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San Francisco Dog Bite Lawyer

We handle a lot of dog bite cases and have a reputation as one of top dog bite law firms in the Bay Area. Our personal injury law firm has represented 100s of people just like you…

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Throughout the years our personal injury law firm has represented 100s of people just like you that were hurt after being bitten or attacked by a dog in the San Francisco Bay Area and needed the best San Francisco dog bite lawyer they could find to help. They wanted to avoid making costly mistakes with their claim and they had questions—some only had a few, and others admitted that they had no idea what they needed to know.  Regardless which you camp you fall into, below you will find our past client’s most common questions—with answers.

We organized our dog bite page this way so that you can choose how much information you want to consume and can get to the information you want as efficiently as possible.  If you have a question that is not addressed here or would like to talk to us about representing you, please call us at (415) 345-4282.

Exactly what we do for our clients in a short, animated video:

Does you law firm specialize in dog bite cases?

Yes.  We handle a lot of dog bite cases and have a reputation as one of top dog bite law firms in the Bay Area.  We have seen it all when it comes to dogs injuring people, but here are three recent dog bite accident cases we settled for our clients.

$22,500 settlement: Our client, B.P., was walking near San Francisco City Hall when she walked between a car and a truck parked along the curb.  Suddenly and without warning, a dog leaped from the bed of the pick-up truck and bit B.P. several times on her upper arm.  The dog was leashed to the truck, however the length of the leash allowed the dog to lunge beyond the back gate of the truck.  B.P. suffered some minor scarring on her arm.  We made a claim against the auto insurance policy of the truck owner (also the dog owner).  Before coming to us, B.P. was offered only a few thousand dollars to settle her claim.  

$65,000 settlement: Our client, T.P., was visiting the home of an acquaintance in Oakland when he was bitten by the family dog while trying to pet it.  The bite caused some damage to the tendon in one of his fingers and a small surgical procedure was necessary to ensure it would function properly moving forward.  We brought a claim against the homeowner’s insurance of the acquaintance.  The insurance company asserted that T.P. was 50% responsible for being bitten, claiming that he was the one who pet (and startled) the dog, but we rejected that position and filed a complaint.  After depositions and some written discovery, we elicited a fair settlement for T.P.

$Confidential Settlement: Our client, M.R., was walking her dog in San Francisco at an “on-leash” park when another dog, which was off-leash, attempted to attack her dog.  M.R. stepped in between the two dogs in an effort to stop/prevent the attack on her dog.  In so doing, the dog jumped on M.R. and caused her to fall and tear the meniscus in her knee.  The injury required surgery.  There was a dispute about how the incident happened as both M.R. and the defendant had a friendly witness.  The insurance company also alleged that M.R. was at fault for knowingly getting in-between two aggressive dogs. 

I was bitten by a dog. Do I need an injury lawyer?

We’re sorry to learn that you were bitten or injured by a dog, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the you need to hire a San Francisco dog bite lawyer. For example, if you suffered only minor injuries (i.e. bite didn’t break the skin) you may be able to handle your claim with the dog owner’s insurance company yourself.  Feel free to give us a call at (415) 345-4282 or submit an online inquiry for a free consultation to discuss whether you fall into this category.  If you do, we will happily give you some free advice/tips to handling your claim without a lawyer.  We never take on cases that we can’t add value to; in other words, if you can’t likely net more by hiring us, because we are paid with a percentage of the recovery (contingency fee), it doesn’t make sense to hire a personal injury lawyer.  That said, most dog bite cases do require the involvement of a dog bite attorney and you will want to hire an experienced dog bite injury lawyer like us or else you will likely be costing yourself a lot of money.

What will you be doing for me when I hire you?

When you hire us, you hand off all of your problems, work and stress associated with your accident to an experienced personal injury lawyer who has handled hundreds of cases like yours.  This allows you to focus on your recovery, while we handle everything else.  Whether you realize it or not, there are a lot of pitfalls out there for a personal injury claimant that has never dealt with a situation like this before.  Insurance companies and their adjusters have the goal of saving as much money as possible and that means denying your claim, underpaying your claim and/or attempting to get you to do and say things that permanently harm the value of your claim.  We won’t allow for any of that!

