Do I have an animal attack or dog bite case?
In California, generally, when a dog or other domesticated animal bites you, the owner or person in charge of the animal is automatically responsible for the dog bite (referred to as “strict liability”). This is true even if the animal had never bit anyone before or had not previously shown any dangerous propensities. It seems then, that if you were bit and sustained injuries, it would be a slam dunk case, right? Wrong. There are a few exceptions when the person that was bitten can be held at least partly at fault for the animal attack. They include when (a) the person provoked the attack, either on purpose or by accident, (b) the person knew there was a good chance they would be attacked but took the risk anyhow, and (c) the person was trespassing on private property when they were attacked.
If, however, the pet owner or handler knew that the animal was vicious or dangerous, and failed to properly control it, you may be able to collect money damages meant to punish the person for their wrongful behavior (known as “punitive damages”) in addition to collecting money for your injuries.
Another thing to keep in mind is that people are very attached to their family pets and will often make up any excuse they can to blame you for their pet’s attack (little Pookey would never attack someone unless she was provoked!). Similarly, insurance companies, who don’t make millions (or billions) of money by being nice and playing fair, will also usually find excuses why you were partly to blame for little Pookey biting you.
Should I hire a personal injury attorney for my animal attack or dog bite case?
The severity of injuries caused by an animal attack vary greatly. If your animal bite injuries only require(d) one or two medical visits and left no significant or visible scar, you might be better off trying to resolve the issue with the pet owner or their insurance company first. If, however, you require(d) several medical visits or have a prominent scar, it would probably be a good idea to hire a good personal injury lawyer with experience handling dog or other animal attacks.