One of the first questions our clients ask when they come in to meet with one of our Los Angeles dog bite lawyers is how much their case is worth. The second question they ask is how they are supposed to sue somebody over a dog bite. Here, we will explain how our Los Angeles personal injury attorneys can help pursue your claim.
What Is the One-Bite Rule?
In common law, before California had its own statutes to deal with situations like this, attorneys had to apply case law rather than a statute. under common law, a dog’s owner was only liable for damages if the dog had bitten somebody before.
Another way a victim could win their case was by demonstrating that the dog had been vicious or dangerous in the past. As long as their Los Angeles dog bite lawyer could prove this, they would typically be awarded damages.
The One-Bite Law Limits Dog Owners’ Liability in Personal Injury
For states that do have the one-bite law in place, it could be difficult to prevail in any lawsuit against the dog’s owner. This is because the one-bite law gives the owner of the animal a pass.
Under this common law rule, the dog’s owner was protected as long as the dog had never been anybody before. It wasn’t until after the first attack that the animal’s owner would be held liable.
Why Doesn’t California Follow the One-Bite Rule?
California does not follow the one-bite rule. In fact, the dog bite laws in California are so strict that it is very difficult for the animal’s owner to escape without paying damages.
One of the reasons California does not abide by the one-bite rule is that it leaves the initial victim without any recourse. If a victim happened to be the first person a dog bit, they could be left to fend for themselves.
Dog Owners Are Strictly Liable for Injuries Caused by Their Pets in Los Angeles
According to California Civil Code section 3342, a dog’s owner is strictly liable for any injuries that ensue from a dog bite or attack. It is only when the attack did not involve an actual bite that negligence would apply.
It is important to understand that there are exceptions to this rule. We will discuss the defenses an animal owner can raise in a later section.
However, it is worth noting that a plaintiff will have a difficult time collecting damages in the following scenarios.
- The dog bite victim was trespassing at the time of the bite.
- The defendant can prove that the victim was provoking, annoying, or harassing the dog prior to the attack.
Unless either of these situations applies, there is a good chance your Los Angeles personal injury attorney can collect damages on your behalf.
What Does it Mean for a Dog Owner to Be Strictly Liable for Damages?
Los Angeles personal injury attorneys use the term “strictly liable” often. That doesn’t mean that dog bite victims understand what strictly liable means.
For a defendant to be “strictly liable” in any personal injury situation, it means that they did not have to know or anticipate a victim getting hurt. As it applies to a dog bite situation, strict liability means the dog’s owner did not have to know or be expected to know that the dog was vicious or dangerous.
In California specifically, the plaintiff does not have to prove that the dog has bitten somebody before in order to prevail in their personal injury claim.
Your Los Angeles Dog Bite Lawyer Doesn’t Have to Prove the Dog Has Bitten Someone Before
One of the interesting things about dog bite cases in Los Angeles is that your lawyer doesn’t even have to prove that the dog was vicious or dangerous. All they have to prove is that you were bitten and that it was the defendant’s dog who bit you.
Legally, the only things your Los Angeles personal injury attorney has to demonstrate are:
- You were bitten by a dog.
- You suffered an injury.
- The dog is owned or under the responsibility of the defendant.
- Your injuries were caused by the dog’s behavior.
If you’re able to prove these elements, there is a good chance you’ll be entitled to damages.
What Kind of Damages Can Your Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney Demand?
If your Los Angeles dog bite lawyer can prove the elements listed above, you should be able to collect damages. However, there are other things to consider.
For example, if you knew the dog didn’t like you and continued to approach it, the defendant will argue that you were partially at fault. The same thing is true if you have heard that the dog bit other neighbors or individuals in the past.
Can You Still Collect Damages if You Were Partially at Fault?
One of the nice things about California law is that the State follows the pure comparative negligence rule. According to California Public law §1714, you can technically collect damages, even if you were 90% at fault.
The pure comparative negligence rule can even apply in strict liability cases. While dog owners are strictly liable for damages caused by a dog bite, they are protected if the plaintiff contributes to their own injuries. This was reaffirmed in Li v Yellow Cab Co. 532 P. ed 1226 (1975).
However, your damages will be reduced based on your percentage of fault.
Strict Liability in Dog Bite Cases Does Not Apply if the Defendant Contributed to the Attack
You may wonder how the defendant could prove that you were partially at fault for your dog bite injuries. Ironically, the things that can make you partly at fault are the same things the defendant can raise as a defense.
The following arguments can be made to convince the court or judge that you shouldn’t be paid damages.
- You were trespassing at the time of the attack.
- The defendant continuously warned you not to come near the dog.
- You were harassing, annoying, or provoking the dog.
- You approached the dog while it was eating.
- You saw the dog was growling or aggressively barking and you approached it anyway.
If the defendant can prove any of these things, they may file a motion to dismiss. If they do file a motion to dismiss, your Los Angeles dog bite lawyer will respond to the motion.
Reach Out to Our Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorneys for Help
If you or your child have been bitten or attacked by a dog, there’s a good chance that you’ll be entitled to damages. When new clients come in to meet with one of our Los Angeles dog bite lawyers, they are angry and want justice. As much as you feel bad for the dog’s owner, you also need to protect your own rights.
We suggest that you contact our office as soon as possible after the attack and speak with one of our Los Angeles personal injury attorneys. We do offer new clients a free, initial consultation, so it’s in your best interest to call and schedule a time to come into the office.