If you have been bitten by a dog in Bakersfield, dealing with insurance claims and legal battles can be stressful, especially after such a painful and traumatic experience. The Law Offices of Young Wooldridge, LLP can help you pursue the fair compensation you deserve from the dog’s owner. Our team of experienced litigators will handle your case with tact and compassion, negotiating directly with the owner’s homeowners or renter’s insurance provider. However, if necessary, we will take a more aggressive approach to protect your interests. Our goal is to ensure that you receive the compensation you need for your medical bills, lost earnings, and pain and suffering.
At The Law Offices of Young Wooldridge, LLP, we are not just attorneys, but also your neighbors. We have been rooted in Bakersfield since 1939 and are committed to protecting its residents. Our relentless pursuit of justice on behalf of our clients has earned us recognition as the Best Personal Injury Lawyer in the Bakersfield Californian’s Readers’ Choice Poll.
To schedule a free consultation with a Bakersfield dog bite lawyer, call us now at 661.327.9661 or online.
What Is California’s Dog Bite Law?
California’s dog bite law, formally codified as section 3342 of the California Civil Code, establishes the legal responsibility of dog owners whose pets cause harm to others. Under this law, a dog’s owner is strictly liable for the harm suffered by anyone the dog bites while that person is lawfully present on either public or private property, including the owner’s home. “Strict liability” means that the dog’s owner is liable for the harm the dog causes, even if the dog has never attacked anyone before.
The law’s provisions apply regardless of the dog’s previous viciousness or the owner’s awareness of such aggressive behavior, a carveout sometimes called the “one-bite rule.” Moreover, a person is considered to be lawfully present on the dog’s owner’s private property if they carry out a duty imposed by state or federal laws, including postal regulations. Similarly, if they are on the property at the owner’s express or implied invitation, they are considered to be lawfully present.
However, there are exceptions to this rule, particularly when the dog in question is used in military or police work by a governmental agency. According to the law, no action can be brought against the agency if the dog bite occurred while the dog was either defending itself from a harassing or provoking act, or sometimes aiding an agency employee in the execution of their duty. Still, this rule has additional exceptions, which an experienced Bakersfield dog bite attorney can explain to you.
Is the Dog Owner Responsible for Injuries from a Dog Attack in Bakersfield?
California’s strict liability law only applies to dog bites. If a dog bites someone who is legally present on public or private property at the time, its owner is responsible for any injuries it causes. However, if the dog attacks the person in some other manner (knocks someone from a bicycle, for example), the victim might have to prove the owner was negligent in the handling of the dog to recover compensation. Negligence could involve failing to keep the dog on a leash when required to do so or encouraging it to behave aggressively.
What If I Was Partly Responsible for Being Bitten?
The victim of a dog bite might be partially to blame if they provoked the animal to attack by hitting, kicking, or harassing it. In these cases, California’s comparative negligence principle may apply. That means the victim can still recover compensation from the dog’s owner, but the amount will be reduced in proportion to their degree of fault, as established by a judge or jury.
While the comparative negligence principle only applies directly to court decisions, insurance adjusters make settlement offers based on what they think would happen at trial.
Common Injuries in Dog Bite Cases
Injuries resulting from dog bites can vary greatly and may include:
- Puncture Wounds – These are small holes caused when the dog’s teeth penetrate the skin. Puncture wounds may not bleed much, but they can be deep and prone to infection.
- Lacerations – These are deep cuts or tears in the skin, which can result in significant bleeding and could require stitches.
- Bruises and Abrasions – Bruising occurs when the bite damages blood vessels beneath the skin but does not break the skin itself. Abrasions, or scrapes, occur when the skin is rubbed away by friction.
- Crush Injuries – If a dog bite includes a strong clamp of the jaws, it can cause crush injuries, damaging muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones.
- Fractures – In severe cases, the force of a dog bite can lead to bone fractures, especially in smaller bones like those in the hands or feet.
- Infections – Dog bites can introduce bacteria into the wound, leading to cellulitis or, in more severe cases, sepsis.
- Rabies – If the dog is not vaccinated, there’s a risk of transmitting rabies, which can be fatal if not treated promptly.
- Tetanus – Although uncommon, dog bites can also potentially lead to tetanus, a serious bacterial disease affecting the nervous system.
