If a dog bites you, you may be entitled to receive compensation for your medical bills, property damage, and even pain and suffering. Dog owners have a responsibility to ensure that their pet doesn’t endanger others. Even if you already brought criminal charges against the owner, you can also file a case in civil court. Often, you will want the help of a personal injury attorney with experience with dog bite cases.
Whether you are confident in your case or not, the legal landscape can be daunting. Fortunately, we are here to help. At Adamson Ahdoot LLP, our personal injury lawyers have more than 30 years of collective experience representing clients in cases like yours. To ensure that you make an informed decision, here is everything you need to know about hiring a top Los Angeles dog bite lawyer.
Why Hire a Dog Bite Lawyer?
A dog bite lawyer will make sure that the dog owner is held financially responsible for their actions. Hiring a personal injury law firm with experience in dog bites not only guarantees your interests are heard in court, but also helps you navigate how, where, and when to proceed with the case. Plus, they can advise you on best practices as they relate to the California legal code.
While there are many reasons to hire a dog bite lawyer, perhaps the most important one is getting the proper legal aid. A dog bite lawyer has the training and expertise to navigate the legal process on your behalf. They are experts on the pertinent laws and understand what it takes to win in court.
A lawyer will take the complexities out of the legal system and distill them down to the essential components so that you fully understand your legal position. That can include appropriately challenging evidence during the trial and filing paperwork on time. These actions will provide you with the best chance of winning your case and avoiding any potential pitfalls.
Is It Necessary to Hire a Dog Bite Lawyer if I’m Bitten by a Dog?
Only one percent of dog bit victims who suffer injuries receive compensation. Even if there is a rock-solid case, you a need dog bite lawyer to have any chance of earning damages. Just because you hire a lawyer, though, does not mean the case is going to court.
It is no secret that court cases can be expensive. More often than not, it is in the best interests of all parties involved to settle the dispute out of court. According to a government survey, 97 percent of civil suits end out of court or without a trail, with plaintiffs receiving $4.4 billion in damages annually.
If you and the other party decide you want to settle out of court, a dog bite lawyer will be there to represent you during the negotiating process. These negotiations require the same meticulous and persuasive maneuvering as the courtroom, but without the same legal stakes. A lawyer will ensure you receive a fair deal by maximizing leverage and dictating the agenda.
Of course, not every case can be settled out of court. If you believe your lawsuit should go to court, a dog bite lawyer can make sure you have the materials and evidence to win. Having a lawyer can provide an accurate picture of the legal process, which will go a long way toward minimizing stress and hassles.
The choice of whether or not to hire a dog bite lawyer is a case-by-case consideration. If there is a significant injury, at a bare minimum, you should have a complimentary consultation with a lawyer. This meeting will assess your chance of winning based on evidence, witness testimonial, and other elements of proof.
What Will a Dog Bite Lawyer Do for Me?
We have already touched on several reasons to hire a lawyer for dog bite cases. In a nutshell, lawyers serve as a knowledgeable guide when it comes to representing clients and putting them in the best position to win their case. Here are three other essential reasons to hire a dog bite lawyer:
Odds are you aren’t an expert on the intricacies of California law, and that’s fine. That’s why lawyers exist. They are here to understand, interpret, and utilize existing law to build your case.
For instance, California is a strict liability state when it comes to dog bite incidents and attacks. While many other states have a one-bite or negligence statute, knowing this information while dictating how to proceed with gathering evidence and negotiating claims is vital. Becoming an expert on pertinent civil code is already a challenge, though the task may be more daunting if you’re nursing injuries in the process.
Lawyers have academic knowledge as well as practical experience. More likely than not, they have handled cases exactly like yours and understand how the process works from start to finish. Real-world experience is an invaluable asset, especially compared to the armchair lawyers espousing legal advice online.
Additionally, dog bite lawyers have access to a wide range of legal resources. They can make use of the help of paralegals to aid in research or investigators to collect evidence. Having a team of lawyers on your side will offer legal prowess that you wouldn’t ascertain on your own.
Dog bite lawyers are personal advocates. They are there to support you throughout the entire case. Their responsibility is to represent your best interests and communicate those during negotiations in a sound and persuasive manner.
Furthermore, they will fight to prosecute the party at-fault to the fullest extent necessary. Dog bite lawyers work until the dog owner is brought to justice. This tenaciousness ensures the legal system holds the liable party responsible for their actions, and you receive the compensation you deserve.
