MJQ Law represents dog bite victims across the Bay Area. Our skilled San Francisco Dog Bite Lawyers go to work immediately to secure compensation for the physical, emotional, and financial damages victims suffer. Contact us for a free dog bite case consultation to find out what your case may be worth.
California is a “strict liability” dog bite state. It’s a legal concept that means bite victims in San Francisco and across California can ask dog owners for support to help pay for medical care. It’s a safeguard for victims suffering from the physical wound of a dog bite and the financial hardships of paying medical bills and physical therapy invoices.
California makes it easier for you to seek dog bite recovery help, but that doesn’t guarantee full support. Insurance adjusters will try to prove that a dog bite was your fault. They’ll also look to limit the support they provide. You could end up paying for half or more of your medical bills out of your own pocket.
Exactly what we do for our clients in a short, animated video:
Strict Liability Benefits for San Francisco Dog Bite Victims
California’s strict liability dog bite statutes clear some of the legal obstacles dog bite victims might run into when requesting compensation from a dog owner.
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.”
As stated in the civil code, dog owners are held liable even if a dog has never acted aggressively before or bitten anyone previously. The dog owner is still usually legally responsible to help a bite victim.
Dogs are generally friendly, fun-loving creatures, but when dogs are allowed into a situation where they feel confused, frightened, or threatened, they can lash out instinctively. They may be on the loose and able to leave a yard to attack someone.
They may be allowed too much leash and get close enough to cause a San Francisco cyclist dog bite or a dog bite at a Bay Area dog park. The dogs can’t be held responsible, but dog owners who fail in their duty to protect others from their pets can be.
Check it out! We wrote a blog post about renter and landlord responsibility for dog bites.
Exceptions to California’s Strict Liability Dog Bite Laws
The dog owner is liable in most cases, but if any of the following is true, then dog bite victims may have a harder time securing full support:
- If the dog attack occurred on private property where the victim didn’t have permission to be, a dog bite case may be thrown out. The victim usually can’t have been trespassing or breaking into a location and then sue a property owner over a dog bite.
- Victims can’t have provoked the dog that attacked.
- The victim can’t have attacked the dog’s owner.
- The victim must have suffered an actual bite. A bite that doesn’t break the skin can still be considered a bite.
What to Do After a Dog Bite Injury in San Francisco and the Bay Area
If you or a loved one with you become the victim of a serious dog bite, it’s important to take action immediately. Securing medical help is vital, but then, it’s also important to gather proof of a dog owner’s negligence in your case.
If you are left strong enough after a dog targets you or a loved one, try to gather details on the scene:
- Call 911. Give San Francisco Police or your local police department every detail about what occurred. Police Officers or San Francisco Animal Care & Control Officers will write up a dog bite report that will serve as strong evidence in your case. Let medics check out all your wounds. Go to the emergency room if necessary. If you must leave the scene, ask someone with your or a helpful bystander to help you gather evidence.
- Take pictures. Show your visible dog bite injuries. Take photos of bloody or torn clothing. Take pictures around the location. Show the exact location where you were bitten. Take a photo of the dog and owner if possible.
- Locate the owner. Police officers or animal control will hopefully assist in this. Talking to residents in the neighborhood is a good way to track down a negligent dog owner.
- Talk to witnesses. Get their contact information.
- Don’t throw out evidence. Keep your damaged personal belongings and clothes. Don’t wash them.
- See your physician as soon as you can get in. Get any new pain checked out. You may have a fracture that wasn’t caught by paramedics. Follow all of your doctor’s orders. See recommended specialists and complete physical therapy.
Dog bite victims should avoid giving statements on the scene of their injury. For more information on why you should be careful when talking to insurance adjusters check out our page on the pitfalls of making recorded statements.
Common Dog Bite Injuries in San Francisco
Earning a dog bite injury settlement that covers every medical care invoice is critical to a victim’s recovery. That’s because dog bite injuries are often quite serious and can have long-lasting effects on patients.
These are just a few of the injuries treated in Bay Area emergency rooms after dog bites:
- Crushing Injuries: In bites caused by large dog breeds, a bite might not break the skin, but the force of a bite could do the real damage. The delicate bones in the hands, wrists, and ankles are often crushed.
