Know Your Options after Dog Bites and Animal Attacks in San Diego
Dog bites and animal attacks are an especially delicate type of injury claim, especially if you know the dog or its owner. You may be uncertain if pursuing legal action is in your best interests, even if you or your child experienced serious injury, and you are coping with substantial medical bills.
Thousands of area residents suffer injury in dog bites and attacks annually, according to the County of San Diego’s Animal Services. Many dog bite injuries are the result of a neighbor’s dog or take place in the home of a family member or friend. In fact, the American Humane Association reports that of the 4.7 million dog bites that occur each year in the United States, two-thirds of the attacks happened near the victim’s home, and most victims were familiar with the dog.
Below is a guideline for those who have recently sustained a dog bite, or whose child or loved one was injured in a domestic animal attack.
But your first priority after suffering a dog bite or scratch is to seek medical attention. There is risk of infection and permanent scarring after dog bites and attacks. Your wounds may require ongoing medical care – your physician can offer a guideline of what to expect in terms of follow-up visits and necessary medications.
Mail Carriers and Dog Attacks
San Diego is ranked number 4 in the list of cities with the highest number of dog bites on letter carriers. Mail carriers are more likely to be bitten by dogs than average Americans, for obvious reasons. Mail men and women enter dogs’ territories every day, whether the dog is exhibiting friendly or hostile behavior. Many letter carries have even gone as far as carrying dog repellent, which carries less than 1% cayenne pepper. Since mail carriers who get bitten by dogs are at work when the injury occurs, there are additional legal complications in their legal options. If you are a mail carrier who has been attacked by a dog, an attorney can help you understand your legal options.
What are my legal options if someone else’s dog has bitten my child or me?
California Civil Code Section 3342 and San Diego County Code Section 62.669.1 outline dog owners’ obligations in the event of a dog bite. Specifically, the California Civil Code asserts, “The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public property of the owner or the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of the viciousness.” This is known as strict liability.
There are, however, exceptions to this rule in cases of an attack on an adult. If the attack occurred while you unlawfully occupied another person’s property or engaged in illegal behavior (such as trespassing or committing vandalism), there may be limited liability.
Additionally, there may be limited liability if the attack did not result in any actual bites. Further, the owner may not be found liable if the victim provoked, teased or otherwise hurt the dog at the time of the attack. In this case, the defense can argue that the victim assumed all risk and responsibility for the attack.
A dog’s owner is 100 percent liable in cases involving attacks on children ages five years and younger, regardless of a child’s actions. This is because children this age cannot assume any responsibilities for their behavior, according to legal precedent established by such California court cases as Daun v. Truax and Christian v. Goodwin.
How do I bring about a dog bite lawsuit?
You must file your claim within two years of the date of the attack, according to California’s Code of Civil Procedure Section 335.1. Compensation may be available through the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance or liability insurance.
Your case will need supporting evidence to prove cause for compensation.
Evidence may include:
- photographs of the injuries;
- proof of ownership of the dog;
- witness testimony;
- doctor and medical records;
- police reports or other official documentation;
- bloodied and ripped clothing; and
- evidence of past attacks by the same dog.
Evidence also should support your assertion that the attack occurred while you were legally on a property and not engaged in any provoking or antagonistic behavior.
How do I report the dog bite and what will happen to the dog?
You should report the dog bite as soon as possible. You can do this by calling the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services at (619) 767-2675. Reporting the dog bite does not mean the dog will automatically be euthanized or “put down.” Instead, the dog may be quarantined and evaluated as the court carefully considers all relevant factors, such as the dog’s disposition, behavioral history and the severity of your injuries.
A family friend’s dog bit my child. Do I have to take them to court?
We understand that these are complex and sometimes emotional cases. The Superior Court of California allows for – and sometimes orders – Alternative Dispute Resolutions, which may include mediation, arbitration and settlement conferences. Additionally, some lawsuits may be able to avoid proceeding to court if insurance settles the case. These options may be especially appropriate when the victim and defendant share a prior relationship.
I am ready to take action. How do I begin?
Take advantage of a free case consultation to learn more. Call 619-296-5884 or contact us online.
This post is also available in: Spanish