Negotiating can make all the difference for the outcome of a case. Ideally, a lawyer will represent your interests, present your claim, and determine a settlement without you having to step foot in the courtroom. Dog bite lawyers that excel in negotiating will ensure this process goes as smoothly as possible.
Coming out ahead requires presenting information persuasively and powerfully. This ability hinges on a lawyer’s legal expertise, as they use research, witness testimonies, and other forms of evidence to lay out their argument. The goal is to take this information and form it so that it bolsters your claim.
While monetary compensation is often a goal for victims, this outcome is not also possible. For instance, there might not be enough evidence to convict the defendant of criminal charges or prove strict liability. In these cases, a lawyer might help by opting for an offer-concession negotiation.
An offer-concession, like the name suggests, involves moving from the initial offers towards a point of concession. The middle ground improves the odds of reaching a compromise and avoiding a formal trial. The tactic also allows parties to walk away from the table, feeling as though they received a good deal.
Proving Liability in a Dog Bite Case
Civil Code 3342, otherwise known as the California Dog Bite Statute, is the most pertinent piece of legislation. It provides the outline for qualifying cases as well as exceptions. The beginning of the code reads:
“The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place.”Civil Code 3342
There are a couple of important takeaways from this passage. The first is that California dog bite cases come with strict liability. Therefore, individuals or parties are responsible for their pet’s actions.
Even if someone takes the necessary precautions to mitigate harm, they are still liable if an injury occurs. For instance, an owner might install an electric fence to contain their dog, but the dog still broke through and bit someone. This concept is especially stringent if the defendant has a dog that is known for dangerous tendencies.
The second operative phrase is “in a public place or lawfully in a private place.” Public places are any spaces open to the general public. That includes sidewalks, parks, alleys, malls, stores, and parking lots.
Some people also have the right to go on private property so that they can perform their job. This list includes mail deliverers and parking attendants, who may need to step onto private property to drop off a package or write a parking ticket. An individual can also get explicit or implicit consent to go on private property from the owner, though there may be restrictions on where the guest can go.
Civil Code 3342 lists four exceptions where the defendant would not be strictly liable, including:
- Trespassing – If a dog bite case happens when the victim is trespassing, the defendant will not be strictly liable. However, the victim may still seek damages for negligence.
- Law Enforcement Animal – In the same way, some professionals have exemptions from being on private property, so to do law enforcement animals. They are exceptions for causing harm will protecting a policy officer, apprehending a suspect, executing a warrant, or performing a criminal investigation. If a law enforcement dog bites an innocent bystander, the defendant can be held strictly liable.
- Victim Assumed Risk – Some professions have a built-in risk of being bitten. That includes, but is not limited to, veterinarians, kennel workers, and shelter workers. While these professionals can file a dog bite lawsuit, it can’t be under strict liability.
- Victim Was at Fault – If the dog bite happened because the victim provoked the dog, the circumstances might mitigate substantial portions of their claims. Still, the victim may earn partial damages.
Knowing these requirements to prove liability will give you a sound starting point to decide whether to file a lawsuit. Even if you know someone was in the wrong, you have to prove it in court. That requires providing evidence that supports your claims and persuades the court to compensate for damages.
Take the time to accumulate evidence after receiving proper medical attention. The moments after the attack may also require calling 911 or animal control. Ideally, this period is when you would exchange information with the defendant, including their name, phone number, and address.
One of the best things to do when proving liability in a dog bite case is to write or record everything. Make meticulous notes of the time, place, and events surrounding the incident. Recording these details while they are fresh in your mind will lend them more credence during negotiations or trial. If you experience pain and suffering because of the attack, record your thoughts and feelings, too.
Additionally, collect evidence with photos and videos. That can include images of the injuries, the crime scene, the dog, the general location, and damaged clothing. This documentation is priceless when proving your claims. Note that if a dog rips or bloodies your clothing, preserve those articles in their unadulterated state.
If possible, talk with people who witnessed the incident and report their testimony. Their perspective can support your record of the events as well as physical evidence. You can also talk with neighbors, who may not have seen the attack, but can testify whether the dog has a history of aggression or violence.
Finally, make sure to have medical records and notes on hand. This evidence is essential to correlate the claims with the damage. The cost of medical bills will also provide a starting point when it comes to filing a monetary amount for damages.
How to Prove Negligence in a Dog Bite Claim
It is unlikely, but not impossible, that you will have to prove negligence in a California dog bite case. Most cases hold defendants to a standard of strict liability, as outlined in Civil Code 3342. For example, negligence claims would apply if you were trespassing on the defendant’s property.