- Deep Cuts and Punctures: Serious dog bites usually break the skin to inflict damage deep into the tissue. Lacerations involve a tearing of the skin and longer cuts.
- Muscle and Tissue Damage: Tendons, ligaments, muscles, and other tissue suffer serious damage.
- Nerve Damage: Damage to the nerves that run up and down the body is common. An injury can cause victims to feel a burning or stinging sensation. The loss of control of hands and legs may occur and be irreversible.
- Infections: Rabies, tetanus, and other infections are possible from a bite. These infections can attack internal organs, including the respiratory system, and prove fatal.
Child Dog Bite Injuries After San Francisco Attacks
Children are naturally curious and sometimes they can approach a dog and frighten it or trigger a protective instinct. A study in the National Library of Medicine estimated that half of all children suffer a dog bite and some point in their young lives. Dog bites affect a victim’s head and neck in almost 80% of those cases.
Children’s bodies are especially vulnerable to dog attacks because they are usually going to be shorter than adults, putting them closer to the ground and closer to a dog’s teeth. Their smaller bodies can’t withstand the force of a bite as well, either. In the most tragic cases involving infants, their bodies are so tiny that a dog’s mouth is able to crush their skulls.
Unfortunately, a child’s dog bite is often much more serious than a bite wound on an adult. Children’s bodies are still developing and a broken bone or tissue damage might create problems later as they mature.
MJQ’s San Francisco Child Dog Bite Lawyers understand that a child victim must secure compensation for any current injuries. But they’ll also need enough support to cover complications as they grow and mature in the years to come. Our family attorneys also ensure that young victims get the emotional support they need after dealing with a traumatic dog bite injury.
What If My San Francisco Dog Attack Didn’t Involve a Bite?
Dog attack incidents that don’t involve an actual bite aren’t covered under the “strict liability” civil code which makes it easier to prove the dog owner’s liability. However, people injured in a dog attack can still file a lawsuit.
A dog attack may knock victims off their feet and cause them to take a fall injury. A dog may chase a cyclist or pedestrian into traffic to suffer an impact. Victims can file an injury claim, but they’ll face a higher burden of proof. More evidence is needed than in a dog bite case falling under California’s claimant friendly strict-liability laws. Victims will have to show strong proof that a dog and a dog owner caused their injury.
An experienced San Francisco Dog Bite Attorney investigates the circumstances of your dog-related injury and makes sure you have the evidence necessary to hold a dog owner responsible no matter the circumstances.
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 support you’ll need if you suffer permanent disfigurement or disability due to a dog bite wound.
- 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 Francisco 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.
The vast majority of dog bite injury cases are settled with insurance companies at the negotiating table. But 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.
Who pays for my damages?
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.
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.
Dealing with Health Insurance Companies
Your health insurance company may want to claim a part of any compensation you receive from a homeowners or auto insurance provider. Our Bay Area Dog Bite Attorneys work to keep insurance providers from unfairly laying claim to your award. Please check out our additional information on Dealing with Health Insurance Subrogation Claims.
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.
Contact a San Francisco Dog Bite Lawyer
If you or a loved one has suffered a dog bite injury, don’t trust your recovery to an insurance company. Allow The Law Offices of Matthew J. Quinlan to intercept the stress and burden of your injury insurance claim so you can focus on getting better. That means we handle the annoying and sometimes aggressive calls from insurance adjusters and reject their “bad faith” business practices to earn you the most compensation possible.
In some cases, it’s a young child who has been victimized by a careless dog owner in the Bay Area. Allow our compassionate team of skilled legal professionals to ensure that your child receives the support now and in the years to come needed to return to live a normal, healthy life.
Contact our offices for a free case consultation that comes with no obligation to you or your family. If you decide we can help you get the most out of your dog bite claim, you won’t need any money right now. We don’t get paid unless we beat insurance companies and win your case for you.
- Dog bites involving Children
- Dog bites on Delivery Drivers
- Dog Attacks on USPS Mail Carriers
- Dog bites at Dog Parks
- Dog bites on Cyclists
- Dog bites while Visiting Friends & Family
- Pit Bull Attacks
- German Shepherd Attacks
- Medical Treatment for Dog Bites
- Medical Payments after a Dog Attack
- Dog Bite Liability
- Renter and Landlord Dog Bite Liability