Can You Sue for a Minor Dog Bite Injury in California?

Home  »  Personal Injury   »   Can You Sue for a Minor Dog Bite Injury in California?

Can You Sue for a Minor Dog Bite Injury in California?

Can You Sue for a Minor Dog Bite Injury in California?

Dec 8, 2020

* Updated March 2022
Dog bites are a common occurrence, impacting adults and children throughout California every day. California led the nation in dog bite injuries last year, with 2,396 incidents recorded. California also had the most dog bite-related fatalities that year, with nine. Statistics regarding the prevalence of dog bite-related injuries may seem surprising at first glance. In actuality, dog bites occur all-too-frequently across the country, with more than 4.5 million people injured each year (and of those, 885,000 required medical attention).

Can You Sue for a Minor Dog Bite Injury in California?

What should you do if you’ve been injured by a dog bite? How severe does a dog bite injury need to be in order to file a lawsuit? Can you file a lawsuit for a minor dog bite injury? Let’s explore those questions while taking a look at what steps need to be taken after you’re bitten by a dog, and how to protect your rights under the law.

Does California Follow the “One-Bite” Rule?

Some states, including New Mexico, Nevada, and Texas, adhere to what’s known as the “one-bite rule.” The one-bite rule essentially (though not precisely) allows a dog a free pass on its first bite or attack. This may not apply to specific breeds that are known to be more dangerous or prone to attack, but the one-bite rule is adjudicated on a case-by-case basis. States with the one-bite rule do not typically impose liability for dog bites unless the owner has officially been notified that their pet has previously bitten another human, or is otherwise dangerous.

In other words, under the one-bite rule, the dog owner can only be held liable for injuries caused by an attack if it can be proven that he or she knew (or should have known) of the animal’s past dangerous or viscous propensities.

California, however, does not adhere to the one-bite rule, and dog owners can be held liable for any type of attack.

Our experienced attorneys can help you pursue a financial award for your personal injury case. Contact us online or by phone for a free consultation today.

Can You Sue for a Minor Dog Bite?

If you were injured by a dog in California – whether through a knockdown, bite, or more severe type of attack – the owner is liable for the accident. California applies what’s known as “strict liability” on all dog owners. Under strict liability, the dog owner is liable for the victim’s injuries, regardless of whether or not the animal has shown previous signs of aggression or bitten a human in the past. No matter how minor your dog bite injury may be, the pet owner is still liable, and you may have grounds to pursue a lawsuit for any resulting damages.

For example, even minor dog bites can be psychologically traumatic experiences that often lead to delayed negative consequences. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is commonly diagnosed among dog bite victims, especially children. When considering whether to pursue a lawsuit for a dog bite – whether minor or severe – it’s important to take an evaluation of the total amount of damage resulting from the incident.

If a minor dog bite results in a trip to the emergency room, the victim should not be responsible for the ensuing expenses. Pursuing a dog bite lawsuit is a way to recover any losses you may have sustained as a result of your dog bite attack.

Choosing to sue for a minor dog bite is your right, especially if the experience left you with medical expenses, pain and suffering, or psychological trauma that required professional care. If you’ve suffered a dog bite and would like to discuss the details of your case with California’s #1 dog bite lawyers, contact us today for a free, no obligation consultation. Our team of dog bite injury lawyers has successfully handled all types of claims ranging from severe to minor. We’re here to assist you 24/7, and will fight to protect your rights from negligent pet owners and insurance companies.

How Much is Your Dog Bite Injury Worth?

How Much is Your Dog Bite Injury Worth?
Dog bite cases can be worth a significant amount of financial compensation. Nationwide, the average money payout for a dog bite claim was over $44,000 in 2019 (an increase from $39,017 in 2018). In cases where a victim sustains an injury to the face, significant scarring, dismemberment, or disfigurement occurs, or an animal attacks a child, a dog bite settlement may exceed $100,000, depending on the facts of the case and the experience of the dog bite law firm.

For severe dog bite attacks that lead to lifelong injuries, multi-million dollar settlements have been reported in recent years:

  • In 2013, a $1.1 million settlement was reached in Illinois for a case involving a 120-pound Bullmastiff attack. The dog escaped a chain-link fence enclosure and attacked a then-15-year-old boy for a reported 10 minutes, causing severe injuries. The dog bite victim collected $1.125 million from the pet owner’s insurance policy for injuries and prolonged trauma. The victim’s attorneys alleged that the plaintiff still becomes anxious when seeing a dog or hearing one bark.
  • In 2015, an 8-year-old girl who was severely injured by a pack of dogs was awarded $36 million by a jury in Georgia. The girl experienced catastrophic injuries in the dog bite attack, resulting in one of her arms being amputated. The jury in this case initially awarded the girl $72 million in her personal injury lawsuit, but the judge later reduced the amount to $36 million. The lawsuit was filed against the owner of the dogs, and she was eventually charged with reckless conduct, violation of vicious dog ordinances, and failure to vaccinate the animals for rabies. In addition to the $36 million damages penalty, the dog owner was sentenced to 16 months in jail.
  • A $1 million settlement was issued for a 2006 bulldog attack involving a California woman who was severely disfigured. The women lost part of her nose and lips in the dog bite attack, leading to three extensive surgeries and permanent disfigurement.

