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Do I Need a Lawyer for a Dog Bite in California?

Aug 10, 2022

A Guide to Making an Informed Choice in the State of California on Hiring a Dog Bite Lawyer

Perhaps nothing is more lovable than a dog. They are playful, loyal, and always eager to please. What’s not to love? Unfortunately, like any other animal, dogs sometimes snap and behave unpredictably, which may lead them to bite someone. If you have been bitten by a dog in the State of California, you may be wondering whether you need a lawyer to help you recover financial compensation for medical bills and any pain and suffering.

In this article, we answer key questions to help you determine if hiring an attorney is an ideal option for your situation.

Why Should I Get a Lawyer If a Dog Bites Me?

As of 2020 insurance statistics, California has the highest number of dog bites in the nation. Dog bites can cause severe physical and psychological damage to a person. Further, a dog’s bite can result in substantial economic loss to a victim who cannot work because of the injury.  Of course, the injured person’s first concern should be obtaining expert medical care and therapy as needed.

The legal concerns, on the other hand, should be entrusted to attorneys who have experience dealing with dog bite cases in the State of California.

A.  Dog bite laws vary from state to state. Many states have a one-bite rule. This means that the owner of the dog is not liable for his or her dog’s bite unless their dog has bitten someone before. California, however, is a strict liability dog bite state. This means, that if the bite happens in public or in a place where the dog bite victim was lawfully permitted, this statute holds the dog’s owner strictly liable for the dog’s bites. In other words, a dog that bites someone does not have to have a history of biting for you to obtain a recovery.

Still, there are a few exceptions to strict liability that you should be aware of, including:

  • Someone caring for a dog, who is not the owner, cannot be held strictly liable.
  • Since they have assumed the risk inherent in their employment, veterinarians and kennel employees cannot sue owners for strict liability if they are bitten.
  • When a dog bites a person as a consequence of provoking, annoying or harassing the dog, an owner cannot be held strictly liable.

In addition, county ordinances, case law, and city regulations may also play a role in how your dog bite is treated under the laws of California. An experienced attorney can provide you with the guidance necessary to successfully navigate the legal twists and turns. For example, despite the above-mentioned exceptions to strict liability, even if strict liability doesn’t apply, a claim based on negligence can be pursued.

B.  Insurance companies have been known to exploit victims’ lack of knowledge of the personal injury claims process. You can rest assured that dealing directly with an insurance company on your own will result in a bureaucratic runaround, not to mention a low-ball offer for your compensation. Insurance companies are adept at structuring deals that sound kosher to the untrained claimant. Someone unfamiliar with insurance agreements might be duped into thinking they are fair. This is by design.

But you can rest assured that when an insurance company is dealing with an experienced dog bite law firm, you have your best chance to get adequate compensation for your medical expenses, injuries, economic loss, and pain and suffering.

What Kind of Lawyer Handles Dog Bites?

Technically, any type of lawyer can handle a dog bite case.  However, in choosing your attorneys, you want a law office with a track record of obtaining substantial verdicts or settlements for dog bite cases.  Therefore, your best alternative is to seek the services of a personal injury lawyer who specializes in and understands the legal nuances involved in dog bite attacks. Moreover, it is essential to ensure that the attorneys you intend to hire have the resources to pursue a case against a dog owner. 

What Does a Dog Bite Attorney Do?

Your dog bite attorney will:

  • advise you as to your rights to compensation for your injuries
  • investigate the facts and circumstances of your case
  • negotiate dog bite claims
  • interview eyewitnesses
  • recover photographic evidence (if any)
  • recover medical evidence

Your dog bite attorney will be able to determine if there is any insurance coverage for the injury and, if so, contact the company to negotiate a settlement that adequately compensates you. If the insurance company refuses to negotiate in good faith, your attorney can bring a civil action in court against the dog owner (and the insurance company if one is involved in covering the injury).

An experienced dog bite attorney can also refer you to medical experts to assist in your treatment and to physical therapists for your injury.

What Percent Does a Lawyer Make from a Dog Bite Lawsuit?

At Owen, Patterson & Owen (OPO), we charge 33 1/3% if the case is resolved prior to litigation and 40% if a lawsuit must be filed. However, there are exceptions if the victim is a minor.  If there is no award or settlement, there is no fee. In other words, the attorney does not get paid unless you get paid. And the fee you pay comes directly from your settlement monies or from the judgment you are awarded by the Court. 

Who Is the Best Lawyer in California for Dog Bites? 

While any firm can claim to be the best, the reality is that experienced and aggressive (when necessary) legal representation matters more than an unsupported claim by an attorney.

For forty years, OPO has come to the aid of dog bite victims. The firm ensures that clients receive maximum compensation.  OPO is known throughout the State of California for providing personal attention, and compassionate understanding to their clients who have suffered dog bite injuries.

As dog bite attorneys, the firm has the significant investigatory experience to prepare the best case for you, to gather the evidence, documents, and witnesses needed to present your strongest position in settlement negotiations and, where necessary, at trial. The insurance companies are familiar with the quality of representation offered by OPO and the results we have obtained.  The insurance community stands up and takes notice when OPO stands up for you and your dog bite case.

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