Can You Sue for a Dog Bite?

aggressive looking dog barking

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five dog bite victims have injuries severe enough to require medical attention. Unfortunately, California ranks in the top five states with the most annual dog bite claims. Depending on the severity of the injury, the consequences of a dog bite can be expensive, and a victim may find themselves wondering if they can sue the dog owner to recover damages. The answer to that question is: it depends.

Establishing Liability

There are a few things to consider when determining liability in a dog bite case. In California, dog owners are strictly liable for any injuries their dog causes. This means that the victim does not have to prove that the owner was negligent in order to recover damages. The owner is liable whether or not the dog had ever bitten anyone before and even if the owner had no way of knowing the dog was dangerous.

The only exception to this rule is when the victim was trespassing on private property at the time of the attack. In this case, the owner may argue that they were not negligent.

Recovering Damages

Dog bite victims may be able to collect compensation from the dog owner through a homeowners' or renters' insurance policy. Victims of dog bites can recover a variety of damages, including:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Punitive damages (in rare cases)

Punitive Damages

In certain circumstances, the courts may award punitive damages in addition to the initial compensation. California law permits punitive damages if it can be proven that the defendant acted with malice or intentional negligence. In cases of dog bites, this can include ordering the dog to attack or refusing to rehabilitate a dog that is known to be aggressive. Homeowners' insurance does not cover the expenses of punitive damages.

Your Sonoma Dog Bite Attorney

At Flahavan Law Offices, we have been holding dog owners accountable for their negligence for over two decades. Dog bites can have serious effects, including severe scarring, infection and even injuries that require corrective surgery. Our team wants to ensure you have the best legal representation to recover the compensation you rightfully deserve.

Call us today at (707) 414-0119 or fill out a form online for a free initial consultation.