Sacramento Dog Bite Lawyers

Dogs might be “man’s best friend,” but no matter how well-behaved the dog, they can still bite. In some instances, dog bites can cause debilitating injuries, excruciating pain, and a slew of extensive medical bills that will forever impact someone’s life. 

If you have been a victim of a dog attack, you do not have to endure these repercussions on your own. Instead, you may have the option to pursue the financial recovery and justice you deserve.  At Cutter Law, our Sacramento personal injury lawyers can work with you to protect your rights while you focus on what matters most — your healing and recovery. Our legal team can help you understand possible options for recovery and build the evidence you need to prove your claim.

Dog Bite Statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 4.7 million people are bitten by a dog every year in the United States. Almost 800,000 of these individuals require medical care. California has the greatest number of dog bite claims in the United States: 2,103 in 2020 and 2,396 in 2019.

The Insurance Information Institute (III) and State Farm reported that dog bite injuries cost homeowners insurance companies over $850 million in 2020.

California's Dog Bite Laws

California law, codified in Civ. Code §3342, indicates that dog owners are strictly liable if their dog bites another person. Additionally, in cases where the dog has a history of attacking or biting people, Civ. Code §3342.5 states that the dog’s owner must take steps to prevent future attacks.

What is strict liability in a dog bite case?

Strict liability is a standard that exists when an individual is liable for a specific event, regardless of their mental state, the intent behind the act, or if they could have done anything to prevent it. When it comes to dog bite cases, a dog’s owner is liable if their dog bites anyone, regardless of whether the owner did anything wrong. The only exceptions are if the injured individual was trespassing at the time of the incident or provoking the dog somehow. 

The strict liability standard is very different from the negligence standard, which only allows victims of a dog bite to recover compensation by showing that the dog owner acted negligently. Consequently, a negligence standard can make it more challenging for victims to recover compensation. Victims would need to show how the dog owner’s conduct led to their injuries, which is often difficult to prove. 

In California, most dog bite cases follow strict liability and only require the victim to show that the dog bite happened and they suffered injuries as a result. They do not need to prove the owner’s negligence.

Does California have a "one-bite" rule?

A “one-bite” rule refers to a system where a dog’s owner will only be held strictly liable for injuries caused by their dog if they knew the dog had dangerous propensities. California does not have a one-bite rule. Instead, as discussed in California Civil Code 3342, the dog’s owner is liable for any damages the dog causes, regardless of whether or not they knew that the dog had violent tendencies.

Common Dog Bite Injuries

Although injuries stemming from dog bite accidents can range in severity and extent depending on the circumstances of the incident, some of the more common injuries include:

  • Puncture wounds 
  • Scarring 
  • Broken or fractured bones 
  • Rabies 
  • Infections such as MRSA, Pasteurella, and Capnocytophaga
  • Nerve damage 
  • Trauma and other psychological symptoms

Does a dog have to puncture my skin for me to file a claim?

The California dog bite case Johnson v. McMahan (1998) established that the bite does not need to break the skin for a victim to file a claim for compensation from the dog’s owner. The ruling stated that the term “bite” refers only to a dog’s jaws clamping onto part of a person’s body.

Preventing Dog Bites

Although not every dog bite or attack is preventable, some actions can protect you from attacks by aggressive dogs. According to the ASPCA, noticing and responding to a dog’s body language is essential. For instance, if a dog tries to make itself appear bigger or you notice its fur and ears standing straight up, it often means you should stay away. If you do encounter an aggressive dog, remain calm and avoid making eye contact.

In addition, you should:

  • Keep away from dogs you don’t know while in public
  • Always ask permission to pet a stranger’s dog
  • Avoid interacting with an unknown dog who is growling, eating, or even playing with a toy

What are defenses to a dog bite attack?

Typically, when it comes to dog bite attacks, there are only a few arguments that the defense may raise, including:

  • Trespassing: If the victim was trespassing at the time of the dog bite incident, the dog owner would not be strictly liable for any injuries that result. However, the victim can still recover compensation if they prove the dog owner’s negligence caused the attack.
  • Law Enforcement Animals: If the dog is a law enforcement animal, the dog’s owner will not be held strictly liable for a dog bite or attack unless it harmed an innocent bystander. 
  • Comparative Negligence: Usually, the court will assign a percentage of fault to each party responsible for the incident in a dog bite case. As a result, if a victim was provoking or hurting the dog before the attack, they can be held partially liable for the bite.
  • Assumption of Risk: Professionals working with dogs usually cannot hold a dog owner strictly liable for a dog bite incident since these professionals have assumed the risk of being bitten.

What damages can I get for my dog bite case in Sacramento?

If you have been bitten by a dog in Sacramento, you may be eligible to recover certain types of compensation for your injuries and other losses. In California, dog bite victims may recover economic and non-economic damages, including: 

Economic Damages

These damages are the actual and verifiable losses that result from an accident. They include:

  • Past, current, and future medical bills (such as hospital stay, surgeries, and doctor visits)
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity 
  • Other out-of-pocket expenses 

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are the more subjective losses that result from an accident, such as:

  • Pain and suffering 
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium 
  • Disfigurement and scarring

Do I need a dog bite lawyer?

Working with an experienced Sacramento dog bite attorney can help you obtain the best outcome possible after a dog bite leaves you injured. For example, your lawyer can help:

  • Ensure you file your case before the statute of limitations expires — in California, you have two years from the date of the injury
  • Act as an intermediary between the insurance company and the dog owner 
  • Gather the necessary documentation to prove your claim, such as medical reports
  • Provide you with an accurate assessment of the damages you can receive
  • Negotiate a settlement agreement that gets you the most compensation possible

Contact the Sacramento Dog Bite Attorneys at Cutter Law P.C. Today

When you have painful injuries after a dog bite attack, you need adequate compensation to help you recover as fully as possible. Our dog bite lawyers in Sacramento are committed to helping victims of dog attacks build a strong claim for recovery. 

Call us at (916) 290-9400 or contact us today to learn more about how to schedule a free case evaluation and how we may be able to help you in your dog bite case. 

Sacramento Office

Cutter Law P.C.
401 Watt Avenue Suite 100
Sacramento, CA 95864
916-290-9400
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