Learn when criminal and civil liability may apply to dog bite incidents
Being bitten by a dog can be a painful and traumatic event for a person at any age. Fortunately, the law does provide victims with the ability to hold dog owners liable for their animals’ actions. Depending on the circumstances, it may be possible to pursue a criminal and/or a civil case.
When Criminal Charges Apply
In certain cases, dog owners can face criminal charges when their pet bites someone. The decision to file criminal charges is up to the local DA. In order to secure a conviction, the prosecution must prove that the dog was dangerous or vicious as these terms are defined by state law. A dog could be considered dangerous or vicious if:
- The dog bit someone without being provoked
- While not on its own property, the dog bit, injured, or killed another domestic animal twice in the past three years
- While not on its own property, the dog was so aggressive that a person had to defend themselves twice in the past three years
- The dog is owned by a person with a prior conviction related to dog fighting
When to Take Civil Action
In California, owners are strictly liable for all dog bite injuries. There is no need to prove that the dog was previously known to be dangerous. Instead, all the victim needs to do is show that the owner or handler was negligent in controlling their dog, and this negligence led to their dog bite injury. Victims can then file a dog bite injury claim and recover compensation for damages including:
- Current medical bills
- Future medical treatment such as reconstructive surgery
- Permanent scarring
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages—in the case of a bite that keeps the victim out of work
Dog bite injuries are often covered by the owner’s home insurance policy. Compensation can be recovered in negotiations with the insurance company, or through litigation. In either case, it is important to file the appropriate paperwork within the two-year statute of limitations.
Steps to Take After a Dog Bite
Whether you think criminal or civil action—or both—would be justified following a dog bite, the first step is to report the incident to local law enforcement. This will not only start the criminal investigation, but also serve as vital evidence for your civil case.
You will also want to get the contact information for the person responsible for the dog and for any witnesses before leaving the scene of the bite to get appropriate medical care. This will help establish liability for the bite later on and help justify your need for damages.
Finally, be sure to consult an experienced dog bite attorney such as The Law Offices of Larry H. Parker for help. We know the law and we know how to give you the best possible chance of recovering maximum compensation after a dog bite. Call us at 800-333-0000 for a free consultation.