Pets have become a staple of modern life. Whether you love dogs, cats, birds, fish, reptiles, or exotic animals, these companions can motivate you to exercise, comfort you, and become members of the family. However, people sometimes forget that these pets still have animal instincts, which can lead to situations in which an animal, like a dog, bites a person.
When you suffer a small puncture or significant damage from a dog bite incident, the experience can be traumatic. In addition to dealing with medical bills and physical recovery, you could find yourself facing mental and emotional complications, including nightmares, anxiety, phobias, and more.
The last thing you need in these kinds of situations is a fight over whether or not the dog’s owner is liable for the costs associated with the bite. Unfortunately, owners may come up with all kinds of excuses, even blaming you — the victim — for the attack.
What can you do to ensure that your medical expenses are covered and you’re compensated for the trauma you suffered? Here’s what you need to know about filing a personal injury claim after a dog bite.
Understanding Strict Liability
In some states, you are required to prove negligence on the part of the dog’s owner, while other states have “one bite” rules that say an owner may not be liable if there’s no history of biting.
California, however, operates under “strict liability” standards. This means that a dog owner is automatically liable if their dog bites someone, provided that certain criteria are met. For example, the victim must have been in an area that they were legally allowed to be in and must not have provoked the dog.
It doesn’t matter if you’re walking down the street in Los Angeles or ringing a doorbell. If a dog attacks you unprovoked, the owner is likely to be liable for covering any resulting injury costs.
Statute of Limitations
In the state of California, you have two years from the date of the dog bite incident to file a personal injury complaint in court. Many victims will first try to work with the dog’s owners and their insurance providers to get medical and other costs covered.
If the owner fights your claim or the insurance provider gives you the runaround, you may have no choice but to take your claim to court. If you file a claim after the statute of limitations has expired, your case will likely be dismissed, so it’s crucial to know your deadlines and to seek the help of a qualified lawyer who is knowledgeable about California state laws.
Filing a Claim
Following a dog bite incident, you’ll want to take steps to solidify your claim, including filing a police report and seeking medical attention. It’s important to document what happened in order to secure the compensation necessary to cover medical expenses. It’s a good idea to take photographs and gather witness statements, too, if possible.
From there, you can file a claim with the dog owner’s insurance provider. Typically, this type of liability is covered by a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. However, there are limits to what these policies will cover. The policy may fully cover incidents that occur on the owner’s property, but only partially cover incidents that occur at other locations (if the dog is being walked around the neighborhood or escapes the yard, for example).
Some policies also exclude certain dog breeds that are thought to be aggressive (like pit bulls), and often, they will only cover the first bite incident, so if the dog has a history of biting, they won’t continue to provide coverage after the first payout. All of these factors could mean that the dog owner is personally liable for costs, and many owners won’t want to pay out-of-pocket.
Fighting Owners and Insurance Providers
If you file a claim with an insurance provider and you find that the policy doesn’t cover your costs or they try to delay and deny your claim, it’s time to file a personal injury claim in court with the help of a qualified and experienced Los Angeles attorney.
When you’re recovering from the trauma and physical injury of a dog bite, the last thing you need is a court battle over who’s going to pay your medical bills and other expenses. You need a trusted law firm that offers personalized, compassionate care and has the expertise to secure the settlement you deserve. You want a results-driven firm that has a successful track record of wins. It’s also important to work with a firm that charges no fees unless you reach a settlement or a win.
If you’re the victim of a dog bite and the pet owner or insurance provider are giving you the runaround, it’s time to contact the experts at Lalezary Law Firm. You can reach us at 888-778-8888 or go online to schedule your free consultation. We Fight. You Win. They Pay.