Negligence is another way of saying someone was careless in their actions. The individual failed to take a reasonable amount of precaution in their action, and, as a result, it led to damages. Proving negligence requires persuading the court of these four elements:
- Duty of Care – The first step is to see whether the defendant owed you a duty of care. Put another way: did the owner have a responsibility to prevent their dog from causing harm? The court will consider this question based on the actions of an average individual in the same circumstances compared to what the defendant did.
If the defendant’s action matches that of the hypothetical person, they met the duty of care obligation. Otherwise, the individual did not fulfill their responsibilities when an average person would have. Occasionally, cases require providing a special duty of care, which is an additional layer of accountability.
- Breach of Duty – Once the lawyer proves that there was a duty of care, they must demonstrate a breach of duty. The breach shows that the defendant failed to act acceptably. Lawyers can show this shortcoming with the reasonable person test mentioned above or by demonstrating that the individual did not respond when they legally should have.
- Cause – If lawyers prove both the existence of a duty and a breach, they can move on to cause. In this case, the owner’s negligence must be a proximate cause for the harm. Proximate cause means that there is sufficient evidence that the damage would happen as a result of the defendant’s actions or inactions.
- Damages – Proving damages is the most straightforward step. Lawyers will use medical records, physician’s notes, photos, videos, and other evidence to demonstrate that the canine injured you. That said, proving pain and suffering is significantly more difficult because there are no discernible or tangible ways to measure these types of harms.
Damages Available Due to Dog Bite Case
Damages are a way of compensating victims for the physical and emotional pain they suffered as a result of the dog attack. Most often, damages are in the form of monetary compensation. That includes money for:
Dog attacks are costly and can even come at the expense of someone’s life. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average dog bite claim was $39,017 in 2018. There were also 4.5 million dog bites with 800,000 requiring medical attention and three dozen leading to death.
Medical bills can take many forms. Basic treatments may include stitches, wound cleaning, emergency room treatment, ambulances, or rabies shots. More severe dog bites may require more extensive procedures. It is not unreasonable for costs to exceed $100,000.
Extensive medical treatment would include nerve damage, disfigurement, or amputation. These come with potentially long-lasting consequences, which you should add to the cost of the medical bill claim. That may include physical therapy, medication, and home modifications due to decreased mobility.
Lost Wages/Reduced Earning Capacity
If you have severe injuries, you may not be able to return to work in the short or long-term. If that is the case, you can claim lost wages. Even if you don’t have a fixed salary, you can still earn compensation.
The same applies to reduced earning capacity. This capacity covers you for the duration of your professional career and what you could have made. For instance, if you’re a musician and suffer catastrophic nerve damage in your hand from a dog bite, you would no longer be fit to perform.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering are the most difficult damages to compensate. There are no clear and discernible ways to measure them other than first-person accounts and speculation. If you suffer from mental or emotional anguish from the attack, that harm might be demonstrated by:
- Seeking therapy or counseling to cope
- Fear of dogs that did not exist previously
- Fear of needing emergency medical attention
- Depression as a result of injury or lost earning capacity
- Emotional trauma from disfigurement
Often, dog attacks don’t result in a significant amount of property damage. Most claims seek compensation for clothing or jewelry that the dog ruined during the attack. If you were riding a motorcycle, scooter, or another type of vehicle and it was damaged, you stand to gain more in property compensation.
Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium is typically a standalone claim. It applies when, as a result of the dog attack, you can no longer provide the love and support to your spouse or family that you did before the accident. Loss of consortium covers pain, suffering, and other forms of inconvenience.
Free Case Consultation for Your Dog Bite Injury Claim
A dog bite lawyer can make the difference between winning damages and walking away emptyhanded. Our combination of legal expertise and experience will ensure you have solid, reliable knowledge on your side inside and outside the courtroom.
We will also navigate you through the legal process to ensure the smoothest possible experience on your behalf and explore every avenue for your claims. That includes calculating forms of compensation, building a persuasive case filled with physical and digital evidence, and negotiating with other parties. This thoroughness is why people around the Los Angeles metro area and California have trusted the legal representation at Adamson Ahdoot LLP time and again.
Learn more about what our team of lawyers can do for you with a free case consultation today. We will walk you through the process, timeline, and your odds of winning damages. Book your free case consultation with Adamson Ahdoot LLP by calling (800) 310-1606. We look forward to getting you the compensation you’re entitled to.