Animal Attack

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Big German Shepperd biting on a human arm

Although dogs and other pets are often considered part of the family, thousands of people each year are injured in animal attacks that require emergency medical treatment. If you were attacked by another person’s dog or pet, you may be able to recover compensation for your harm, including medical expenses and other damages.

Holding Pet Owners Accountable for Attacks by Their Animals

Under California law, dog owners are generally strictly liable for injuries caused by their dogs. This means that even if the dog has never bitten anyone before, and even if the owner did not know that his or her dog was vicious, the owner will still be responsible for the victim’s harm.

In bringing a claim against the owner, a plaintiff must prove that the dog was owned by the defendant, the victim was on public property or lawfully on private property, the victim was bitten by the dog, and the victim suffered injuries. Trespassers and those who are illegally on private property when bitten by a dog, therefore, may not seek compensation under this statute. In addition, the California dog bite law does not allow any action to be brought against a governmental agency using a dog in military or police work, unless the victim was not involved in the event that prompted the use of the dog. An action to recover damages resulting from a dog bite must be filed within two years of the date of the attack.

Keepers, handlers, or others in control of an animal may be deemed liable under the law as well. However, they are not held to the strict liability standard of owners and must have had knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensities, such as a previous attack, before they can be found liable to a dog bite victim. A negligence claim may also be brought against non-owners who were not reasonably careful in controlling a dog under the surrounding circumstances, if their carelessness caused harm to the victim. An example could be a dog walker who illegally allows a dog to run off-leash close to a public playground.

Who Pays After a Dog Bite?

Perhaps you’ve suffered a dog bite but are feeling hesitant to bring a claim against a dog owner for fear that the owner could experience financial hardship as a result. Maybe the owner is your neighbor or even a relative you don’t want to upset. While the owner may ultimately have to pay out of pocket for your expenses, there are other options in many cases.

Depending on the circumstances of your dog bite injury, your claim could be paid by any of the following sources:

  • Homeowners Insurance – In most cases, a homeowners insurance policy will cover dog bites sustained on the owner’s property. Many policies have clauses that reduce or suspend coverage after a dog’s first bite.
  • Car Insurance – If a dog bite occurs in a car or through an open car window, the owner’s car insurance usually covers the claim.
  • Animal Insurance – Certain insurance companies sell coverage for pet owners. If the dog owner in your case has animal insurance, this policy would cover your damages.
  • No Insurance – If the dog owner has no insurance policy that covers animal bites, he or she will be held financially responsible.

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