Bite incidents are an unfortunate part of interacting with dogs throughout California. While the law is clear on liability, your ability to recover from any injuries or damage is ultimately going to rely on an insurance company. The question, then, is what happens if the dog’s owner doesn’t have insurance coverage?
If you’ve been injured in a dog bite, you understand the pain and challenges that come with recovery. At The Law Offices of Matthew J. Quinlan, we are committed to helping you focus on your healing journey. Our team of San Francisco dog bite lawyers has substantial experience in dealing with insurance companies and supporting our clients in securing the financial assistance they require. To get the process started, contact us today for a free consultation.
How Does California Law Approach Dog Bites?
In California, dog bite cases are governed by Section 3342 of the California Legal Code, which imposes “strict liability” on dog owners. This means that:
- Owners are responsible for any injuries caused by their dogs, even if the harm was unintentional.
Despite California’s strict liability, there are situations where your percentage of fault may affect your overall damages, known as “comparative negligence.” This principle applies to all injury cases in California, including dog bites. For example, if you were trespassing on the owner’s property or provoked the dog’s attack, your level of fault will be taken into account when calculating and ultimately awarding damages. With that said, there are other important aspects to any dog bite incident, meaning you’ll have to eventually enter the claims process to recover damages.
Claims Process After a California Dog Bite
Once you’ve decided to proceed with a dog bite claim, it’s crucial to understand the process. From a legal perspective, a dog bite claim in California follows the same procedures as other personal injury claims, like those resulting from car accidents or slip and falls.
The key distinction is the presence of strict liability, which simplifies the determination of liability, typically falling on the dog owner. Consequently, when filing your claim, it’s directed towards the dog owner’s insurance company–if there is one. Generally speaking, this process involves the following steps:
- Filing a claim – You’ll typically file your claim with the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance company. Ensure you provide comprehensive details about the incident, your injuries, and the associated damages.
- Negotiating a settlement – The insurance company may propose a settlement to resolve your claim. Our team can assist in assessing the offer and negotiating for a fair settlement that covers all your damages.
- Filing a personal injury lawsuit – If an agreement can’t be reached with the insurance company, you might need to file a lawsuit against the dog owner to seek damages for your injuries. Our team will represent you in court to protect your rights.
Again, the overall reason for filing a claim at all is so you can recover financial support for any injuries or damages that came out of the dog bite incident. Obviously, this can differ from case to case, but when a dog bites you, these damages can be significant. This is especially true if the bite is severe, and causes infections or requires surgery and ongoing care to fix.
The law tries to take this into account when calculating your damages, and can include the following:
- Medical expenses and ongoing care, such as physical therapy or rehabilitation.
- Pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Lost income.
- Any property damage stemming from the incident.
- Punitive damages if the dog owner exhibited particularly negligent behavior.
Like other injury claims in California, dog bite accidents have a statute of limitations, which is the deadline to file a claim. In California, this statute of limitations is two years from the date of the incident. Missing this deadline may result in the loss of your right to pursue a claim.
Then, there are other complications, like if the dog owner doesn’t have insurance coverage
What If a Dog’s Owner Doesn’t Have Insurance in California?
When you need to file a claim after a dog bite and the dog’s owner doesn’t have insurance, it certainly makes the process more difficult. However, the good news is that your options don’t change. You still have the legal right to file a claim against the dog’s owner and they’re still legally responsible for covering your injuries and other damages. The only change is the source of this financial support.
It’s here that working with our experienced team is vital. We can not only help you navigate the claims process, we can help you explore all the avenues for getting the financial support you need. While it depends on the circumstances of your case, here’s an overview of how the process changes if the dog’s owner doesn’t have insurance:
- Other avenues – You can explore whether there are other sources of compensation, such as the owner’s personal assets. Some individuals may have personal savings or assets that could be used to cover the costs of your injuries.
- Homeowner’s insurance – In many cases, homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies can cover dog bite liability. Even if the dog owner doesn’t have a specific pet liability insurance policy, their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance might still provide coverage.
- Your own insurance – If all else fails, you can call on your own insurance to help with your damages. If you have health insurance, this will cover your injuries and medical needs, while any other policies can cover property damage and other things.
- Damages – If other sources of compensation are unavailable, you may need to consider legal action. This can involve taking the dog owner to court to seek damages directly from them. Keep in mind that even if they don’t have insurance, a successful judgment in your favor may still be enforceable against their personal assets.
Dealing with a dog bite when the owner lacks insurance can be challenging, but it’s not impossible to obtain damages through various means. But your success ultimately rests on the evidence you have and the experience and skill of your lawyer.
How Can You Strengthen a Claim For Damages After a California Dog Bite?
Even though strict liability laws protect you, insurance companies may still attempt to minimize their liability in a California dog bite case. This could involve scrutinizing any actions or omissions on your part following the incident. While the law is on your side, it’s essential to take the following steps after a dog bite to strengthen your claim:
- Prompt medical care – It’s of utmost importance to promptly seek medical attention following a dog bite. Even seemingly minor injuries can have hidden complications, and medical records are critical in establishing the extent of your injuries.
- Documentation – Thoroughly document the bite wound by taking clear photographs or videos. Visual evidence not only serves as a record of the injury’s initial appearance but also its progression during the healing process. Ensure that these images are well-lit and capture the wound from various angles.
- Incident reports – Record all pertinent details about the incident. Note the location where the dog bite occurred, the circumstances leading up to it, and whether the dog was properly restrained or not. This information is valuable in establishing the context of the attack.
- Follow medical advice – It’s crucial to diligently follow your doctor’s wound-cleaning and care instructions. These instructions are not only essential for your recovery but also serve as evidence of your commitment to mitigating the injury’s impact.
- Reporting to animal control – Notify local animal control authorities or the appropriate agency about the dog bite. This step creates an official record of the incident, which can be crucial in legal proceedings and for public safety.
- Finding witnesses – Identify and gather contact information for any witnesses who were present during the dog bite incident. Witness statements can corroborate your account of the events and provide valuable testimony in support of your case.
- Record-keeping – Maintain a comprehensive record of your experiences, including the physical and emotional toll of the dog bite. A detailed journal can help demonstrate the pain, suffering, and emotional distress you’ve endured as a result of the incident.
- Preserve evidence – Safeguard any physical evidence related to the dog bite, such as torn or bloodied clothing, as this can serve as tangible proof of the incident.
These actions will ensure the strength of your claim. Understand that the claims process can be lengthy and challenging, especially when dealing with insurance companies. Having our team of experienced San Francisco dog bite lawyers can significantly simplify the process, especially if the dog’s owner doesn’t have insurance coverage.
Free Consultations For California Dog Bite Victims
Dogs are usually loving and protective pets. But when a dog bite happens, it can lead to serious injuries, medical bills, lost income, and pain. If this has happened to you or someone you care about in California, MJQ Law and our team can assist you. Don’t wait. Contact us today to set up a free consultation. We’ll help you start seeking the financial support you’re owed.