It’s no wonder nearly 1 in 2 American households owns a dog – they are widely known as affectionate, loving, loyal companions and perform valuable services in professional roles and for special needs individuals. Unfortunately, though, not all dogs are man’s best friend all the time. The American Veterinary Medical association estimates 4.8 million bites occur each year with 20 percent of these requiring medical care. Though most bites are not life-threatening, many do cause severe injuries or even death – not to mention the impact of surviving such a traumatic attack. If you were bitten by a dog, speak to the experienced Lake Elsinore dog bite lawyers at Walton Law today to learn if you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries.
Lake Elsinore Dog Bite Facts
California dog bite rate is the highest in the country with nearly 14 percent of the entire country’s reported bites taking place in the state. Nearly a third of all homeowner’s insurance liability claims and subsequent payouts are related to dog bites. In Lake Elsinore, a rapidly growing town with a dense population of over 1,740 residents per square mile, the chance of encountering a dog and being injured by an unfriendly encounter with one are even higher than most other places in the country. The abundance of bike and running paths, as well as the city’s popular status as a tourist destination without outdoor recreation spaces, only increase the chances a person will be seriously hurt or even killed in Lake Elsinore even more than most people in the state.
Owner Liability in Lake Elsinore
Lake Elsinore, like the rest of California, generally hold dog owners strictly liable when their dog bites someone and causes injury or death. This means even if a dog has shown no previous vicious behavior or dangerous tendencies and the owner was not negligent at the time the bite occurred, they still may be legally liable for the resulting injuries.
What is My Process for Recovering Damages if I was Bitten by a Dog?
There are many ways a dog bite victim can pursue compensation for their harms through the legal system. Different arguments may be successful in winning a civil case for damages depending on the circumstances of the case. This can make it more likely a victim may recover compensation by avoiding valid legal defenses a defendant may raise in an attempt to avoid fault. Common defenses a plaintiff may defeat involve proving:
- Provocation of the dog by the defendant,
- Assumption of the risk, and
- Comparative negligence.
These defenses can be difficult both to assert and defeat, so they are best handled by a skilled Lake Elsinore dog bite attorney.
The Theory of Strict Liability
Generally, most personal injury cases seek to recover first by asserting an argument that the defendant caused the victim’s harms through negligent behavior. Dog bites, however, a usually strict liability cases with a lower bar for recovery. Strict liability merely requires the dog victim show the defendant:
- Is the owner of the dog accused of biting and causing injuries and
- That a bite has occurred.
If these can be proven, unless an owner can raise a valid legal defense, they will be liable for the victim’s injuries.
For strict liability to apply, the bite victim must have been lawfully present on private property or else on public property at the time the bite occurred. Strict liability will not apply to trespassers. Individuals injured by a police or military dog bite during performance of its official duties also cannot recover under the theory of strict liability.
Negligence and Negligence Per Se
In California, a general argument of negligence may be used to recover if strict liability circumstances do not apply. A plaintiff must show that:
- Defendant had a legal duty of care to the victim,
- Breached the duty through an affirmative act or omission, and
- The breach of duty caused injury to the victim.
Once the elements of negligence have been established the owner will be liable for the victim’s injuries unless defendant can raise a valid legal defense.
Negligence per se is a similar argument to general negligence. For negligence per se, however, if the defendant violated a law or a statute and that violation resulted in the victim’s injury, defendant will be presumed to have acted negligently. Violations of leash laws in Lake Elsinore, would, for example, establish a presumption of negligence.
California’s One Bite Rule
California also has a “one bite rule” plaintiffs may assert to recover for their injuries. Dog owners may be liable for harm from their dog if they knew or should have had knowledge the dog was aggressive or had dangerous tendencies prior to the bite.
What Can I Recover for My Lake Elsinore Dog Bite Injuries?
It’s common to wonder what your case is worth. If you can establish the dog’s owner was responsible under any negligence theory or strict liability, you can be injured for harms you can prove before a court. Compensatory damages are meant to make you whole – some are concrete and can include:
- Medical expenses,
- Burial costs, and
- Damage to property.
Other damages are less concrete; putting a price tag on emotional and psychological trauma is nearly impossible. In these cases, victims can be awarded damages for harms such as loss of consortium, emotional distress, pain and suffering, and scarring or disfigurement.
What Do I Do if I was Bitten by a Dog in Lake Elsinore?
It is important to take certain steps as soon as you were bitten by a dog; this is to preserve your health as well as the health of any future legal claims you may bring.
- Seek medical care and be tested for rabies.
- Identify the dog if possible as well as its owner if it is not a stray.
- Collect witness information and retain all records pertaining to the incident and your injuries.
- Speak to animal control and the authorities to report the bite.
- Contact a local Lake Elsinore dog bite attorney.
Get Help from a Lake Elsinore Dog Bite Attorney
If you or a loved one were injured by a dog bite and you’re looking for a Dog Bite attorney serving Lake Elsinore residents and the surrounding areas, please contact the experienced attorneys at Walton Law today. Our skilled attorneys have provided years of dedicated representation on behalf of victims and secured millions of dollars in compensation for their injuries. Get in touch with us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at (866)-338-7079 or via through our online Contact Page to set up a risk-free, no obligation initial case evaluation. The consultation is free, and you do not pay until we win your case. Let our knowledgeable attorneys review your case and provide you with the personalized representation you deserve to secure the best possible outcome for you to help get your life back on track.