El Centro Dog Bite Attorneys
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El Centro Dog Bite Attorneys
About Gomez Trial Attorneys and Our El Centro Dog Bite Lawyers
California Dog Bite Law Enforces Strict Liability on Owners
California’s laws on dog bites are some of the strictest in the country in protecting dog bite victims and holding dog owners accountable.
In California, dog owners have strict liability for any bite their dog inflicts on a person who was either in a public place or lawfully on private property. Strict liability means that the owner is legally and financially responsible for the bite and any damages (injuries and other harm) the bite caused.
California’s law on dog bites differs from that of many states, in which the owner is liable for a dog bite only if the dog had previously bitten someone or was known as dangerous in other ways (such as an attack or knocking someone down). In California, you do not have to prove that the dog had a history of acting dangerously or aggressively to hold its owner legally and financially responsible for your injuries.
What “Lawfully on Private Property” Means
You are lawfully on someone’s private property in El Centro if you were invited to it. The owner or a family member or friend can invite you formally, such as sending you an invitation to a birthday party or anniversary celebration. Or the invitation can be informal, such as a neighbor waving you over to come talk to him as you walk past his lawn on the sidewalk. An invitation can even be implied, meaning you had a reasonable expectation of permission to set foot on someone else’s property, usually because of a longstanding course of conduct or through a close relationship.
People performing their jobs on private property are also there legally. For example, mail carriers, for example, have the legal right to walk onto your property to deliver mail, as does the plumber you called to come fix your leaky kitchen faucet.
Exceptions to the Strict Liability Law
California’s law on dog bites has a few exceptions, as you might expect. Here are two common ones that could affect your legal rights. Never assume, however, that you have no rights just because you suffered a dog bite injury in one of the following scenarios. You may still be entitled to significant compensation. Contact the El Centro personal injury lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys today to learn more.
Law Enforcement Dogs
Police and military dogs are usually exempt from strict liability. If either a police dog or a military dog bites you in the line of the animal’s duty or responds to provocative or annoying behavior on your part, the owners (that is, the government) do not automatically bear strict liability for your injuries (although they could bear liability if other factors are present).
Adult Trespassers (but Not Children)
Adults who are not legally on a property do not have protection under California’s strict liability law. Children, however, do have the protection of the strict liability law, even when trespassing, because they are not held to the same legal standards as adults.
Dog Bites Cause Serious Injuries
Dog bites occur far too frequently in El Centro and throughout Southern California. In one year, as many as 800,000 people nationwide suffer dog bite injuries severe enough to warrant medical treatment, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In one 15-year period, in fact, dog bites caused 279 deaths across the country.
Never dismiss a dog bite as a minor injury! While a dog bite may result in nothing more than a fright, major injury and even death can result from a dog bite, particularly bites involving child victims.
Severe injuries resulting from dog bites commonly include:
- Lacerations (deep cuts) and puncture wounds;
- Infection, including infectious diseases;
- Facial injuries, including loss of eyesight;
- Scarring and disfigurement;
- Tissue injuries (torn muscles, tendons, ligaments);
- Dangerous blood loss;
- Broken bones; and
- Organ damage.
Animal attacks can also cause serious secondary injuries, such as those suffered when a dog knocks someone down. Traumatic brain injury, which includes so-called minor concussions, can easily follow from a dog attack when the victim falls and takes a blow or jolt to the head.
No matter how a dog’s actions injure an El Centro resident, worker, or visitor, Gomez Trial Attorneys has the skill and resources to obtain compensation the victim deserves.
Compensation for El Centro Dog Bite Injuries
Victims of a dog bite or attack deserve financial compensation under California law, and the team at Gomez Trial Attorneys has the experience and resources to help them get it.
The compensation dog attack victims might receive varies widely depending on the circumstances of the incident and the severity of the injuries, so we cannot promise any client will receive a specific type or amount of damages.
However, as a general matter, our clients in El Centro who have suffered a dog bite injury often have the right to receive payment for:
- Medical expenses, both already incurred and expected in the future, including for co-pays, deductibles, doctor’s appointments, emergency care and ambulance transport, surgery, physical therapy, hospitalization, long-term care stays, reconstructive (plastic) surgery, and medication
- Wages lost because a victim (or child victim’s parent) missed work because of the attack and its resulting injury. Victims who lose the ability to work in the future because of a dog bite injury may also seek compensation for their future lost wages.
- Pain and suffering tied to the dog attack, including the physical pain of the injury, the emotional trauma of living through an attack, and the difficulty that can come from living with disfigurement the dog bite caused.
- Punitive (or exemplary) damages, which courts sometimes impose in instances of outrageous conduct by a dog owner.
