When you've been injured in a dog bite attack, you deserve experienced legal representation you can trust. Steinberg Injury Lawyers has provided compassionate, respectful, and thoughtful legal representation to dog bite injury clients in California since 1982. Our skilled team of personal injury attorneys will work to help you secure the financial award you need to recover from your injuries and get your life back after a devastating dog bite.
Our firm provides clients with the quality, attentive service they need and deserve at five conveniently located law offices throughout the Los Angeles area, and can even arrange to meet with you in your home or at the hospital. We'll work hard to ensure all your questions are answered and notify you of any developments in your case, so that you never feel like you're left in the dark. Our attorneys work on a contingency basis, so we don't collect a fee until your case is resolved.
California's Strict Liability Law
California requires its citizens to pay for damages caused by their unruly or dangerous canines. In fact, California Civil Code section 3342, the state's strict liability statute for dog bites, allows dog owners to be held legally liable when their dog bites someone—whether the bite occurs in a public place, like on a city sidewalk or in a public park, or in a private residence where the victim was lawfully allowed at the time of the attack. Additionally, the law does not require dog owners to have had prior knowledge that the dog was aggressive or dangerous, so the owner can be held liable even if it was the first time the dog bit someone. California's strict liability statute for dog bites is so straightforward that victims only need to prove that they were bitten and attacked by the dog belonging to the owner named in the personal injury lawsuit.
As simple and straightforward as the statute is, there are still some notable exceptions dog bite victims should know before attempting to move forward with a personal injury lawsuit to pursue compensation for their injuries. For example:
- The strict liability for dog bites statute does not protect trespassers. The statute only applies to victims who were lawfully present at the time of the attack, so if you were trespassing on private property, such as a private residence, the dog's owner may have a solid defense against liability.
- The statute may not protect victims who willfully ignored a clearly posted “Beware of Dog” sign. Victims who ignore posted warnings may be determined to have assumed risk or contributed to the negligence that caused the injuries.
- California's strict liability law does not protect victims who provoked the attacking canine. Victims who provoked a dog, creating a dangerous situation, are assumed to be responsible for their own injuries.
- Strict liability only applies to dog attacks that include bites. The statute does not cover other injuries caused by dogs. For example, if a large dog jumped on a victim and caused a sprain or broke a bone, the victim would not be able to seek compensation under the strict liability statute.
- Victims cannot use California's strict liability statute against military or police dogs who bit them while performing their military or law enforcement duties.
Reasons Dogs May Attack
Dogs may have a reputation for being “man's best friend,” but the reality is that they attack more than most people realize. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dogs bite approximately 4.5 million people each year and, unfortunately, there are almost as many reasons for these attacks as there are the attacks themselves. Some common reasons dogs may attack include:
- Medical problems, including pain. Dogs who are ill may not have the coping skills of their healthy counterparts.
- Genetic predisposition to aggression. Some dog breeds—such as Pit bulls, Rottweilers, and others bred for their protective or fighting skills—may be more likely to attack than others.
- Fear. Dogs who are afraid or feel threatened may react aggressively.
- Learned aggression or abuse by its owner. In addition to a dog's nature (genetic predisposition), nurture also plays a role in determining a canine's temperament. Owners who constantly keep their dogs chained up, fail to properly socialize them, or otherwise mistreat them may be encouraging unwanted aggression.
What to Do After a Dog Bite Attack in Los Angeles
Of the 4.5 million people who are bitten by dogs each year, 885,000 will require medical treatment for injuries, such as:
- Puncture wounds
- Nerve damage
- Face and throat injuries
- Long-lasting emotional disturbances, such as post-traumatic stress syndrome
Seeking medical treatment for your dog bite injuries as soon as possible may minimize potential long-term damage; it also provides an excellent opportunity to document your injuries in case you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit to pursue compensation for damages.
In addition to seeking medical treatment for your injuries, there are steps you can take after you have been injured by a dog that may help strengthen a potential personal injury case:
- Gather photographic evidence. If able, use a digital camera or the camera on your cell phone to take photos of the dog, the scene of the attack, and your injuries.
- Identify the dog and its owner. Once you've identified the dog's owner, trade contact information with the owner, as well as with anyone who may have witnessed the attack.
- Report the attack to the relevant authorities. Call and report the attack to the law enforcement agency that handles animal control. Depending on your area, this may be the regular police department or a dedicated unit.
- Avoid accepting or placing blame and discussing money or financial settlements. While apologizing or placing blame may feel right, doing so—as well as asking for money or discussing financial settlements—can harm a future personal injury case.
Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney in Santa Monica
In California, a statute of limitations determines how long a victim has to file a lawsuit before forfeiting their right to pursue a legal remedy. In personal injury cases, this time period is two years. Dog bite injury victims must file their personal injury lawsuit within two years of the date they were attacked if they wish to pursue compensation for their injuries.
Dog bite injury cases can be tricky, as the attacking dog and its owner are often known to the victim, which can create some tense social situations. Working with a seasoned personal injury attorney can help keep the situation from becoming personal between the victim and the dog owner, and can help increase the likelihood that you'll be able to secure a financial award that's just and fair. Contact Steinberg Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case.