When it comes to dog bites, there is no specific limit as to how much money a plaintiff can seek. Victims can file an injury lawsuit after a dog attack seeking fair and full compensation for their injuries, damages and losses. The average insurance payout for dog bite injuries in California is approximately $59,900, according to State Farm Insurance. If the injuries are severe, the damages are often higher.
If you have been injured in a dog attack, it is important that you contact an experienced Los Angeles dog bite lawyer who will fight for your rights and help ensure that you receive a maximum settlement for your dog bite injuries. Vicious attacks can leave victims not just with physical injuries, but also long-term physical and emotional scars.
What Compensation Can Victims Sue For?
Victims who have been injured in a dog attack can sue for financial compensation that goes beyond medical expenses. A dog bite victim's damages include:
- Medical expenses, including emergency treatment costs, expenses related to surgery, hospitalization, reconstructive or cosmetic procedures, psychological care, medications, medical equipment, etc.
- Lost income as a result of missed worktime
- Lost earning capacity, if the injury is disabling enough that the victim cannot return to work or earn a livelihood
- Pain and suffering, which includes physical pain as a result of the injuries as well as the emotional suffering caused by the pain and scarring
- Permanent injuries and disabilities
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of consortium
Victims deserve financial compensation for the totality of damages they suffer. That amount could vary depending on the facts and circumstances of the case. If the injuries were minimal such as small cuts or bruises, compensation may not exceed a few hundred dollars. However, if the injuries were serious or catastrophic, that amount might be much higher.
Will Insurance Cover Dog Bites?
If the dog owner has homeowner's, renters or pet insurance, liability that arises from a dog attack will likely be covered. However, if the dog owner does not have insurance coverage, a settlement or verdict in your favor after your dog bite lawsuit is complete will have to come from the owner's personal assets, which may or may not be sufficient to cover all of the victim's damages.
The best way to maximize your financial recovery in a dog bite case is to seek the counsel of an experienced dog bite lawyer early on in the process. If the insurance company does not offer a fair settlement, your lawyer can help you file a personal injury lawsuit so the negligent parties can be held accountable.
Common Dog Bite Injuries
One of the big factors when it comes to how much a dog bite victim can sue for is the nature and extent of injuries suffered in a dog attack. Some of the most common dog bite injuries include:
- Lacerations or deep cuts that can result in fatal blood loss
- Bacterial infections that could become lethal
- Nerve damage
- Traumatic brain injuries when a victim is pushed down to the ground and hits his or her head on the hard ground
- Puncture wounds
- Severe scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of limbs
It must be noted that many of these injuries require immediate medical attention and emergency care. Some of these injuries require extensive medical treatment including pain management and rehabilitation. Injuries such as loss of limbs are catastrophic, which means they cause permanent disability.
In addition to painful physical injuries, dog bite victims also suffer psychological or emotional injuries such as:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD
- A fear of dogs
How California's Laws Affect a Dog Bite Settlement?
A state's laws relating to dog bites could also have an impact on a dog bite settlement. California dog bite laws, for example, has a strict liability statute when it comes to dog bite cases. California Civil Code Section 3342 states: "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, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner's knowledge of such viciousness."
In states that follow the "one bite rule" dog owners will only be held liable for a dog bite if the victim can show that the owner knew or should have known that their dog was dangerous. It is called the one bite rule because a previous bite serves as evidence that the dog owner was aware that his or her dog was vicious. However, under California's strict liability statute, dog owners can be held financially responsible even if the dog has never attacked anyone before or displayed dangerous tendencies. The only defense dog owners may have is if the person who was bitten trespassed or was engaged in illegal activity or provoked the dog when the attack occurred.
Victims typically have the upper hand and a greater likelihood of securing compensation in states that have this strict liability statute. However, California is also a pure comparative negligence state, which means a plaintiff's recovery could be reduced depending on his or her percentage of fault.
Statute of Limitations for Dog Bite Cases
The statute of limitations for dog bite cases in California is two years from the date of the dog bite. If you fail to file your lawsuit within this time period, you may not be able to collect damages or secure compensation in you case. There may be exceptions in some cases. For example, if you have been bitten by a police dog, you will need to file a claim against the department, which is a government agency, within 180 days (6 months) of the incident.
Dog bite laws can be complex and do vary from state to state. Sometimes, local ordinances could also play a part. This is why you need an experienced dog bite lawyer in Los Angeles, CA on your side who will be able to help you evaluate the value of your case and secure crucial evidence that is needed to be successful with your claim.