Fresno Dog Bite Attorney
Across the United States, 85 million households (or 67% of all households) own a pet. Of those homes, 63.4 million have a dog. In many ways, dogs are ideal pets: loyal, loving, and great company. Yet when a dog gets aggressive, serious or even fatal injuries can occur.
Dog bites can be particularly traumatic for victims. In addition to physical injuries, people who are bitten by dogs may suffer from anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other emotional injuries. If you have been bitten by a dog, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation for these and other losses.
At Nunes Law, we are dedicated to helping people who have been hurt in all types of accidents, including dog bites. Fresno personal injury attorney Frank Nunes knows how the system works, and puts his knowledge of insurance company practices to help clients achieve the best possible settlement — or verdict at trial. Based in Fresno, our office represents Californians in Kings County, Madera County, Fresno County, Tulare County, and Merced County.
Common Injuries in Animal Attacks and Dog Bites
Animal encounters are rarely fatal, but they can cause serious injury. Victims attacked by dogs or other animals often suffer:
- Permanent scarring
- Broken bones
- Nerve damage
- Psychological damage, including post-traumatic stress disorder
Any of these injuries can be expensive and have long-term effects. If you file a claim with the dog owner’s insurance company, they may offer you a low ball settlement that does not take future medical expenses, therapy, or cosmetic surgery into account. As a result, you may find yourself with significant out-of-pocket expenses even after settling your case.
Because animal attacks and dog bites can lead to severe injuries, it is important to work with a skilled personal injury attorney who understands the complexities of these cases. Your lawyer will gather evidence, research the law, and advocate for your right to full compensation.
California Law on Dog Bites
In California, dog owners may be held strictly liable for injuries that their dogs cause. Strict liability is a legal theory that holds that a person may be held responsible for something, even if they did not intend to cause harm and were not negligent in any way. This standard makes it far easier for a dog bite victim to hold an owner responsible for their injuries.
To hold a dog owner strictly liable, you must prove 4 things:
- The person owned the dog;
- The dog bit the victim in a public place or on private property where the victim had a right to be;
- The victim was injured; and
- The dog bite was a substantial factor in causing those injuries.
Importantly, California’s dog bite statute usually does not apply to trespassers. This means that if you enter someone’s property illegally (trespass), the dog’s owner will not be strictly liable if their dog bites you.
However, there are other ways that the dog owner may be held responsible if their dog bites someone. For example, if their dog has dangerous propensities, the owner may be liable if it bites someone. Your dog bite lawyer will need to prove that the dog had an unusually dangerous nature or violent tendencies, the owner knew about those tendencies, and that the dog’s dangerous or violent nature was a substantial factor in causing the harm.
In addition, dog owners and people other than the owner may be sued under a theory of negligence, which is a failure to use the care that a reasonable person would in a similar situation. Consider this situation: a friend was watching a dog for the owner, and took it outside without a leash in an unfenced yard, where the dog ran away and bit a child. The friend cannot be held strictly liable for the dog bite because it didn’t own the dog. However, because the friend acted negligently — taking the dog outside unrestrained — they may be held responsible for the dog bite.
The friend may also be held negligent per se if they were violating local rules or regulations that were meant to prevent dog attacks — such as laws that require dogs to be on a leash or otherwise restrained outside. Negligence per se is a legal concept that creates a presumption that someone acted negligently if they violated a law that was intended to prevent a particular type of harm — and that harm did occur.
Can I File a Dog Bite Lawsuit?
If you are bitten by someone else’s dog, you may be able to file a lawsuit to recover financial compensation for your injuries. This is a type of personal injury claim. For dog bites, the lawsuit will be based on one of the theories described above — strict liability based on California’s dog bite laws, dangerous propensities, negligence, or negligence per se.
Dog bites are typically covered by the owner’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. This means that even if you are bitten by a loved one’s dog, you can still file a claim without worrying that they will be financially harmed by it. Your friend or family member pays for insurance to protect themselves in situations just like this.
A Fresno dog bite lawyer will prove your case by investigating the facts, including talking to any witnesses and even the dog owner. Next, they will send a demand letter to the insurance company and the responsible party that outlines the basis of the claim and makes a demand for compensation.