We will serve as the point of contact for anyone wanting to contact you about your accident or injuries.  We will advise you about all the tricks that insurance companies and their agents play so that your claim, when presented, has no issues associated with it that might limit it’s value.  Additionally, by hiring us you will swing the leverage of your injury claim back to your side, as the insurance company will be forced to accept the fact that you won’t be one of the claimants they can take financial advantage of—every major insurance company knows us and has dealt with us many times; we have a reputation of getting every dollar available.

Sounds great, but what does that exactly mean? Here are the specifics:

Investigate your Claim

  • Find all sources for recovery (insurance policies and deep pockets).
  • Order and review your medical records and bills.
  • Hire medical professionals to review your medical records, if necessary.
  • Order any police/incident reports.
  • Talk with any witnesses.
  • Advance any upfront costs needed to establish your claim.

Present your Claim to the Insurance Company

  • Handle all communication with the insurance company (they’ll stop calling you).
  • Identify any problem areas with your case and address (and remedy if possible) them early on.
  • Prepare and submit a detailed and comprehensive settlement demand package that includes legal arguments, a persuasive presentation of your claim and supporting documentation.

Maximize Your Settlement Amount

  • Use our leverage of being able to file a lawsuit to put pressure on adjusters.
  • Use our experience in handling 100s of cases like yours to ensure you are paid top dollar.
  • Negotiate & reduce your health insurance claims, which nets you more.

Occasionally, the at-fault party’s insurance refuses to accept responsibility, wants to place an unfair amount of blame on you, or doesn’t respect the extent of your injuries and damages.  When that happens, we file a lawsuit on your behalf and utilize the court system to create pressure on them.  You see, the insurance company knows that if they don’t treat you fairly, a jury of 12 of your peers will ultimately decide what you are entitled to.  This pressure causes them to reassess their position on your case and almost always causes them to offer you a good settlement before trial.

File a Lawsuit

  • Prepare a formal complaint.
  • Advance any upfront court costs (filing fees, service fees, etc.)
  • Track down and personally serve the defendant(s).

Litigate your Case

  • Explain and walk you through the entire process.
  • Prepare you for when your participation is needed.
  • Obtain all documents from the defendants to establish your case.
  • Advance upfront costs for hiring any needed experts.
  • Negotiate with opposing attorney to settle your case without the need for trial.
  • If necessary, present your case at trial to a jury of your peers.

If I hire you, how long will the process take?

We understand that your goal is to get your personal injury claim resolved as quickly as possible so that you can get on with your life.  However, the circumstances of your accident and injury will determine how long the process will take to achieve a settlement.  We have found that the two windows most ripe for settlement are 2 months after your medical treatment is completed (pre-litigation settlement) and 6 months after filing a lawsuit (post-litigation settlement).

Of course, every case is different and opportunities to settle your case can be frequent.  If we are required to file a complaint on your behalf because the insurance company refuses to offer a reasonable settlement, we typically will do that right away.  However, you should know that California law gives you two years from the date of your accident to either settle your case or file a complaint to protect your claim (Note: if the defendant is a governmental entity, you have six months from the date of your accident to file a formal governmental claim, not two years).

2 months after medical treatment is completed

The majority of our cases are settled in this window.  Cases that settle in this window often have the following characteristics:

  • You have been diagnosed with an identifiable injury.
  • You do not have a substantial permanent injury or long-lasting symptoms.
  • You do not require future medical treatment for your injuries.
  • You did not have a pre-existing injury in the same part of your body.
  • You have private health insurance (not Medi-cal, Medicare, etc.)
  • The other party accepts responsibility and you bear no fault (comparative negligence)
  • The person who injured you was not a government employee.

6 months after filing a lawsuit

Sometimes insurance companies refuse to accept responsibility or don’t respect the value of our client’s damages and we must file a lawsuit to create sufficient pressure on the other side.  A common misconception about filing a lawsuit is that it means that a trial will occur.  That’s not true, at least not with us.  We have a reputation for working up our clients’ cases in the litigation process so well that approximately 95% of all cases that require us to litigate result in a settlement for our clients without the need for trial.  Our post-litigation settlements typically occur about 6 months after filing the complaint. They take some time because formal, written discovery needs to be done and depositions need to be taken of the parties (including you) and key witnesses.

If your case is one of the few that does require a trial, we are experienced trial attorneys and will present your case to a jury.  Personal injury jury trials in Bay Area counties (San Francisco, Alameda, Marin, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Napa, and Sonoma) typically take place about 12–18 months after filing a lawsuit.

If I need an injury lawyer, how are you paid?