Whether your injuries are minor or severe, having a dedicated and experienced Dordulian Law Group dog bite attorney on your side means you have an advocate who will fight to recover the maximum damages award for your specific case.

Schedule an appointment online for a free consultation today, or call us directly to speak to our top-rated, expert dog bite attorneys.

Proving Liability in a Los Angeles Dog Bite Case

Proving liability in a dog bite claim means establishing that the accident occurred due to negligence on the part of the pet owner. Proving said negligence requires your legal team to demonstrate certain factors, including:

  • The negligent party (defendant) owned the dog
  • The dog bite occurred in a public setting or while the victim was legally on private property
  • The dog bite caused the victim to sustain an injury
  • The dog bite was the significant factor in that injury

Can I File a Claim If I Was Attacked by a Dog But Not Bitten?

Section 3342 of the California Civil Code places liability on pet owners and applies solely to injuries sustained from a dog bite. If you have been attacked by a dog but did not actually sustain a bite, negligence must be proven just as with any other type of personal injury case in California. Proving negligence in a personal injury civil lawsuit requires four criteria to be met:

  • Duty of Care: The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care to prevent the dog from inflicting any injuries to others
  • Breach of Duty: The defendant breached that duty of care by failing to take reasonable action to prevent the dog from attacking
  • Cause: The defendant’s breach (negligence) is the proximate cause of your injuries (i.e. you would not have sustained injuries/trauma had the dog been properly leashed or fenced)
  • Damages: You sustained injuries which can be supported via medical bills, records, and other forms of documentation

Proving liability in your dog bite case and securing a maximum damages award depends on the skill and experience of your California dog bite attorney. With DLG, you can be confident that your case is in the hands of dedicated professionals from start to finish. From the moment you present your claim to the moment we begin our exhaustive investigative process to the moment we secure a maximum damages award, your ultimate well-being is our first priority. We take extensive steps to ensure the facts of your dog bite injury claim are proven and your case is successful.

How to Prove Liability and Win Your Dog Bite Injury Claim

At Dordulian Law Group, we apply a methodical approach to gathering evidence and proving negligence in all dog bite cases. This includes dispatching our Chief Investigator, Detective Moses Castillo, on every case. Detective Moses is a former LAPD supervisor with nearly 30-years of experience investigating complex cases for the city’s elite Sex Crimes and Central Traffic divisions. Detective Moses applies his decades of investigative experience to each DLG dog bite case, ensuring all the facts are gathered and negligence is proven.

Detective Moses and our entire team of Los Angeles dog bite professionals will work with you to gather all possible documentation to help demonstrate that your injury was the result of negligence. Such documentation might include medical records, medical bills or related expenses, photos or videos of your injuries, etc.

Overview of the Dog Bite Problem in California

Dog bites occur more often in California than in any other state, and we lead the nation in reported injuries. In 2019, 2,396 dog bite claims were reported in California, the largest number in the U.S. (an increase from 2,166 in 2018). Additionally, California has the highest rate of dog bite-related fatalities, 82% of which are the result of pit bull attacks.

In cases where a dog bite leads to a fatality, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by the family of the decedent. Dordulian Law Group has extensive experience successfully handling dog bite claims as well as wrongful death suits.

What’s the Difference Between a Dog Bite Civil Lawsuit Versus a Criminal Lawsuit?

If you have been injured by a dog bite, you may pursue a separate civil lawsuit regardless of whether or not any criminal charges are filed. The burden of proof is higher in criminal cases when compared to civil cases. Criminal cases must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt,” while civil cases need to be proven based on a “preponderance of evidence.”

What’s the difference between proving a dog bite case beyond a reasonable doubt versus based on a preponderance of evidence?

In California, reasonable doubt exists when jurors are left “with an abiding conviction that the charge is true.” Jury instructions from California also state that, “evidence need not eliminate all possible doubt because everything in life is open to some possible or imaginary doubt.” In essence, “beyond a reasonable doubt” means that, based on the evidence presented, the charge is likely true. Beyond a reasonable doubt represents the highest burden of proof. Accordingly, it’s reserved strictly for criminal cases.

The burden of proof in civil cases is much lower when compared to criminal cases. In personal injury cases like dog bite attacks, the burden of proof rests with the plaintiff. Therefore, the accuser – or injured party – must convince the jury that their allegations are true based on a preponderance of the evidence.

A preponderance of the evidence essentially means that allegations presented are more likely true than not. In technical terms, a preponderance of evidence means, “the burden of proof is met when the party with the burden convinces the jury that there is a greater than 50% chance that the claim is true.” In other words, a dog bite plaintiff must prove that their story is at least 51% true.

