Common Misconceptions Regarding Animal Bites in California
Interviewer: What are some of the common misconceptions that people have about animal bites?
Richard Sailer: If you are the owner of an animal that causes injury to another person, it doesn’t matter what happened, and the victims don’t have to prove any negligence on the part of the dog owner. You are strictly liable, so you’re responsible if your animal bites someone. Often times, I’ll hear from the offending dog’s owner, “My dog didn’t do anything wrong and I didn’t do anything wrong.” Under the law in California that doesn’t matter, the bite occurred from your dog thus you’re on the hook for it.
The Owner of a Dog is Liable for Damages Caused by the Animal
Interviewer: Who’s liable for a dog’s act?
Richard Sailer: Under the law, the owner or the person who is harboring the dog would be responsible. Some people aren’t aware that these cases or injuries are covered by homeowners insurance. Homeowners insurance will cover a dog owner whose animal bites someone even if their dog jumped over the fence. Your homeowners insurance would cover you for that incident even though it happened off the property.
Typical Compensation Awarded in a Dog Bite Case in California
Interviewer: What would a victim of a dog attack be entitled to?
Richard Sailer: The victim would be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses and any economic loss which includes out-of-pocket expenses for medications, prescriptions, any time off of work. Additionally, you’d also be entitled to compensation for your pain, suffering, and your inconvenience of having to deal with the injury. Under certain circumstances, you may be entitled to punitive damages if we can prove that the dog had prior known bites and the owner of the animal knew that the dog had vicious propensities. There are circumstances in which you could get punitive damages for gross negligence.
A Victim of a Dog Bite is Entitled to Current and Future Medical Expenses
You’re also entitled to compensation for not only your current medical expenses, but for future medical expenses. For example, if you need to have a scar revision because you’re left with a disfiguring scar, and the plastic surgeon would said, “This is going to cost X amount of dollars to correct,” that’s something that we can include under a future medical expenses if it hasn’t been done yet.
The Reasons Behind Hesitation in Litigating a Dog Bite Case
Interviewer: What are some of the reasons that you hear about why people hesitate in litigating a dog bite case?
Richard Sailer: People are sometimes hesitant to pursue a dog bite claim when they know the dog’s owner. It could be a situation where it’s a neighbor or even between family members. People don’t often think that you would go visit your grandparents and your child would be bitten by your parents’ dog. These are the type of situations when there’s a close relationship between the victim and the dog owner. Often times, they just look at it as an accident and don’t realize that it is covered by insurance. Additionally, they think that pursuing a claim is going to cause a conflict within the family or with a close friend.
People Try to Avoid Dog Bite Cases as to Prevent a Conflict or a Dispute
Sometimes victims are not inclined to make a case. When I get those phones calls, I’ll explain to them that I will deal with the insurance and that it doesn’t affect the family member, friend, or neighbor. Furthermore, it doesn’t really affect the owner as long as they report it properly to their insurance carrier. It is usually something that we will be able to resolve, short of a lawsuit, so that you get your bills paid and get some compensation for what happened. If the case is handled directly with the insurance carrier, you’ll be able to move on without any ill effect on the dog owner.