We are only paid if we win your case.  Our agreements call for a contingency fee of either 1/3rd or 40% of the settlement, award or verdict.  If we are required to litigate your case (file a lawsuit) our fee slides from 1/3rd to 40% to account for the increased financial risk we are taking on.  We never bill our clients by the hour and we spend as much time as is necessary with you and working on your case.  Additionally, we will advance all costs necessary to pursue your case and will never ask you for money to finance your own case.  If we are successful, we are entitled to be reimbursed for our out-of-pocket, advanced costs in addition to our contingency fee.  If we don’t receive a settlement or verdict on your behalf, you never owe us for the time or money we have spent pursuing your case.  This arrangement allows everyone to be able to afford the best San Francisco dog bite lawyer.

What is the process of hiring you to represent me?

San Francisco Bay Area dog owners are responsible for keeping their pets under control.  When they fail to do so, they are liable for the damages caused by their pets.  Unfortunately, most bog bite situations require the involvement of an injury attorney.  The most common damages we encounter from uncontrolled pets are dog bites.  California law specifically recognizes that dogs can be a hazard to the community and requires dog owners to be vigilant in preventing their dogs from biting anyone by placing the burden of dog bites upon those that choose to own dogs.  If a dog has bitten you or your child, you will need an experienced San Francisco dog bite lawyer to thoroughly investigate your claim and negotiate a favorable settlement for you.

For many of you, this is your first encounter with a personal injury lawyer and you are not too sure how the process works, what to do next, or what you’re entitled to.  We understand.

If you have been bitten or injured by a dog you should first seek out appropriate medical treatment and then contact us by submitting an online inquiry or calling us at (415) 345-4282 for a free consultation to discuss your situation and for us to answer all of your questions.  Or if you’d prefer, we’d love to sit down with you face-to-face.  Our law office is conveniently located in the Marina District of San Francisco, away from the hustle and bustle of the Financial District.  We have free private and street parking available for your convenience.

Once we connect and discuss your situation and decide that we are a good fit for one another, there are three documents that we need you to sign: (1) Employment Agreement, (2) Letter of Representation, (3) Medical Records Release Form.  You can either come into the office and sign them in person or we can email them to you and handle it electronically if you prefer.

How much is my dog bite case worth?

Each dog bite case is very different. A Bay Area Dog Bite Lawyer won’t be able to assess the value of your case until talking with you about what happened and finding out about the injuries suffered.

There are some important factors in your case that will definitely affect how much you might receive in financial support. Such as, how long a bite injury to your hand keeps you out of work or if you’re able to return to work at all.

Compensation can be affected by these critical elements and more:

  • How long your recovery takes. The costs of medical care over that time.
  • The emotional and physical anguish you are subjected to.
  • The changes in lifestyle an injury forces you to make.
  • How much work you miss while in recovery.
  • How many parties can be held responsible for your injury, e.g., a dog owner, a property owner, a management company, or a governmental department.
  • Insurance limits for liable parties.
  • The skill and experience of your dog bite attorney.

This last one is more important than you’d think. An inexperienced lawyer can lose valuable compensation for a client by falling for common insurance tactics meant to limit support for victims and their families.

By utilizing a strong background in California law and effective investigative techniques, a San Franciso dog bite lawyer leaves nothing to chance. Your case will be backed by strong evidence and leave no room for an insurance company to provide you with less than you and your family need in recovery.

Is a dog owner responsible for their dog biting me?

Dog Bite Owner Liability

Liability for dog bites is specifically addressed in California state law.  CA Civil Code Section 3342(a) states:

“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.”

In plain English, this means that a dog owner can be held responsible (strictly liable) for the harm caused by a dog bite, no matter how careful they are in protecting against it.  The only exception to this is if the person who was bit by the dog was an adult trespassing on private property.  People that are bitten can also be partially responsible for the bite.  In our industry that is called comparative fault (or contributory negligence).  Using this concept is a very common ploy used by insurance companies.

Check it out! We wrote a blog post about renter and landlord responsibility for dog bites.

Who pays for my damages?

Homeowners/Renters Insurance

In most cases, the dog owner’s homeowners/renters insurance will cover all damages arising from a dog bite that took place on their property.  However, these policies may exclude coverage for incidents that occur away from the homeowner’s property, such as in a vehicle.  Other common exclusions include dogs that have previously caused injury and certain types of breeds, which are deemed to present a higher risk of biting, such as Pit Bulls and Rottweilers.