Other Dog Attack Injuries Deserve Compensation, Too
Dogs can attack or cause harm in ways without biting someone. A dog can knock someone down by leaping on them, for instance. Their nails alone can cause harm. An attack like this can severely injure or even kill a child, especially a small one. Aggressive dogs can also knock cyclists down, causing serious harm.
California’s strict liability law covers only bites. But that doesn’t mean people harmed by an aggressive dog who does not bite them have no rights.
In cases where a Californian suffers injuries due to another type of dog (or any other animal) attack, the victim can still recover compensation by showing that the attack happened because of the owner’s negligence.
Negligence is a legal concept common in El Centro dog bite cases. It means a failure to exercise the same duty of care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise under the same or similar circumstances. Or, to put it another way, it means someone acting in an unreasonably dangerous way that puts someone else in harm’s way.
For example, a reasonably prudent dog owner should restrain or kennel an aggressive dog so that it does not attack and injure someone. We say that the owner’s failure to take those reasonable measures to keep others safe from a dog constitutes negligence and makes the owner legally liable to compensate anyone the dog injures in an attack.
So, even if a dog did not technically bite you, you may still have the right to substantial compensation for your injuries. Contact the team at Gomez Trial Attorneys to learn more.
Officially Dangerous Dogs
Unfortunately, some dogs show a propensity to attack people. California’s legislators have responded to potential danger from dangerous repeat offender dogs by passing several other laws that define when a dog is dangerous and impose penalties for their attacks.
If a dog bites a human twice (on separate occasions), any citizen can bring a civil case against the owner. If a trained attack dog causes serious injury, even with one bite, any citizen can bring a civil case against the owner as well.
The case may result in civil court’s requiring physical geographic removal of the dog or humane euthanasia of the dog, as well as a legal liability on the part of the owner for any injuries the dog caused. Talk to the lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys today if a dog with a dangerous reputation harmed you.
The Role of Animal Control
El Centro and Imperial County animal control officers play a role in ensuring everyone’s safety around dangerous dogs. An officer who thinks a dog is a threat can ask for a court hearing to determine whether the dog should be designated as dangerous, and if the owner should be required to keep the animal on a secure leash, keep it indoors, or restrain it behind a secure fence. Owners who don’t comply face fines and removal of the dog.
Dangerous dogs may have committed one or more of the following.
- Aggressive behavior in public places that required people to defend themselves. Dogs deemed dangerous must have done this at least twice (in separate incidents) within a three-year period.
- Bitten a human without provocation, causing a non-severe injury
- Killed or injured a domestic animal two times within a three-year period
Potentially vicious dogs are defined as:
- One that aggressively injures or kills a human without provocation
- One that repeated dangerous behavior (determined by a court) or whose owner didn’t follow the previous legal stipulations required by the court
Steps to Take After a Dog Attack
If you or a loved one is bitten or attacked by a dog, your first priority is health and safety. Stay calm and move (or move a loved one) to a safe place. Note that this may not mean running away from the dog. Dogs sometimes interpret running as an invitation to chase after the person (or object, such as a bicycle or even a car).
The same is true of actions that the dog can interpret as attempts to harm him or her, such as using your hands to shove the animal away or striking it. These actions can result in more injury and harm to you.
Instead, get to a safe place where the dog can’t reach you. Go into a house or behind a door, a fence, or other object, as quickly as possible. Your priority is to seek safety from further injuries.
If the bite caused an injury (broke skin, caused bleeding), seek medical attention as quickly as possible. Call 911 or go to the emergency room if necessary.
If you can’t access medical attention right away, wash any cuts, bites, and scratches thoroughly with soap and water. Then, seek medical attention as soon as you can. Never go without medical attention for any dog bite.
Next, get the dog owner’s contact information. You or your doctor may call the owner to find out if the dog has received all appropriate vaccinations and other shots. If it hasn’t, or if the vaccination and vet record is unclear, follow your doctor’s advice. Unvaccinated animals can pass on dangerous diseases, such as rabies. Rabies kills approximately 59,000 people annually worldwide.
What if you’re attacked by a dog but aren’t sure who the owner is? Call the Animal Control Services division of the El Centro Police Department at (760) 352-2111. If you’re in an unincorporated area, contact Imperial County’s Animal Care and Control Program (ACCP). Animal control officers possess multiple ways of determining a dog’s owner.
Separately, it’s a good idea to file a report with animal control if you’re bitten or attacked by a dog, for several reasons. First, California’s laws on dangerous and vicious dogs require proof that a dog attacked someone previously. A report provides a public record. Second, a report helps to prove your case when you seek damages. Our El Centro dog bite lawyers can help you with these tasks.
