to find out what the history of this dog is. Did the dog have vicious propensities? Did it have a history of biting other people? You need to find out if the person has renters’ insurance or if they’re a homeowner. You need to know if this dog has been reported to animal control before. Typically, that is the basic information that you need to get from the owner to protect yourself. In addition to that, what you need to do is make sure that you get appropriate medical care and treatment. You also have to take the step of reporting this incident to animal control because they will investigate it. If this dog has a history of violent propensities, that can be very important.
In addition, you need to find out from animal control whether or not this dog has had all of its shots. You do not want to find out later that you have to go through treatment for rabies because they don’t know if this dog has ever been vaccinated for rabies or not. You need to find out all of that information. If you have questions or if you’re uncomfortable getting this information from the owner of the dog, you give me a call. I will be glad to step in on your behalf, investigate, and notify all the appropriate departments that need to have notice of this incident.
What Are Typical Dog Bite Injuries?
The typical injuries of a dog attack are going to be where the bites occurred; there could be muscle damage and muscle loss, as well as scarring and bruising. Those are your typical injuries. In addition to the typical injuries, there are other injuries that are common. There could be severe scarring which could require plastic surgery or further treatment in the future. This is particularly true if someone has been attacked and they have facial injuries. Not only is there going to be the bite and the muscle injury and damage, but there’s going to be scarring. That type of scarring will probably require some type of plastic surgery and facial repair.
The thing that you need to know is that when there has been an attack in Ventura, is that the injuries can be very significant because not only do we have the injuries and the scarring that we’ve been talking about, but there can be very significant psychological injuries, especially if it’s a child. That child may never get over this trauma. They may be afraid of dogs for the rest of their life and it can affect them in many ways. There are multifaceted levels of injuries that can be involved in a dog bite or animal attack.
The only way that you are going to fully know what all of the injuries and damages are is to talk to an attorney who has the skill and experience of dealing with these dog bites on a regular basis.
How is a Dog Bite Case Qualified?
Under California law, most people are afforded protections against dog bites and attacks. The good news here is that California law really protects us because in a lot of states, you have to prove that the owner knew that their dog had vicious propensities. There have been laws passed in California that say if you have been attacked by a dog even though they don’t have known vicious propensities, you can still receive compensation from the owner of that dog. The bottom line is, if you or a family member have been attacked by a dog and have injuries, you need to talk to an attorney who handles dog bite and animal attack cases on regular basis. They need to investigate this, and determine who is responsible, and what compensation you are entitled to receive.
Is the Dog Owner Responsible?
People who have been injured in an attack by a dog want to know if the owner of that dog responsible. Under California law, members of the general public are protected against the dog owners. If their dog attacked and has injured you, you will typically be able to hold that dog owner responsible for your injuries. However, oftentimes investigation is necessary in these types of cases. To make sure that your rights are protected, immediately contact me. I will be glad to sit down with you and talk to you and see what we need to do to protect your rights, and make your claim against the owner for the attack that you have sustained by their dog.
Is the Owner Still Liable if They Have a Beware of Dog Sign?
If you are here in Ventura, and someone has a beware of dog sign, yet you are attacked and injured by that dog, does that mean that they’re not responsible for it? It all depends on what the circumstances are. Typically, a defense to a dog bite case is what’s known as assumption of the risk. In other words, you saw the beware of dog sign and you went into the yard anyway. You assume the risk that the dog could bite you. Let’s say the circumstances are this. Your kids are out playing ball in the front yard. There’s a beware of dog sign on the neighbor’s yard. As your kids are out playing, the dog gets out of the gate, and comes out and attacks one of your children. Is that person responsible or do they get off scot-free because they had a beware of dog sign? The answer is no, they don’t get off because their dog escaped. They didn’t protect you and your children from that dog because they let it get out of the gate.
Now, if the ball goes over the fence and your children climb over the fence to go get the ball, hen yes, they may be responsible for going in there. The owner may not be held responsible. Let’s say you go into the house. You know there is a beware of dog sign on the front of the house. Does that automatically make them not responsible for their dog if it attacks you? Not necessarily because they know that they have a dangerous dog. If they don’t put that dog in a room, or in a crate, and that dog suddenly comes charging out and attacks and malls you, they may still be responsible.
The bottom line is these are very fact-intensive cases. That means that the facts are very important. Someone is going to have to gather these facts, analyze them, and determine who is responsible.
Who Are the Suable Parties of a Dog Bite?
If you have been seriously injured by an attack by a dog, you may wonder who is responsible for your injuries. It depends upon the facts. Suppose the owner of the dog gave the dog to somebody to watch while they were on vacation. That dog gets out and attacks you or one of your children. Can you hold that person responsible for the injuries you have from that attack from that dog? It depends on the circumstances. If the person watching the dog knew in advance that dog had dangerous propensities, and they didn’t warn you or take appropriate measure to protect you and your children form that dog, then yes, you may be able to get compensation from that person.
Another situation, is at a business. How often these days do we go somewhere that people have support dogs now and they bring them everywhere? If a dog is at a business, the owner knows that dog has vicious propensities, you may very well be able to bring a claim against that business owner because of their knowledge of the vicious propensity of that dog. However, to hold someone else responsible for somebody else’s dog, it’s going to take an investigation.
You’ve got to find out what they knew, and what they did or didn’t do to protect you from that knowledge. The only way that you’re going to do that is to get an attorney who deals with these dog bite claims on a regular basis. They will need to conduct an investigation.
What If I’m Suing an Uninsured Dog Owner?
Here is a common scenario here in Ventura when you or a family member has been attacked and mauled by a dog. The owner of the dog has no insurance. They’re just a renter and they have no property. What are your options? What can you do? A couple of things. Number one, we can look at your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance and determine if you are entitled to coverage under your own policy. In addition to that, we can look towards the owner of the dog, and determine whether or not it would be worthwhile to bring a suit against them.
Then the final avenue, we need to see what the facts are involved in this case. If that dog owner doesn’t have insurance, the question is does the owner of the premise, or the owner of the building have any responsibility for that dog and that animal attack. The only way to figure it out is to hire a Ventura dog bite lawyer who will conduct a full investigation. You can only do it once an investigation has been conducted.
Review Craig Murphy on Avvo