- Nerve Damage – A deep bite can damage nerves, leading to numbness, pain, or loss of function in the affected area.
- Psychological Trauma – Beyond physical injuries, dog bites can also cause significant emotional distress, leading to conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or phobias.
- Scarring and Disfigurement – Depending on the severity and location of the bite, scarring and disfigurement can occur. This can be particularly distressing when bites are on visible areas such as the face or hands.
It’s important to seek medical attention promptly after a dog bite to prevent complications and ensure proper wound care.
What to Do if You Are Attacked by a Dog
In case of a dog attack or bite, prioritize your safety first. Ensure you’re out of harm’s way and then contact authorities such as animal control or the police. Give them a detailed account of the incident, including information about the dog. It’s wise to identify the breed, size, and distinctive dog features for future reference. Find out who owns the dog and where they live, if possible. Collect contact details of eyewitnesses, as their testimony can be valuable.
Getting prompt medical attention is crucial after a dog attack. Even minor wounds can cause severe long-term damage. Seeking medical treatment and documenting your injuries is essential for evidence in an insurance claim or lawsuit.
Finally, consult with our dog bite lawyer in Bakersfield immediately. We can assess if the dog owner is liable for your injuries and can pursue compensation from them or their insurance provider. Your personal injury attorney can also identify and respond to potential complications, such as local leash laws or other rules affecting your case.
What Damages Might Be Available in a Dog Bite Claim?
A dog bite victim can recover financial compensation for the particular types of harm they suffered because of the dog bite. Those damages might include money for the following:
- Medical Expenses – These are costs related to the immediate medical care required after the dog bite, as well as future medical costs for ongoing treatment, such as surgeries, physical therapy, or counseling.
- Lost Income – If the injury requires the victim to take time off work for recovery or medical treatments, they may be able to make a claim for lost wages. In severe cases where the victim cannot return to their previous line of work, they may also claim for loss of earning capacity.
- Property Damage – If any personal property like clothing, glasses, or a cell phone was damaged in the incident, you can claim compensation for the value of those items.
- Pain and Suffering – This represents compensation for the physical pain and emotional distress the victim has experienced due to the dog bite.
- Emotional Distress – This compensation accounts for the psychological impact of the dog bite, which can include anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Disfigurement and Physical Impairment – If the dog bite leads to scarring, disfigurement, or long-term physical disability, the victim can seek compensation for these lasting effects.
How Long Do I Have to File a Dog Bite Claim in California?
California’s statute of limitations on a personal injury claim generally gives you two years from the date of a dog bite to file a lawsuit against the animal’s owner. If you file after this deadline, the court will likely toss the case as untimely, costing you your chance to recover the compensation you otherwise deserve. In some cases, the period of time may be as short as six months, if the dog is owned by a public agency (such as police dogs). When you have a Bakersfield dog bite lawyer handling your case, they’ll make sure all deadlines for your dog bite claim are met.
How Long Can It Take to Settle a Bakersfield Dog Bite Case?
The amount of time it could take to settle a dog bite case in Bakersfield, California, depends on several factors. These can include:
- The severity of the injuries
- The complexity of the case
- The skill of your attorney
- The willingness of the parties to negotiate
- The workload of the courts
The duration of resolving a dog bite case can vary depending on the situation. It may take a few months to settle some cases, while others may take several years. To get a better understanding of what to expect in your specific case, seek the advice of our experienced attorney in Bakersfield who specializes in dog bite cases.
How a Bakersfield Dog Bite Attorney Can Help You
The aftermath of a dog bite can be painful and emotionally overwhelming. While you could be owed money for the harm you suffered, getting the dog’s owner or their insurer to pay up is another matter.
Instead of trying to handle your case yourself, turn to an experienced Bakersfield dog bite attorney for help. They can:
- Investigate the incident to establish the owner’s liability
- Handle all communications with the owner and their insurer on your behalf
- Review the owner’s insurance policies to determine available coverage
- Negotiate with the insurance provider for a full and fair settlement
- Take your case to trial if the insurer won’t make a fair offer
While they do this, you can turn your attention to where it should be: resting and recovering from the ordeal you suffered. Best of all, because the Bakersfield dog bite lawyers with The Law Offices of Young Wooldridge, LLP work on a contingency-fee basis, they can do all this without charging you any upfront fees. You only pay if your attorney recovers compensation for your case.