Los Angeles Dog Bite Lawyers
At Ellis Law, our Los Angeles lawyers have successfully recovered damages on behalf of innocent victims, through both insurance settlement negotiations and litigation. In California, a dog bite victim can obtain compensation based on theories of negligence and strict liability. In addition, a special statute was enacted that holds owners liable even if their dog has no prior history of violence or attacks.
Dog bite statistics
There are nearly 90 million dogs living in the U.S., residing in 64 percent of households. The majority of these canines will not hurt anyone, but each year roughly 4.5 million bites are reported. Approximately 1,000 people visit the emergency room each day due to dog bites.
Half of those injured by dog bites are children. Those between the ages of 5 and 10 are the most vulnerable. The elderly also make up a significant percentage of dog bite victims. One-fifth of these bites require medical attention. The largest number of dog bite injuries involves the face and head, followed by the lower extremities, the upper extremities, and the chest.
Half of all victims are bitten by a dog with whom they are familiar. Report a dog bite injury even if involves a friend or family member. The person’s homeowners or renter’s insurance should cover dog bite claims.
California, the National Dog Bite Capital
California leads the nation in the number of dog bite injuries. In 2019, there were a total of 2,396 dog bite claims filed in the state, up from 2,166 the previous year. Nationally, the numbers decreased by 2.9 percent in that period.
The average cost per claim in California as of 2019 was $51,265, and the total value of claims that year was $122.8 million. While the average cost per claim was somewhat higher in other states, California’s total value of claims dwarfed those of any state due to the sheer number of incidents. Florida came in second at $68 million.
In 2017, the state was responsible for 14 percent of all dog bite injuries in the U.S. In 2018, insurance company State Farm reported 468 dog bite-related claims made in California, with payouts totaling $18.7 million. That’s just one insurance company. Overall, about one-third of all homeowner liability insurance claims are related to dog bites.
In 2019, 74 letter carriers were attacked by dogs in Los Angeles. The city is usually in the top three metropolitan areas in the country annually for the number of dog attacks on postal workers.
Besides the emotional and physical trauma of an animal attack, the results can cost victims thousands of dollars in medical treatment. Fortunately, legal remedies are available to those who suffered harm through no fault of their own.
California strict liability law
California is a strict liability state when it comes to dog bites. That means the dog’s owner is responsible for the injuries. Some states allow a dog “one bite” before liability kicks in, on the grounds that the owners may not have known of the animal’s propensity to bite. That is not the case in California. There is no free pass for the owner claiming the dog had never bitten before, or even demonstrating they had taken care to prevent the dog from hurting someone.
The statute does include exceptions to the owner’s strict liability. That is when the incident involves trespassers on a property or working military or police dogs. If the dog bites a veterinarian or veterinary assistant during treatment, California courts have held that owners are usually not liable.
It is important to note that California courts have denied damages to victims who negligently caused an attack, assumed the risk of the dog attack or harassed the dog.
California Dangerous Dog Laws
Once a dog has a bite history, under California law the owner must take “reasonable steps” to prevent future attacks. Whenever a dog has bitten a human being on at least two separate occasions, under the law any person may bring an action against the owner to “determine whether conditions of the treatment or confinement of the dog or other circumstances existing at the time of the bites have been changed so as to remove the danger to other persons presented by the animal.”
The law also states that whenever a dog trained to “fight, attack, or kill” has bitten a human being and caused substantial physical injury, any person may bring an action against the owner to determine whether those same conditions of the dog’s treatment or confinement have been changed.
Again, injuries to trespassers or bites by working military or police dogs are exempt.
While dog bites are the type of attack most likely to cause injury, dogs can provoke other situations in which a person is harmed. For instance, when a dog chases someone on a bicycle or motorcycle and an accident directly results, the owners may still prove negligent even if no actual bite occurred.
The same holds true if a dog jumps on a child and knocks them to the pavement, causing a head injury. Should the parents sue, they must show that the dog owner was negligent in letting the dog run loose or not restraining it with a leash.
Los Angeles dog bite attorneys
Of course, in order to recoup monetary damages following a dog bite in California, you’ll need to do much more than negotiating with the dog’s owner. With the expertise of an LA personal injury attorney from Ellis Law, you can rest assured your case will be handled professionally and efficiently, ensuring you get maximum reimbursement for all hospital expenses, time off work, and pain and suffering.