El Centro Dog Bite FAQ
Dogs are known as man’s best friend and often, they are just that. But in certain situations, dogs can exhibit aggressive and dangerous behaviors, sometimes resulting in catastrophic injuries and massive medical expenses.
Dog bite victims often have numerous concerns following a dog attack, questioning what they need to do next and who they need to call to get the legal help they need during this difficult time. In this blog post, we will discuss some of the most frequently asked questions we get from dog bite victims. We will go over what steps you need to take following a dog bite attack and how an experienced El Centro dog bite lawyer can help you get through this traumatic ordeal.
1. Why are El Centro dog bites so serious?
A dog bite can end up being of great concern not only because it can result in severe lacerations or wounds, but also because a dog bite can introduce dangerous bacteria into the victim’s body. An untreated dog bite can lead to a fatal infection, which is why you need to treat any dog bite seriously.
2. If I was bitten in El Centro by a dog, what do I need to do next?
If a dog bites you, the first thing you need to do is seek medical help. Even if you do not think your dog bite injuries are serious, you still need to be evaluated by a doctor. Not only is the risk of infection too significant to ignore following a dog bite, but a doctor can document your injuries in a medical report, which can end up helping your claim if you decide to pursue legal action.
In addition, you should take the following steps after your dog attack.
These steps can not only help protect your safety and health, but also, your legal rights.
- Identify the owner of the dog: Make sure you identify the dog’s owner. Obtain their name and address, and request proof of rabies vaccination. If you cannot obtain this information, you may need to undergo a series of rabies shots.
- File a dog bite report: Once you receive the medical care you need, the next step is to file a dog bite report with El Centro Police Department’s Animal Control Services. Not only will this report help your case, but it can assist others who may be bitten by the same dog.
- Gather evidence: It is helpful if you can obtain additional evidence following your dog bite incident. This evidence should include the dog’s license information and any of the dog’s records, such as if the dog bit or attacked anyone else, or if authorities designated the dog as “dangerous” or “potentially dangerous.” Additionally, try to get as many pictures of your injuries and the attack scene as you can. Make sure to include photos of your wounds, bruises, the dog attack location, and any torn or bloody clothing.
- Start a journal: Following your dog attack, start a journal as soon as you can. Write down everything about the attack, including what you were doing when the dog bit you, your injuries, and treatments that followed. Make sure you also jot down a little bit every day about how you feel and how the accident has affected your life. This journal can show the pain and suffering you endured following the dog attack.
- Contact an experienced El Centro dog bite lawyer: Dog bite accidents are complicated and involve state and local legal issues that are tedious to navigate. That is why you need to make sure to contact an experienced dog bite lawyer as soon as you can following your accident. An attorney can not only start the investigation into your dog bite accident, but they can also help you determine what legal options you have.
3. What are some of the more common types of El Centro dog bite injuries?
Typically, a dog will attack a victim’s face, arms, and/or legs.
That is why the most common injuries often include:
- Deep lacerations;
- Puncture wounds;
- Broken bones;
- Face injuries;
- Neck injuries;
- Head injuries;
- Eye injuries;
- Nerve damage;
- Emotional trauma; and
As every situation and case is different, if you suffered injuries resulting from a dog bite, you need to call an experienced El Centro dog bite attorney following your dog attack. An experienced lawyer can review your accident, provide you with the legal advice you need, and help you figure out what damages you may seek.
4. Do local El Centro ordinances cover dog bites, or do state-level California laws come into play?
Both. According to California’s statewide laws, a dog’s owner is liable for any damages suffered by a person who was bitten by their dog in a private or public place, regardless of whether or not the dog owner knew their dog was vicious.
Additionally, El Centro ordinances discuss specific animal ownership conditions and the type of vaccinations, licenses, and permits dog owners need to obtain. These local laws also cover dog bites and what you need to do if you are bitten. Specifically, if a dog bites you, you need to notify the city animal control office as soon as possible. If a physician treats a dog bite or knows of one that has happened, they also need to notify the animal control office.
5. What does “strict liability” mean when it comes to an El Centro dog bite?
“Strict liability” means liability without fault. Under California’s dog bite laws, a dog owner is strictly liable for a victim’s dog bite injuries, even if the dog owner did nothing to cause those injuries.
However, certain exceptions apply to dog bite-related strict liability rules, including:
- Law enforcement dogs are exempt from this rule.
- Strict liability only applies to dog owners, not others caring for a dog.
- Individuals who have legally assumed the risk of getting bitten by a dog cannot sue for damages.
- Victims who were trespassing at the time of the dog bite cannot sue for damages.
- Victims who were partially at fault for the dog bite accident may not recover full damages.
