A Practical Guide to Handling Dog Bite Incidents in California

Reviewed By Tom •  Updated: 08/26/23 •  4 min read
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Whether you’re a dog lover or someone seeking knowledge on how to handle a dog bite injury, you’re in the right place. This article is your compass for navigating the legal landscape of dog bites in California. So, get cozy, and let’s delve into the essentials of what you need to know if you ever find yourself in this situation.

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Understanding California’s Strict Liability Rule

Let’s start with the basics: California operates under a strict liability rule when it comes to dog bites. This means that dog owners are responsible for any injuries their dogs inflict, no matter the circumstances. Whether the dog is known for its friendliness or not, if it bites, the owner is accountable.

A Practical Guide to Handling Dog Bite Incidents in California

Seeking Prompt Medical Attention

The immediate concern following a dog bite is the well-being of the injured person. Don’t procrastinate seeking medical assistance. Dog bites can result in infections and complications, so it’s wise not to delay. For serious injuries, dial 911 or head straight to the nearest emergency room. Even if the bite seems minor, a medical evaluation is advisable to avert potential issues in the future.

Identifying the Dog and Its Owner

Once the medical aspect is addressed, gather vital information about the dog and its owner. If possible, obtain the owner’s name, contact information, and details about their homeowner’s insurance. This information may prove valuable for covering medical expenses and any legal actions that might follow. Note down the dog’s breed, size, color, and any distinctive markings. If there were witnesses, collect their contact details too – their accounts could be significant down the line.

Documenting the Incident

In this era of ubiquitous smartphones, document the scene thoroughly. Capture images of the injuries, the location of the incident, and the dog involved. Visual evidence can be pivotal if the situation escalates legally. Additionally, jot down a detailed account of the events leading up to the bite, the bite itself, and the aftermath. Even seemingly insignificant details could assume importance in a legal context.

Reporting the Incident

Don’t skip the step of reporting the incident. Reach out to your local animal control agency or the police and file an official report. This creates a formal record that might prove invaluable if legal action becomes necessary. Moreover, reporting the incident contributes to community safety by flagging potentially dangerous dogs.

Let’s discuss your rights. If you’re the victim of a dog bite in California, you have the right to pursue compensation for your injuries and related damages. This encompasses medical expenses, lost wages due to absence from work, emotional distress, and the pain and suffering experienced. Remember, the strict liability rule means you don’t need to prove negligence – establishing that you were bitten while lawfully present is often sufficient.

Consulting a Personal Injury Attorney

Navigating the legal landscape can be complex, particularly when coupled with injuries and emotional stress. This is where a personal injury attorney comes into play. These professionals are well-versed in dog bite laws and can guide you through the process. Many offer complimentary consultations, allowing you to discuss your case and explore potential outcomes without financial commitment. A specialized lawyer can explain how much you can sue for a dog bite, the expected time to file and process the claim, and how to handle the expenses. 

Possible Defenses for Dog Owners

Though California imposes strict liability on dog owners, there are defenses they might employ. For instance, if the injured person was trespassing on private property, the owner’s liability could be reduced. Similarly, if the victim incited the dog or engaged in behavior that could be interpreted as aggressive, it might affect their potential compensation.

Choosing Between Settlement and Lawsuit

When seeking compensation for a dog bite, you face a choice between settling and pursuing a lawsuit. Many cases are resolved through negotiation and settlement – an agreement where both parties agree on compensation to avoid a protracted legal battle. However, if the owner’s insurance company is uncooperative or the settlement offer is inadequate, you might need to resort to a lawsuit. Your attorney can guide you based on your circumstances.

Final Thoughts

Dog bite incidents are dangerous and can affect your lifestyle. Prioritize your health, document everything meticulously, and report the incident immediately. Don’t hesitate to explore your legal rights and seek legal counsel for a fair resolution. Whether you’re a vigilant dog owner or a responsible community member, understanding dog bite regulations contributes to safer environments. Stay informed, stay cautious, and stay legally aware, fellow Californians!

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Tom has always loved to write since he was little - he wanted to be either a writer or a veterinary doctor, but he ended up being a professional writer while most of his works are based on animals. He was born in San Francisco but later moved to Texas to continue his job as a writer. He graduated from the University of San Francisco where he studied biotechnology. He is happily married and a soon to be father!