Determining whether there is applicable insurance coverage to recover from may be complicated, as insurance companies will undoubtedly look for ways to deny or limit coverage.  Having an experienced San Francisco Dog Bite Attorney will ensure that your rights are protected and that you get the settlement you are entitled to.

Auto Insurance

If you were bitten by a dog, which was in a vehicle, e.g., hanging outside an open window or in a truck bed, you may turn to the car owner’s auto insurance policy for recovery.

What needs to be proven to establish my dog bite case?

In order to be successful in your dog bite case, you must establish the following facts:

(1) The person you are making a claim against owned the dog that bit you; *This can be shown by obtaining animal license records.

(2) That dog bit you while you were in a public place or lawfully on private property; *There are three ways to be lawfully on private property.  

First, the owner can expressly invite you (written or verbal).  Second, the invitation can be implied where the owner previously invited you onto the property and made it clear that the invitation is continuing and does not require repeated permission.  Lastly, if you were acting in the performance of any duty imposed by you by law, such as a police officer or mailman.

(3) You were harmed; AND *It is not necessary that skin is broken, e.g., a dog could have bit you, missing your body, but catching your clothing, causing you to fall and be injured.

(4) That dog was a substantial factor in causing your harm. *The dog bite was the main reason for causing your injury and not some other factor.

What are the most common injuries dog bites cause?

Dog bites can cause severe and numerous injuries.  The most common injuries we encounter from dog bites are:

  • Puncture wounds
  • Scarring
  • Infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Emotional damages/Post-Traumatic Stress

I was not bitten by a dog, but a dog injured me.  Can you help?

Yes. If your injuries were not caused directly by a dog bite, but rather by a dog jumping on top of you, you can still recover from any injuries caused by that.

Although you will not be able to establish your case from the plaintiff-friendly “Dog Bite” statute, you can still recover under the traditional theory of negligence.  Negligence can be established by showing that the owner or handler was not reasonably careful in controlling the dog under the circumstances and you were injured as a result.

My child was bitten by a dog.  Can you help me?

Yes.  In many senses, children are more vulnerable to dog bites than adults.  Children tend to be very trusting and lack the ability to appreciate what might cause a dog to bite – even being rough with dogs they don’t know.  Despite this fact, it is the dog owner’s responsibility to prevent their animal from biting a child. When a dog bites a child, the bite often affects the child’s face or causes damages to their arms that are much more severe than had an adult been bitten.  For that reason, hiring a San Francisco dog bite attorney is critical when the victim is a child.

Dog Bite Injury Tips

If you have been bitten by a dog you will need a great San Francisco Dog Bite Attorney if you are going to be treated fairly by the insurance company that will likely be financially responsible for the dog bite.  Most dog owners have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance that covers damages, including injuries caused by their dogs.  That said, the insurance company has no interest in giving away money and they are probably already attempting to get you to do things that will harm the value or viability of your case.  What’s more, the insurance company wants to work with you before you hire a lawyer because they know they will be dealing with someone that is inexperienced in dealing with insurance claims.  You should contact us before you have any interaction with an insurance company, but because that is not always possible, we want to warn you about (and educate you on) the potential risk that exists between the time of your dog bite injury and hiring a lawyer.  Here are the most critical things you should know in the immediate aftermath of your dog bite incident:

Tip #1: Giving Statements 
Tip #2: Medical Treatment (coming soon)
Tip #3: Dealing with Health Insurance Subrogation Claims
Tip #4: Med Pay (even without medical insurance you can get your medical bills paid for) (coming soon)

(1) File a police report.  It is extremely important to your case to identify the owner of the dog.  If a dog that was in a car bit you, take down the license plate number and go to the nearest police department.  They will be able to look up the owner of the car.

(2) Make sure to document your injuries by taking photographs.

(3) Get medical treatment immediately.  Dog bites can be infectious and have far-reaching consequences if not dealt with quickly.  Understand that although emergency care doctors can treat you, you may need a plastic surgeon to ensure that your wounds do not permanently scar.

Additional Resources:

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    Did You Know?

    ½ of all dog bites occur on the owner’s property. (Source: Consumer Reports)
    Dog bite injuries account for 1/3 of all homeowner insurance claims. (Source: Consumer Reports)
    As of 2010, there were approximately 150,000 dogs living in San Francisco. (SFACC)
    In 2013, there were over 900 dog bite injuries in San Francisco alone. (Source: SFPD)
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