Dog Bite Lawyers in California

Being attacked and bitten by a dog can be a frightening and devastating experience. Many dog attacks cause severe injuries that can leave the victim with permanent scars, disfigurement, and mental trauma that affects their daily lives. At The King Law Firm, our California dog bite lawyers care deeply about injured victims and seek financial compensation and justice from liable parties. 

Founder and Lead Attorney Kenneth King is highly qualified to assist Southern California dog bite cases and has been listed on Best Lawyers In America, Best Law Firms, and SuperLawyers. Our lawyers have an impressive record of six- and seven-figure cases resulting in many types of personal injury claims. Call (805) 448-4306 for a complimentary legal consultation about your dog bite case.

Dog Grinning His Teeth

Common Dog Bite Injuries

Many dog bites aren’t serious, but there is still a substantial risk of injury, especially with aggressive breeds like Dobermans, Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds. Some of the most common dog bite injuries are: 

  • Fractures
  • Scarring
  • Crush injuries
  • Amputations
  • Muscle damage
  • Blood loss
  • Puncture wounds
  • Internal organ damage
  • Lacerations
  • Infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Paralysis
  • Death 

Some dog attack victims need multiple surgeries to treat and repair the damage. Some dogs are larger and more potent than others and can cause severe and sometimes permanent damage. 

California Dog Bite Statistics

Millions of Californians have dogs at home, with 40% of residents owning at least one. Unfortunately, a significant percentage of these animals attack and injure others. Some troubling California dog bite statistics are: 

  • Dog bites caused 48,600 California ER visits in 2022, the highest in over 18 years. 
  • Pit bulls are responsible for approximately 65% of all dog attacks reported nationally. 
  • 81% of dog bites and attacks are minor and don’t require medical care. 
  • 77% of dog attacks are against friends or family. 
  • California has approximately 15% of all national dog bite cases. 
  • There were approximately 124 emergency room visits for dog attacks per 100,000 state residents in 2022. This was 70% higher than 2005. 

If a dog attacks you, you should seek immediate medical assistance. If you believe the owner was at fault for the incident, seek the advice of an experienced dog bite attorney in California.

Dog Holding Person Hand In Mouth

California Dog Bite Law 

California dog bite laws state that dog owners are liable for all incidents in public places or at a private property the victim is legally visiting. This includes dog attacks and bites at the dog owner’s home if the victim is authorized to be there. 

Someone is considered to be legally visiting private property if they are there to engage in duties given by state or federal laws, including postal regulations. A party is also a lawful visitor if they have the implied or express invitation of the property owner. 

California law states that it doesn’t matter if the dog was vicious before. Nor does it matter if the dog owner had reason to believe the animal would bite. California has a strict liability law that makes owners liable for injuries from all dog bites and attacks. This differs from many states with a ‘one bite rule,’ which holds the dog owner accountable only if they had reason to believe the dog could injure someone. 

Under California law a dog bite is when the animal uses their teeth to grab someone or the animal’s jaws close on any part of a person. A dog can bite you even if the bite does not break your skin. In some attacks, a bite could occur even if the animal’s jaws close only around clothing. 

State law also states that dog owners are only strictly liable for bites and attacks that occur on public property or when the victim is legally on private property. A trespasser is not legally on property, so dog owners are usually not liable for attacks on trespassers. Other instances where the owner may not be liable for a dog bite attack are: 

  • A police or military dog bit you as a crime suspect. 
  • During an appointment, you were bitten while working as a vet assistant or veterinarian. 
  • You were antagonizing or provoking the animal. 

In some cases, a trespasser might prove the animal owner was negligent and could be liable for damages because of their negligence. This could apply if the attack victim was a child. But a trespasser dog bite case is less likely to result in compensation.

Dog Biting A Photographer In Leg

How To Prove Liability In A California Dog Bite Claim 

Being attacked and bitten by a dog usually leaves signs of injury. However, you must prove that the dog owner is at fault for your injuries. 