Discussing your case with an experienced dog bite attorney can help you determine if strict liability applies to your case and if the dog owner may be responsible for your injuries.
6. What damages can I collect following an El Centro dog bite accident?
If you were the victim of a dog attack, you deserve financial compensation for the harm you endured. The amount of compensation you receive may depend on the specific circumstances, as well as the severity of your injuries.
An attorney cannot guarantee a victim will recover a specific amount of damages in any particular case, but typically, we seek the following compensation:
- Medical expenses, including past, current, and future medical bills. These expenses can include doctor’s appointments, emergency medical services, surgeries, rehabilitative therapy, hospital stays, prescription medications, and reconstructive surgery.
- Lost wages, including past, current, and future lost wages. These damages result when the victim has to miss work or the victim can no longer work because of their injury.
- Household services. In certain circumstances, if the injuries are severe, the victim may no longer be able to perform household tasks, such as cleaning or child care, and requires assistance with these services.
- Pain and suffering. These damages include compensation for physical pain as a result of the injury and the emotional trauma the victim experienced because of the attack.
- Physical disfigurement or scarring. These damages compensate the victim for the difficulty of living with a physical disfigurement resulting from the dog bite.
- Punitive damages. If the dog owner’s actions were egregious or outrageous, the court may also award punitive damages. Unlike the other types of damages, which compensate the victim for their losses, punitive damages are meant to punish and deter the defendant from committing the same actions again in the future.
Additionally, if an individual is killed in a dog attack, their family may recover wrongful death damages or loss of consortium damages in a wrongful death claim. Working with an experienced El Centro dog bite attorney can help you determine which damages may apply to you and how much compensation you need to pursue.
7. Does the “one bite” rule apply in El Centro?
Many states observe the one-bite rule. This rule holds dog owners liable for injuries caused by their pets only if they knew or should have known about their dog’s dangerous tendencies. For instance, if a dog has bitten someone in the past, the owner is on notice of their dog’s dangerous propensities. As a result, if the dog bites again, that dog’s owner can be held liable for any subsequent bites, as they should have foreseen the possibility of another attack happening and should have taken precautions to avoid it.
California, however, does not follow this one-bite rule. Instead, California imposes strict liability in dog attack cases, meaning that a victim does not have to prove that the dog had a history of dangerous behavior or biting to collect damages for their injuries. However, if a dog has bitten someone in the past, the state imposes an extra duty of care on the dog’s owner. An owner who knows their dog may be dangerous needs to take all the reasonable steps to prevent other individuals from getting bitten.
8. What if I was injured in an El Centro dog attack but not because of a dog bite?
Dog bites are not the only way that a dog attack can injure someone. In some situations, a dog can jump on them and knock them down or use their sharp nails to scratch them, sometimes resulting in severe and debilitating injuries.
Even though California’s strict liability laws only cover dog bites, this does not mean that those injured by a dog in other ways should not get the justice they deserve. Often, victims who are hurt by an aggressive dog can recover compensation by showing that the injury happened because the dog’s owner acted negligently.
To show that the dog owner acted negligently, the victim must prove the following:
- The dog owner had a duty to take reasonable care to control their dog.
- The dog owner did not meet this duty.
- This negligence caused the victim’s harm.
Consequently, even if your injuries are not a result of a dog bite, you may still obtain compensation. The best way to go after maximum damages is to work with a knowledgeable dog bite attorney. A lawyer can help you understand the difference between strict liability and negligence and gather the critical evidence you need to establish fault.
9. How can a skilled El Centro dog bite attorney help me in my dog bite case?
Dog bite cases are tedious, complicated, and stressful. However, you do not have to go through these legal proceedings on your own. With the help of an experienced and knowledgeable dog bite attorney, you can get the legal help you need and go after the damages you deserve.
A lawyer can:
- Answer any questions you have, go over your case in detail, and present you with the best legal options you can pursue.
- Conduct a thorough investigation into the accident, collecting evidence that can help you prove what happened and who was at fault.
- Bring in experts who can help you prove your claim.
- Handle the negotiation process with the other side, ensuring that your case is treated with fairness and respect.
- Take your case to trial if necessary and fight for maximum compensation on your behalf.
If you or a loved one was harmed in a dog attack, you need a knowledgeable attorney fighting on your side. That is why when you contact an experienced El Centro dog bite attorney, you can rest assured your case will get the attention it needs while you focus on what matters most—your healing and recovery.
Experienced Dog Bite Lawyers in El Centro
If you or a loved one suffers injury in a dog bite or dog attack in El Centro, then Gomez Trial Attorneys wants to hear from you. Contact our experienced El Centro dog bite lawyers today or call us now at (619) 237-3490 for a free case consultation about your rights to financial compensation.
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