In California, dog bites are treated specially. California Civil Code Section 3342 says: ” 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. A person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner within the meaning of this section when he is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner.”
What does that mean? It means dog owners are strictly liable for injuries caused by their dog.
Years ago, owners would only be liable for dogs known to be vicious. This created a rule where owners weren’t usually responsible for the first bite but only for subsequent attacks. The law is changed so there is no more “free first bite”. If a dog bites you (subject to a few exceptions), the owner is responsible. (Exceptions can be police dogs or if you were committing a crime or provoking the dog).
You can be entitled to your medical expenses, loss of earnings and pain/suffering. In dog bite cases, there is often scarring depending on the severity of the bite. Instead of normal pain and suffering, you could be entitled to a greater amount because of any residual scars. An attorney can refer you to a plastic surgeon to get a consult about reducing the appearance of scars and the costs for those procedures. A prominent scar to the face can be worth over $100,000.
The big question is frequently whether there is insurance coverage to pay for your injuries. If you were bit by a stray dog or someone with no insurance, it’s very unlikely there will be anyone to compensate you for your injuries. But if the owner of the dog has homeowners or renters insurance, there is likely insurance coverage. Some policies have breed exclusions so there are a number of factors that determine whether there is coverage.
Contact me if you have any questions about your dog bite injury. Brett@brettpetersonlaw.com