This process involves showing that the dog owner owes you a duty of care. For example, suppose you were walking down the street near a park, a dog runs up to you, gets away from the owner, and bites you. The dog owner owed you a duty of care to keep their dog on a leash and away from others it could harm. The owner breached the duty of care when the animal got away and attacked you. Next, you need to show that you suffered injuries, such as bites on your arm and hand, and that you can recover compensation for these injuries. 

Your attorney will work with you to prove that the dog owner violated their duty of care and their dog injured you. Important evidence for your case could be eyewitness accounts, surveillance or cell phone video, previous police reports showing the dog is aggressive, photos of your injuries, medical bills, doctor’s statements, etc. 

How To File A California Dog Bite Claim

After the dog bite attack, you must file an insurance claim with the other party’s insurance provider to receive compensation for your losses. Getting the insurance company to cover your losses and pay the maximum settlement can be complicated, so hiring a California dog bite lawyer to handle things at this point is often wise. However, if you want to handle your dog bite claim, here are the steps: 

Collect Evidence

Filing an insurance claim with the defendant’s insurance company requires ample evidence. Evidence that can support the dog attack claim includes: 

  • Videos and photos of your injuries. Obtain photographic and video evidence as soon as possible to prove the wounds’ severity and scratches’ severity. Continue to take pictures of your wounds as they heal. 
  • Information about the dog and owner. Obtain the owner’s name, address, and insurance information. Take note of the animal’s breed, name, and if it was leashed when the attack happened. Ask for the animal’s medical records and license, which can be used to determine if the dog has an aggressive history. 
  • Eyewitness statements from those who saw the dog attack. Get their contact details as dog bite lawyers at The King Law Firm can speak with them. 
  • Medical bills show the extent of your medical expenses. 
  • Lost wages information, including number of hours lost and wage and salary details. 

Remember to hand over any dog attack evidence you have to your attorney. 

Contact The Insurance Company 

Next, you or your attorney will contact the insurance company to file the claim. You will need certain information to file the case, such as the owner’s contact information, their dog’s name, and the police report, if available. 

It is essential to promptly contact the owner’s insurance company after the attack, ideally within one or two days. You should provide a detailed account of the attack, injuries and damages, and whether there were eyewitnesses.

Dog On A Leash Looking At Another Person

Send A Written Notice

Sending an official notice of your dog bite claim to the insurance company will ensure it is followed up on promptly. It should include copies of medical bills, a written statement about the attack, injury photos, lost wage information, etc. Your attorney can help you write this demand letter and collect critical evidence. 

Negotiate A Fair Settlement

Once you have filed the claim verbally and in writing, settlement negotiations will begin. There may be a good deal of back and forth regarding a fair settlement. If you think that you are not getting prompt or fair treatment, you should call a dog bite lawyer to represent you. 

Compensation In A California Dog Bite Case

Dog bite victims in California may be entitled to all economic compensation related to the attack and injury and certain non-economic losses. These may include: 

  • Medical costs because of dog bites, such as the cost of surgeries, hospital stays, and mental health counseling if necessary. 
  • Lost earnings, if the victim misses work time because of their injuries. You also may be entitled to compensation if your future earning potential is compromised. 
  • Pain and suffering from the dog bite and related treatments. Some dog bite wounds are deep and can be immensely painful. 
  • Emotional distress and mental trauma. Many dog bite victims suffer from psychological issues after the incident, such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression. 
  • Scarring and permanent disfigurement from the bites and reconstructive surgeries. 
  • Lowered quality of life. Dog attack victims could be left with long-term injuries that affect their ability to enjoy life as they did before. 

In many cases, the owner’s homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance will pay for the victim’s damages. Your California dog bite attorney will attempt to negotiate a fair settlement with the defendant’s insurance company. If settlement negotiations fail, the King Law Firm will prepare the case to present to a jury. 

Compensation Factors In A Dog Bite Claim

Every dog bite case is different; many factors will affect your settlement. Some of the critical factors that affect a dog bite settlement are: 

Insurance Limits

Homeowners’ or renters’ insurance usually covers medical bills and other losses after dog bites. However, the insurance policy will only pay up to the policy limits. If the dog owner only has $10,000 or $20,000 of coverage for liability claims, this could affect your compensation. Many personal injury claims settle for whatever policy limits are. If the policy limit is $20,000 and you have $30,000 in losses, you may not be able to receive full compensation. 