Hence, although 51% will not necessarily be sufficient for many juries, in theory a plaintiff in a dog bite civil lawsuit could convince a jury to decide in their favor simply by proving that their version of events is slightly truer than the defendant’s. This represents a much lower burden of proof in comparison to “beyond a reasonable doubt” in criminal trials.

Ultimately, whether or not criminal charges are filed in a dog bite injury case is the decision of the District Attorney. For severe dog bite cases, such as the one from Georgia mentioned above, separate criminal charges are filed to further punish the dog owner for negligence leading to tragic injuries or fatalities.

What is the Dog Bite Statute of Limitations in California?

What is the Dog Bite Statute of Limitations in California?
A dog bite injury claim is considered a personal injury lawsuit, and is therefore subject to the state’s two-year statute of limitations. This means that dog bite victims have two years from the date of the injury to file a civil lawsuit. However, acting quickly and filing a claim as soon as possible will help ensure your case has the greatest likelihood of success. Crucial evidence needs to be gathered immediately, and witness statements are more accurate when provided close to the date of the incident.

An exception to the two-year statute of limitations may be applicable if the victim is under 18 years of age at the time of the injury. The two-year statute does not apply to children until they have reached their 18th birthday. Therefore, any victim under 18 actually has until his/her 20th birthday to file a dog bite injury lawsuit.

Nevertheless, whether the dog bite victim is a child or an adult, it is imperative that you act quickly and file a claim as soon as possible. Filing a timely claim significantly increases the chances of a successful case outcome.

How Much Will Homeowners Insurance Pay for a Minor Dog Bite?

Dog bite-related injuries are typically covered through the personal liability segment of a homeowners or renters insurance policy. Such policies usually provide coverage ranging between $100,000 and $300,000. For dog bite injury cases where damages exceed the defendant’s insurance policy, he/she would be responsible for the additional amount.

At DLG, we will work to recover compensation for any damages related to your dog bite injury – whether minor or severe.

If you experienced a dog bite injury, don’t wait to file a claim. Contact our expert attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.

Free California Dog Bite Legal Advice

At Dordulian Law Group, we believe that all Californians should have access to top-rated legal representation after being injured by a dog bite. That’s why we provide all dog bite injury victims with our No Win/No Fee Guarantee. At DLG, we’ve successfully handled countless dog bite claims over the years, helping injured victims secure over $100 million. In that time, we’ve come to understand how difficult the physical recovery process can be for dog bite victims.

Removing the burden of out-of-pocket legal fees allows dog bite victims to focus on the healing process, without added stress from unpaid bills or mounting expenses related to your injury. While we work to prove your claim, you can rest easy and focus on improving your health and getting back on your feet.

Contact us today to discuss your dog bite case. We’re here, first and foremost, to listen to injured victims, and are dedicated to helping you recover the damages you deserve. Call (855)804-9636 for a free consultation with one of our experienced dog bite lawyers.

Dog Bite Injury Statistics and Figures (Updated 2021/2022 )

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirms some important local and national dog bite injury statistics:

  • Each year approximately 20,000 people are bitten by dogs in Los Angeles County
  • Approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs nationally every year
  • In one particular year, of the 585,000 injuries that required medical attention nationally, 64% of the dog bite victims were children

Some additional U.S. dog bite statistics include:

  • From 1979 through 1988, dog bite attacks claimed an average of 15 human lives each year
  • From 1979 to 1996, 304 people in the U.S died from dog bite attacks
  • From 1979 to 1996, 30 people in California died as a result of dog bites or attacks
  • Most of the dog bite deaths that occurred in the U.S. during those years impacted victims who were children

Dog Bite Insurance Claims ‘Skyrocket’ During COVID-19 Pandemic

A recent report from CBS 8 in San Diego, California, confirmed that a “dramatic increase” in dog bites occurred throughout the United States over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. But an increase in dog bites was confirmed here in the Golden State as well.

“Just alone in 2020, California was the number one dog biting stat through State Farm. We have over 400 bites and $26 million worth of claims paid out,” Kristin Francy, a San Diego State Farm agent, told CBS 8.

According to State Farm:

  • More than 3,100 dog bites occurred nationwide in 2020
  • More than $157 million in dog bite injury payouts were recorded
  • The highest number of dog bites was recorded in March, the start of the pandemic lockdowns

“Anxiety is a little up between kids, work, zoom that whole quarantine life. And the dogs are feeling that same anxiety and affect as well,” added Francy.

A chart provided by the San Diego Humane Society offers some tips on how to prevent dog bites:

A chart provided by the San Diego Humane Society offers some tips on how to prevent dog bites

If you’ve been injured by a dog bite or in an animal attack, contact Dordulian Law Group’s experienced personal injury lawyers today for a free and confidential consultation at 818-322-4056. Even if you only sustained a minor dog bite, you may be entitled to financial compensation for various types of damages, such as medical bills, emotional trauma, and more.

Reach out to DLG’s Los Angeles, California, dog bite lawyers today to learn more.

Go See Sam