Dogs are often considered man’s best friend. However, dogs are not always friendly towards humans. Dog bites are vicious, frightening, all-too common occurrences that can result in severe injuries, death, and lifelong trauma to victims and their families. Nearly 4.5 million dog bites occur annually in the United States and nearly 20 percent of those bites requiring medical care.
How High is the Risk of Dog Bites in Temecula?
Temecula citizens are particularly at risk, as California has the highest dog bite incidence in the nation – the state alone accounts for nearly 14 percent of all dog bite injuries nationwide in 2017. Additionally, the population density in Temecula is 1154% higher than California’s average and 3128% higher than the national average, making it a crowded area with an even higher chance of encountering dogs and sustaining injury from bites. If you were injured by a dog bite, you should speak to an experienced Temecula dog bite attorney because you may be entitled to compensation under California’s laws.
Does Temecula Have Strict Liability Owners for Dog Bite Injuries?
Generally, California has statutory strict liability for owners of dogs that bite. Unlike negligence, where the owner must have breached their duty of care and caused the victim’s injuries, strict liability requires less proof. Under strict liability, even if the dog’s owner does not act negligently or the dog has no history of biting or exhibiting vicious behavior, the owner may still be liable. For this to apply in Temecula, the bite must have occurred in public or in private setting where the victim was lawfully present. This means strict liability is inapplicable in certain settings, such as:
- Trespassers; or
- Police or military dogs that bite appropriately during performance of their official duties.
How Do I Recover Under Temecula’s Strict Liability Laws?
The two key elements to prove strict liability for dog bites are the defendant’s ownership of the dog accused of biting and occurrence of a bite. Ownership can sometimes be difficult to establish but is often possible through witness testimony and public records like dog licenses and vaccinations. The occurrence of a bite can be proven through evidence such as witness testimony, photographs, cell phone video recordings, and records of medical care.
What If Strict Liability Does Not Apply to My Dog Bite?
If strict liability doesn’t apply to your Temecula dog bite injuries, you may still recover under a theory of negligence, negligence per se, or California’s “One Bite Rule.” For negligence, a victim must show the party they are suing had a duty of care, breached it, and that breach caused the harm they suffered. The theory of negligence per se, however, presumes a dog owner is negligent if their dog bites someone while the owner is violating a California law or statute such as leash laws or animal control prohibitions about letting their dog roam ‘at large.’ Finally, under the “One Bite Rule” a dog owner may be liable if they knew before the bite their dog had vicious or dangerous tendencies, such as through prior bites.
Can Temecula Dog Owners Avoid Liability for Dog Bite Injuries?
If a dog owner is sued because their dog allegedly bit someone and caused injury, California has legal defenses they may raise that can limit or avoid their liability. Valid defenses include:
- The defendant doesn’t own the dog;
- The military or police dog was not on duty;
- Assumption of the risk;
- Provoking the animal;
- Trespassing on the owner’s property; and
- Comparative negligence.
What Compensation Can I Receive for My Dog Bite 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 such as medical bills, future medical expenses, lost wages, and loss of future earning potential. They may also include more abstract, nonquantifiable damages to your mental, physical, and psychological well being such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and emotional distress. Additionally, if you can show the defendant acted with malice, fraud, or oppression, you may be entitled to a type of exemplary damages known as punitive damages –designed to punish the defendant and deter them and others from repeating the behavior.
What Steps Should I Take if I am Injured by a Dog Bite in Temecula?
If you are injured by a dog bite in Temecula, it is important you take several steps after the bite to protect your health, protect your community, and preserve your legal rights.
Seek Medical Attention
It is important to have any bite, however minor, checked by medical professionals. Infections from bacteria in dog saliva are common, and dogs may potentially have rabies and transmit the disease to humans through a bite. Take photographs of your injuries and keep records of all your treatments and any expenses you incur. Follow all instructions and treatment plans from medical personnel and keep all your appointments.
Identify the 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 they do not have current vaccination records. Also, if the dog isn’t a stray identify its owner. Witnesses or watching the dog go home may provide key information. Obtain the owner’s information, the dog’s license information, and any history of bites.
Report the Dog Bite
It is important to report the bite to your local health department, animal control office, and police. If you cannot identify the dog you may be required to receive expensive, painful rabies shots. 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, it is important to act quickly to protect your health and your legal rights. Speaking with an experienced dog bite attorney at Walton Law is highly advisable to help determine the best path to help you receive appropriate compensation for your 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 case review today. There’s no obligation and you pay nothing unless we win your case. Our skilled attorneys will review your unique situation and aggressively advocate for you to obtain the best possible results.