Liability 

If the evidence shows that the dog owner was entirely liable for the incident, you would receive the most compensation. However, if you were partially at fault, you still could receive compensation. California has a comparative negligence standard, meaning that an injured party can still receive compensation even if they are partially liable for the attack. 

How Severe Your Injuries Are 

The severity of the dog bite injuries directly influences how much compensation is received. A minor dog bite that heals after a month of treatment would likely be worth less than an attack that necessitated reconstructive surgery. Your dog bite attorney will review your medical treatments’ current and future costs and adjust the settlement demand to the insurance company accordingly. 

Degree Of Financial Losses

The extent of financial losses also influences the size of a dog bite settlement. An injury victim should be made whole when the defendant is liable for their losses. This means being fully compensated for all financial losses and non-economic damages. 

If you have severe dog bites that make you miss three months of work because of reconstructive surgeries, you would need more money than if you went back to work after a week and had no surgeries. 

How To Deal With Insurance Companies In A Dog Bite Claim

The dog owner’s homeowner’s policy pays for many dog bite claims if the incident happened on their property. In this case, you must negotiate a settlement with the homeowner’s insurance adjuster. The critical thing to remember is that the insurance adjuster works for the insurance company and wants to settle your claim for as little as possible. 

Even if the defendant’s insurance adjuster seems caring and reasonable, they only have the insurance company’s bottom line in mind. The insurance adjuster does not have a duty to you and, if possible, will reject the claim or pay less than you deserve. 

There are many tactics that the homeowner’s insurance company may try to pay less than they should for your dog bites: 

  • Claim that nothing is negotiable about the settlement they offer and that they can’t do better. That is rarely true; initial insurance settlement offers are usually far below the real case value. 
  • Not take your phone calls or answer messages promptly in the hopes that you will give up or take a low settlement offer. 
  • Ask to record any conversations they have with you. The insurance adjuster wants to use your words against you and offer less than you deserve. They may even attempt to partially blame you for the dog attack. 
  • Offering a settlement that is well below what they have been authorized. Many insurance adjusters may start with an offer that is 50% of what they have been allowed. Insurance adjusters often receive incentives for settling claims for less money. 

Remember that you do not even have to deal with the defendant’s insurance company. Rather than being jerked around by an insurance adjuster, let The King Law Firm handle all insurance negotiations. Our aggressive, experienced attorneys will talk to the insurance company and negotiate for the most money for your losses. If the insurance company balks or wants to pay a token amount, we may recommend filing a lawsuit and going to court.

Golden Retriever Grinning Teeth

Potential Defenses To A California Dog Bite Claim 

There are some valid defenses in dog bite claims. If the dog owner can prove that the victim was trespassing or provoked the animal, the case may not result in compensation. 

However, your dog bite attorney will use their skill, experience, and the case evidence to prove that the dog’s owner is liable for your injuries. Tell your attorney immediately if you think you might be partially at fault for the dog attack. You still may obtain compensation in a dog bite case where you were partially liable for what happened. 

Statute Of Limitations For California Dog Bite Claims

The statute of limitations limits your time to file a dog bite claim in court. If you miss the deadline to file a lawsuit, you have surrendered your right to compensation in the case. 

In California, a dog attack is a type of personal injury claim, and the statute of limitations is two years from the date of injury. However, exceptions exist, such as if the victim is under 18 or the dog owner leaves the state before you can file a lawsuit. In these limited cases, the court will pause the statute of limitations. Injured minors generally have until two years after their 18th birthday to file a personal injury claim in California. 

Contact Our California Dog Bite Attorneys For Legal Assistance

A dog attack can affect you physically and emotionally for years. Our dog bite lawyers at The King Law Firm can help you pursue financial justice and obtain closure. We will use the full power of our legal and financial resources to obtain the most compensation for your medical bills, lost earnings, and pain and suffering. Call (805) 448-4306 now to start your path to justice in your dog bite claim.