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San Diego Dog Bite Attorneys

San Diego is about as dog-friendly a city as you will find anywhere in the United States.  We have multiple beaches where off-leash dogs are welcome.  We have a plethora of dog parks that are there specifically to give our dogs exercise.  Most hiking trails in the county allow dogs to enjoy them with their owners.  Even restaurants around town have areas for people to sit and dine with their dogs.  People in San Diego are used to seeing “Man’s Best Friend” almost anywhere they go.  Unfortunately, a lot of people in the area have also endured the extremely difficult experience of being bitten and injured in a dog bite attack.  Below you’ll find a brief overview of this issue.  Those who have been harmed in this manner should contact the San Diego dog bite lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys as soon as possible.

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Dog Bite Statistics in the United States

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, more than 4.7 million dog bite attacks occur across the country every year.  Approximately 800,000 of these attacks lead to injuries that are severe enough that the survivor seeks out medical attention.  Nearly half of these 800,000 people will need what is described as emergency medical treatment.  Dozens of people in the United States are killed in dog bite attacks on an annual basis.  The people most vulnerable to dog bite attacks are children.

Dog Bite Attacks and Liability

These are troubling statistics to be sure.  When people are injured in dog bite attacks, they need to understand their potential legal rights and options.  California follows the doctrine of strict liability when it comes to dog bites.  That means that if someone is bitten by a dog, he or she need only prove that the defendant owned the dog, that the dog bite took place either on public property or on private property where the victim was legally present, that the victim was bitten and that the victim was injured.

California has eliminated the “one-free bite” rule.  This rule used to state basically that if a dog had never exhibited any violent behavior in the past, the owner of a dog in an attack would most likely not be found liable.  That is no longer the case.  A dog owner can be found liable for damages if he or she owns the dog and it bites the victim even if it has never bitten anyone in the past.  Dog owners and those attacked by dogs need to be aware of that.

When someone is injured in a dog bite attack, that injured person has the right to file a California personal injury lawsuit against the owner of that dog as long as that injured person was not trespassing on the dog owner’s property.  There are other exceptions, but the law places the onus on the dog owner to make sure that all dogs are properly restrained and prevented from attacking people.  In general, an injured person can file a claim against both the dog owner and the dog owner’s insurance company provided that the dog owner has homeowner’s or some sort of liability insurance.

San Diego Dog Bite FAQs

An estimated 90 million dogs live in the U.S. and around half a million of them live in San Diego. Experts say the prevalence of dog ownership in the area has a lot to do with the connection to nature that people in this area often enjoy and the availability of dog parks and dog-friendly businesses.

However, San Diego County’s Department of Animal Services reports that it receives about 2,500 dog bite reports a year, indicating that there are serious risks that come with being as dog-friendly as San Diego is.

If you have been bitten by a dog, there are some local and state laws you should be aware of as well as some information you should know about the process of recovering the expenses and impacts you have incurred from your injury. Here are the answers to some of the questions our San Diego dog bite clients ask us most often.

I was just bitten by a dog in San Diego. What should I do?

If you or someone else is still in immediate danger of being injured or killed by the dog, or you need emergency medical attention, call 911.

The most important thing to do immediately after being bitten by a dog is to wash the wound thoroughly and seek medical attention if the bite has broken the skin. The biggest concern with dog bites often isn’t the wound itself but the risk of infection caused by it. When obtaining medical treatment for the wound, your health care provider will likely want to know more about how the bite occurred and when your last tetanus shot was. If it has been at least five years since your last shot, the doctor will likely administer another one.

Once you have cleaned the wound and had it treated, you will want to report the bite to the San Diego Humane Society, which coordinates services with the city and county. While it is technically the owner’s responsibility to report the bite, you may report, as can your doctor. Additionally, speak with an attorney about recovering compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury.

I know a lot of people who were bitten by dogs in San Diego. Is it common?

Approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur in the U.S. each year, meaning that one in every 73 people in the country gets bitten by a dog in a year, making it a relatively common injury. However, while dog bites are common, suffering a serious bite is not. About 800,000 of the bites that occur in the U.S. each year require medical attention. Your chances of dying from a dog bite are one in 112,400.

Is a San Diego dog’s owner always to blame if a dog bites someone?

No, not always. According to California law, a dog owner is not liable for injuries caused to a person by their dog if:

  • The victim was injured while unlawfully on the dog owner’s property.
  • The bite occurred while the dog was protecting a peace officer or another person.
  • The dog was performing work for the police or military and the bite occurred during the scope of that work.

What are the consequences for a person in San Diego whose dog bites someone?

In San Diego County, if a dog bites someone, the following consequences can be imposed.