If you need an advocate who will protect your best interests, you can trust the attorneys at Ellis Law. For more than 25 years, our legal team specializes in these types of claims, helping injured victims get the compensation they need and deserve.
What dog bite victims must demonstrate for their case
In California, a victim needs to demonstrate that:
- The dog was owned by the defendant
- The bite occurred on public property or while the victim was legally on private property
- The victim was bitten and suffered injuries from the actual bite
State legislation mandates that “the owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.”
Defendants may attempt to avoid liability by denying ownership, citing inadequate identification of the dog, claiming the victim trespassed on private property, or that the dog was provoked to attack.
Getting advice from a skilled attorney is the smartest course of action following any type of attack or injury – even if it occurred at a friend or family member’s home. Ellis Law offers in-depth lawsuit reviews at no charge and will answer all questions regarding your right to compensation following an incident.
Dog bite injuries and related medical expenses
Reports show that children under the age of 14 are at an increased risk for these types of injuries, and according in the decade between 2010 and 2020, the average cost of a hospital stay from a bite has risen from $18,200 to $30,000. While some bites are minor, others are horrific — leaving victims with lasting injuries and permanent disability. Each year, approximately 30,000 people are forced to undergo reconstructive surgery as a result of bite injuries. Severe dog bites can tear off facial tissues – including parts of the ear, nose, or lips – and repair may result in a series of surgeries stretching over years. Recuperation can result in considerable time lost from work, school, or normal activities.
Types of injuries sustained from animal attacks include:
- Deep puncture wounds
- Facial scars
- Crush injuries and broken bones
- Head or brain injuries
- Loss of digits
- Emotional and psychological trauma such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Dogs most likely to bite
Any dog may bite, but some breeds or types are more likely to bite or cause serious bite wounds. According to the American Animal Hospital Association, these breeds or types include:
- Pit bulls
- German shepherds
- Doberman pinschers
Mixed breeds and small terriers are also high on the list. Pit bulls were responsible for the highest percentage of reported bites, at 22.5 percent. Mixed breeds accounted for 21.2 percent of bites, while German shepherds made up 17.8 percent.
Mixed-breed dogs and pit bulls had not only the highest relative risk of biting but also the highest average damage per bite. Certain breeds, such as the Akita and Great Dane, had a relatively low bite risk. In fact, the Great Dane was at the bottom of the bite risk breeds, along with the Pekingese and pointers. However, when they do bite, the damage level is high.
However, studies indicate that California’s animal bite epidemic entails not just the canine or the breed, but its owner as well. An irresponsible owner or one who mistreats his canine is often a contributing factor in gruesome dog attacks.
Victims in Los Angeles may be eligible for compensation including, but not limited to:
- Current and future medical expenses
- Loss of wages
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
If the bite resulted in property damage, such as torn clothing or damaged jewelry, the victim may receive compensation for those items.
As with all personal injury cases in California, plaintiffs have two years from the date of the injury in which to file a lawsuit. Because the evidence necessary to prove your case can vanish if too much time passes, seek legal counsel as soon as possible.
How Ellis Law attorneys can help
In the years we have been handling cases, our lawyers have witnessed the physical, emotional, and financial tolls that serious injuries take on clients. We understand the monetary strain placed on your family and loved ones as medical bills continue to pile up. Our law firm works with a network of medical experts, investigators, and support staff to help victims recover full compensation for their losses. Retaining an attorney at Ellis Law is a crucial step in pursuing a successful claim for your injuries and economic damages.
We will help you obtain all medical records, determine ownership of the dog and the facts of the assault, examine the history of the dog, and work hard to recover full damages for the pain you have suffered. You are not alone during this difficult time; contact our offices to learn more about your legal options and rights.
Experienced dog bite lawyers in Los Angeles
If you are looking for a personal injury firm with extensive experience in dog bite cases, contact Ellis Law for a free, no-obligation consultation. Our capable attorneys have more than 25 years of experience securing settlements and damage awards for victims in LA County. Since we work on a contingency basis, there is no fee unless you receive compensation.
Remember that in California, the “One Bite Rule” does not apply and owners are liable for compensation associated with any injuries inflicted by their dog. For more information or to schedule your case evaluation, call toll-free at 888-664-8389.