Murrieta is generally a very dog-friendly city, and these furry animals are often found in homes and parks as well as on sidewalks and patios across town. However, just because dogs often benefit from a friendly reputation doesn’t mean they are always harmless. Dog bites can be unexpected, violent attacks that can cause long-term emotional trauma, severe and disfiguring injuries, and even death for the victim. If you were injured by a dog bite, you should talk with an experienced Murrieta dog bite attorney to protect your rights and learn if you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.
How High is the Risk of Dog Bites in Murrieta?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 4.5 million dog bites occur annually in the United States with close to 750,000 of those bites requiring medical treatment. Murrieta citizens are at higher risk than many, as California has the highest occurrence of dog bite injuries in the entire country – this single state accounts for close to 14 percent of the nation’s dog bites in 2017.
Additionally, the population density in Murrieta is higher than California’s average with 3,934 people per square mile, making it a crowded area in the most active dog bite injury state where residents run an even higher chance of encountering dogs and sustaining injury from bites. Children in Murrieta are at particular risk, because many of dog bite victims are children.
Are Dog Owners Liable for Dog Bite Injuries?
California generally holds dog owners strictly liable when their dog bites. Less stringent than a negligence standard, where the owner must breach their legal duty and cause the victim’s injuries, strict liability requires less proof. With strict liability, even if the owner of the dog isn’t negligent or the dog has no history of bites or vicious behavior, the owner can still incur liability for the victim’s injuries. To successfully assert strict liability in Murrieta, the bite must have happened in either a public place or in a private setting where the victim was lawfully present. This means strict liability is inapplicable in certain settings, such as for trespassers or victims bitten appropriately by police or military dogs during performance of their official duties.
For strict liability, the victim must establish:
- The defendant owned the dog accused of the bite, and
- A bite occurred.
Are There Other Ways to Recover?
Victims may also recover under a theory of negligence, negligence per se, or California’s “One Bite Rule.” For negligence, a victim must show the defendant had a legal duty to the victim, breached it, and the breach caused their injuries. Negligence per se, on the other hand, presumes negligence by the owner if their dog bites someone while a law or statute is being violated. Finally, the “One Bite Rule” holds a dog owner liable if they knew their dog was vicious or had dangerous tendencies before it bit.
Can Dog Owners Raise Defenses in Dog Bite Personal Injury Claims?
Murrieta does allow dog owners to raise defenses that can limit or entirely avoid liability to a bite victim. Valid defenses include:
- The victim provoked the animal;
- They do not own the dog that bit;
- The victim assumed the risk;
- The military or police dog was not acting in its official capacity;
- The victim was trespassing; and
- Comparative negligence.
What Can I Recover for My Injuries?
If you are injured by a dog bite, you may be entitled to compensatory and exemplary damages to make you whole for your injuries and punish the defendant’s bad behavior, respectively. Compensatory damages are intended to help you recover for expenses you incurred as a result of your injuries. These include concrete, provable economic damages like:
- Medical bills,
- Future medical expenses, and
- Lost wages.
Damages may also include more abstract, nonquantifiable injuries to your mental, physical, and psychological well-being like:
- Suffering, and
- Loss of consortium.
If the victim can show the defendant acted with malice, fraud, or oppression, a type of exemplary damages known as punitive damages – designed to punish the defendant and deter them and others from repeating the behavior – may also be awarded. There are no statutory limitations or caps on punitive damage awards; judges and juries have discretion on a case-by-case basis to award such damages and decide the amount.
What Steps Should I Take if I am Injured by a Dog Bite in Murrieta?
If you are injured by a dog bite in Murrieta, it is important to act promptly after the bite to protect your health and the health of your legal claims.
Seek Medical Treatment
It is important to have all dog bites, however minor they may seem, checked by medical professionals. Infections are common, and dogs may also have rabies and transmit the disease through bites. Take photographs of your injuries and keep records of all your treatments and any expenses you incur. Follow all instructions from medical personnel.
Identify Both Dog and Owner
It is critical to identify the dog that bit you as soon as possible. If you cannot photograph it, try to remember its physical characteristics. Dogs that bite should be tested for rabies if their vaccination records are not current. Also, if possible identify its owner. Obtain the owner’s information, the dog’s license information, and any history of bites.
Report the Dog Bite
It is important to report any dog bite to your local animal control office, the local health department, and the police. Keep copies of all official reports these agencies create.
Consult an Experienced Temecula Dog Bite Attorney Today
If you’re injured by a dog bite, you should speak with an experienced dog bite attorney at Walton Law today. Our knowledgeable attorneys have years of experience advocating for clients like you and securing millions in compensation for their injuries. Contact us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at (866)-338-7079 or via our online Contact Page to set up a no-risk, confidential initial consultation today. There’s no obligation for the case review, and you pay nothing unless we win your case. Our skilled attorneys will deliver personalized representation to obtain the best possible results from a bad situation.