  • The bite must be reported to the humane society and the dog will be required to quarantine for 10 days. The location of this quarantine is at the discretion of the county’s animal services department. Sometimes, the dog will be permitted to quarantine at home, particularly if it is the first time the dog has bitten someone and the owner can prove that he or she has a secure enclosure that will effectively isolate the dog from people for a full 10 days. This quarantine is mandatory even if the dog’s owner has proof that the dog has been vaccinated for rabies.
  • Failing to keep the dog impounded for the full 10 days after a bite can result in the dog owner being charged with a misdemeanor and assigned the applicable fines for that violation.
  • The dog can be deemed a public nuisance animal or a dangerous dog. The public nuisance animal designation applies to animals whose owners repeatedly violate local and state animal ordinances and that have killed an animal. A dangerous dog has attacked or bitten two people within 48-months and has bitten a person seriously enough to cause substantial injury or death. This designation comes after an investigation. The dog owner has the right to request a hearing to appeal the designation.
  • If the dog obtains one of the designations mentioned above, the animal services department can choose to euthanize it or to impose other protections, such as requiring the owner to purchase liability insurance for the dog; requiring the owner to build or purchase a specified type of fencing, restraint, or muzzling; requiring the owner to have the animal microchipped and photographed for easy identification if there are further problems; altering the dog through spaying or neutering, or requiring the owner to obtain a special permit to keep it.

My friend’s dog bit me in San Diego and my friend has urged me not to seek medical attention. Should I?

You should always seek medical attention if it is needed. Dog bites have a high risk of infections that can result in serious illness or even death. Your friend likely does not want to report the dog bite to his or her homeowners’ insurance or doesn’t understand that this is what pays most dog bite claims. In addition to removing your right to seek compensation, failing to report a vicious animal also leaves others vulnerable to injury if the dog decides to bite again.

My child was knocked down by a dog and injured in San Diego but not bitten. Would the process of obtaining compensation be the same?

California’s strict liability dog bite laws only apply to actual bites, not other injuries caused by the dog. However, a dog owner has a responsibility to ensure that individuals are not injured by his or her dog. Because of this responsibility, even if you were not bitten, you can likely file a San Diego dog bite claim based on negligence, with the task of proving that the owner failed to take steps to prevent you from becoming injured by the dog. An experienced dog bite attorney from Gomez Trial Lawyers would be happy to discuss this type of case and explore your options with you.

I was bitten by a dog at a San Diego dog park. Can I file a claim?

Generally, yes. The City of San Diego requires all dogs to be on a leash that is no more than eight feet long at all times unless either in your residence, your backyard, or a designated dog park. At one of the 16 designated dog parks in the city, owners are permitted to take their dog off the leash but—in doing so—assumes all responsibility for any injuries to people or other animals caused by the unleashed dog.

What is San Diego’s one-bite rule and how does it apply to my case?

Many states have a one-bite rule in terms of liability in dog bite cases. This rule states that a dog owner is liable for injuries caused by a bite if he or she knew or had reason to know that the dog was capable of biting. Essentially, this means the first bite will not cost the dog owner, because they can argue that they did not know that the dog would bite. California used to follow this rule but changed its dog bite laws to a strict liability standard. What strict liability in a dog bite case means is that the owner is liable for injuries caused by the dog even if the dog has never bitten a person before.

I am going to need surgery in the future to repair scarring from a San Diego dog bite. Can I get compensation for that?

Yes. California allows dog bite victims to pursue compensation for all medical expenses related to the bite injury, including those that the individual will need in the future.

Other types of expenses included in economic damages are:

  • Lost wages from being too injured to work or having to miss work to attend a medical appointment related to your dog bite injuries.
  • Loss of future earning capacity if your dog attack injuries cause a permanent disability and you can no longer work or earn as much as you did before the attack.
  • Property damage caused by the attack, such as torn clothing or a cell phone that was broken when the dog attacked you.

You can also obtain compensation for the non-economic impacts of your injury, such as:

  • Physical pain and suffering.
  • Emotional distress.
  • Loss of the enjoyment of life.

How long after the bite occurred do I have to file a lawsuit in San Diego?

California usually allows two years from the date of the injury to file a San Diego dog bite claim. There are some circumstances where this statutory deadline is extended, and your attorney will let you know if your case qualifies for an extension.

Who compensates a person for a dog bite injury in San Diego?

The majority of dog bite compensation is paid through the homeowners or renters insurance policy of the dog’s owner, up to the limits of the policy, which is generally between $100,000 to $300,000. Dog bite claims cost homeowners insurers around $797 million a year and those costs are reportedly increasing.

Dog owners are strongly encouraged to read the language of their policy and to call their insurance provider if they still have questions, because the law doesn’t require insurance companies to include dog bite liability in their coverage. Some insurance companies refuse to cover certain breeds of dogs that pose a higher risk of causing serious injury through bites, such as pit bulls.

While you likely won’t be asked what breed your dog is when you obtain your policy, if the dog bites someone, the insurance company is likely to seek to limit its losses by placing provisions on the coverage, such as a waiver of liability for dog bites.

Do I really need an attorney for my San Diego dog bite claim?

Yes. If your dog bite resulted in an injury that required medical treatment and caused you to miss work or to incur other expenses, you need an attorney with experience in the San Diego dog bite claims process who can guide you as to your legal options.

Let the experienced dog bite lawyers at Gomez Trial Attorneys answer the questions you have about your San Diego dog bite case. For a free case evaluation, contact us online or phone us at any time.

How San Diego Dog Bite Lawyers Can Help

It’s not uncommon for people who own dogs to refuse to deal with those who have been injured in a reasonable manner.  That’s because people love their dogs and do not want to admit that they can be violent.  It may also mean that they do not want to face financial liability for damages inflicted by their dogs.  If you face this difficult situation, you need the help of San Diego personal injury lawyers who have been standing up for the rights of those wrongfully harmed for more than a decade. Contact Gomez Trial Attorneys today to schedule a free initial consultation.

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