Dog bite cases often settle without going to trial. However, if the insurer refuses to offer an appropriate settlement, then your personal injury attorney will file a dog bite lawsuit. While most cases settle before trial, your lawyer will prepare the case to go to trial — and to get a verdict in your favor.
Each dog attack case is unique. However, there are common types of damages available in most dog bite cases. This includes three broad categories of damages: economic, non-economic, and punitive.
Economic damages include losses that are easy to quantify, such as past and future medical expenses, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, and property damage. Non-economic damages are meant to compensate an injury victim for intangible losses, such as pain and suffering, scarring and disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life. In dog bite cases, non-economic damages can be significant as victims often suffer from emotional trauma after being attacked by a dog.
Finally, punitive damages may be available in rare cases where the defendant acted maliciously or intentionally. Punitive damages are meant to punish a wrongdoer and deter others from engaging in similar conduct. If a person knew that their dog had dangerous tendencies and let them outside completely unrestrained, for example, then the owner of the dog may be liable for punitive damages.
A seasoned personal injury lawyer can work with you to help you recover the compensation that you deserve for your injuries. The process starts with a free initial consultation where they will explain your rights and options under California law.
I Was Bitten By a Friend’s Dog. Do I Have to Sue My Friend to Get Compensation?
If you were bitten by a friend or family member’s dog, you may find yourself in a difficult situation, worrying about how you can get compensation for your injuries without ruining your relationship. Fortunately, most people have insurance that will cover the damages associated with a dog bite. Typically, homeowner’s or renter’s insurance will cover this type of claim, although there may be some exceptions for certain breeds or a dog that has dangerous propensities.
A lawsuit may not be necessary in your case. Many personal injury claims are settled well before a lawsuit is filed. Keep in mind that even if your dog bite attorney needs to file a lawsuit, the insurance company will be providing the lawyer and paying any settlement or verdict at trial. While your loved one may be upset, they will hopefully understand that it is a step that you need to take to recover compensation for your injuries.
How Long Do I Have to File a Dog Bite Lawsuit?
In the legal system, there is usually a time limit for filing a claim. This is known as the statute of limitations. If you do not file a lawsuit within this time period, then your case will likely be dismissed.
The statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits, which includes dog bite cases, is two years in California. In other words, if you are bitten by a dog, you have two years from the date of the incident to file a lawsuit. That is why it is important to consult with an experienced Fresno dog bite attorney as soon as possible after you are bitten.
What Should I Do If I Have Been Bitten By a Dog?
If you have been bitten by a dog, you may be feeling scared, overwhelmed, and unsure of what to do next. The first thing that you should do is seek immediate medical attention. Even relatively minor dog bites can become infected, which can put your health at risk.
If possible, you should gather information about the dog, it’s owner, and who may have been taking care of the dog at the time. In some cases, this will be easy to do, if the dog is owned by someone you know. However, if the dog is unknown, then you may need to ask someone to check their tags or look for the dog’s owner.
Finally, as soon as possible after the incident, reach out to a Fresno dog bite lawyer. Most personal injury attorneys offer free initial consultations, where you can learn about your rights and options for pursuing a case.
What If I Was Hurt by a Dog, But Not Bitten?
While dog bites are far too common in the United States, they aren’t the only way that a dog may hurt a person. For example, a dog may jump up on you and knock you down, causing you to suffer serious injuries, like broken bones or even a traumatic brain injury (TBI). In these situations, you can still seek compensation for your injuries. Your best option in this situation is to reach out to a skilled personal injury lawyer to discuss the potential for filing a claim.
Bitten By a Dog? We’re Here to Help.
If you were attacked by a dog, you may be experiencing both physical pain and emotional distress. While money won’t make you whole again, it can ensure that you aren’t in financial distress while recovering from your injuries. A dog bite claim can help you get the compensation that you deserve.
At the Law Offices of Frank M. Nunes, we are dedicated to helping people who have been hurt in all types of accidents, from dog bites to slip and falls to car accidents. We offer free case evaluations and handle all cases on a contingency fee basis, which means that you never pay a fee unless we recover money for you. To learn more or to schedule an appointment with a Fresno dog bite lawyer, call us at (866) 637-9578 or email us using our online contact form.
We offer free consultations. There is no fee if there is no recovery.