What Are My Legal Options After Sustaining a Dog Bite or Being Attacked By A Dog?
A Bay Area Personal Injury Attorney From Heinrich Law, PC Can Explain
People across the Bay Area and throughout California own dogs thanks to these animals’ reputation for loving companionship. However, dogs can still be dangerous, especially if their owners are neglectful and fail to train them. This can lead to serious injuries, and in some cases, wrongful death. So, what do the victims of a dog attack do if they find themselves injured by someone’s pet? The first step is to consult a Bay Area personal injury attorney with particular expertise handling these types of claims.
Here at Heinrich Law, PC, our dog bite lawyers have a wealth of experience helping victims in ways you may not have thought of. For instance, did you realize that many homeowner or renters insurance policies cover damages caused by pet attacks? Our attorneys can help you pursue a dog bite or dog attack insurance claim. With our founder’s years of experience representing insurance companies, before then switching sides so that she could represent the injured victim, you will also have a strategic advantage when facing any insurers trying to deny or minimize your claim.
Dog bites and dog attacks should never be taken lightly. These injuries can expose victims to diseases, cause infections, leave permanent scars and can cause broken bones and fractured hips. Dog attacks can also lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other psychological issues. If the resulting medical bills are unaffordable, recovering compensation may be an option to help handle these expenses.
Common Dog Bite Complications
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates suggest there could be millions of dog bites in the United States each year. However, only 1 in 5 of these bites require medical attention. In cases where bites require medical attention, victims may experience various health complications and outcomes. These complications and outcomes include:
- Infections: Dog bites may result in infections, which can lead to additional health complications. Immunocompromised individuals, the elderly and children are most at risk. When dog bites break the skin or penetrate soft tissue, bacteria and viruses can enter the body. In serious cases, victims may develop MRSA, a type of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection. Other types of staph infections may also occur after a dog bite. Rabies is another type of infection that may occur after a dog bite, but these types of infections are outliers in the United States.
- PTSD: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is another possible complication after a dog bite. PTSD is a mental health condition that causes severe disruptions with day-to-day living. Individuals with PTSD may have frequent panic attacks, flashbacks of the traumatic event, depression, and higher rates of suicide. Although PTSD can affect adult dog bite victims, children are especially at risk of developing the condition.
- Facial disfigurement: Disfigurement is far more likely in cases that involve multiple bites. Children and the elderly are more likely to suffer facial disfigurement after a dog attack because they are less able to defend themselves, which allows the dog to continue biting. In addition, children are lower to the ground and are more likely to suffer bites to the face and neck. Disfigurement can compound other dog bite health complications, such as PTSD.
- Amputation: Dog attacks (multiple bites) and bites that result in infection could require doctors to amputate the affected limbs in the most extreme cases. Amputation may be necessary if the bite or bites caused significant tissue and nerve damage. In these cases, it may be impossible to reattach the affected limbs. Due to amputation being a type of disfigurement, it can also compound mental health issues after a dog bite or dog attack. Some dog bites, while they may not lead to amputation, could result in the victim losing full functionality in the affected limb.
- Bone fractures: The average dog bite can exert hundreds of pounds of force on tissue and bones. As a result, bone fractures are sometimes possible after a dog bite or dog attack. Victims may develop other health complications due to fractures.
Understanding California Dog Bite Compensation
California has several laws, including a strict liability rule, that affect your ability to recover compensation for dog bites and dog attacks. How these laws apply to your situation would depend on the circumstances of what occurred, such as when and where the bite occurred and the age or profession of the victim. Simply put, you should always contact a California dog bite lawyer after a serious dog attack or dog bite because your ability to recover compensation depends on the circumstances.
Laws that could affect your ability to recover compensation include:
- Strict liability dog bite statute: Section 3342 of the Civil Code covers California’s strict liability rule for dog bites. With the strict liability statute, owners could be liable for bites even if their dogs have never shown aggression. However, you would need to have suffered the bite on public property or while lawfully on private property. Additional factors could affect your ability to hold the owner liable, or perhaps the owner’s landlord, so you should speak with an attorney.
- Statute of limitations: You should never wait to speak with an attorney after a dog bite or dog attack. This is because there is a time limitation that affects your ability to recover compensation. Generally, the statute of limitations for dog bites and attacks in California is two years from the date of the bite. An attorney can also walk you through the necessary steps for protecting your ability to recover just compensation for your or a loved one’s injuries.
- Comparative fault: California is a comparative fault state, meaning a person might be found to have contributed to his or her injuries. As such, dog owners may use the comparative fault rule as a defense for denying you the ability to recover full compensation. Due to this rule, it is critical that you choose an attorney who has the resources and experience to show you were not at fault for the bite or attack.
There are other factors that could affect your claim or case that are not listed above. You should speak with an experienced dog bite attorney to learn more.
How Much Dog Bite Compensation Can I Receive?
Compensation through a settlement or jury verdict can help you cover damages caused by a dog bite or dog attack. The amount depends on the circumstances. For instance, the amount recovered will vary depending on the severity of the injuries and how your life was affected. California’s comparative fault rule could come into play. The age and profession of the victim also matter. There are other factors that could affect how much compensation you receive, so you should speak to an attorney to learn more.
Compensation is crucial for some individuals affected by dog bites, as it can help cover medical bills, lost income and other costs associated with your injury or loss.
Contact Our Bay Area Personal Injury Attorney to Learn More
At Heinrich Law, PC our team is committed to fighting passionately for your right to seek justice against the parties that caused you or your loved one harm. Bay Area personal injury attorney and founder Marjorie Heinrich is a former award-winning insurance and corporate defense attorney. Due to her vast experience on both sides of the aisle, Marjorie approaches her cases with a unique perspective that benefits her clients.