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Law Offices of Fernando Vargas
Law Offices of Fernando Vargas

Animal Attack Attorney

Dog Bite Trial Lawyer

  Top Rated & Aggressive Dog Bite Injury Attorney

Dogs have injured many people, whether from a vicious attack or from being tripped or knocked down by a rambunctious dog.

Consider the following alarming dog bite statistics presented by the American Humane Association:

Dogsbite.org has the following statistics to contribute regarding dog bite fatalities:

In response to these injuries, states have enacted dog bite statutes and dog bite laws to prevent animals from being a hazard to the community. A dog bite statute usually imposes liability for injuries caused from a dog bite. A dog bite law usually imposes liability for any injury inflicted by a dog, whether the injury is caused from biting, tripping, or other conduct of the dog.

If you or a loved one has suffered dog bite injuries as a result of an accident, it is important to choose an attorney who thoroughly understands California’s laws and statutes regarding dog bite injuries. California Dog Bite Injury Lawyer Fernando D. Vargas has successfully represented clients who have suffered dog bite injuries. Attorney Vargas is an experienced trial lawyer who, since 1987, has effectively litigated thousands of personal injury cases throughout the Inland Empire and the counties of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino with an emphasis in the cities of Pomona, Rancho Cucamonga, Claremont, Montclair, Upland, Ontario, Chino, Fontana, Riverside, and San Bernardino. The Law Offices of Fernando D. Vargas, which is located in the city of Rancho Cucamonga, has recovered millions of dollars in personal injury verdicts and settlements for their clients.

Does California have a dog bite law or a dog bite statute?


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Does California have a dog bite law or a dog bite statute?

The State of California has enacted a dog bite statute to protect its citizens from vicious dogs. California’s dog bite statute imposes strict liability on the owner of a dog for any injuries the dog causes from biting. This statute puts the burden on the dog owner because the dog owner himself/herself is considered to be an insurer of the dog’s conduct. Therefore, responsible dog owners are expected to be vigilant in preventing their dogs from biting other people.

Under California’s dog bite statute, a dog owner may be held strictly liable for any dog bite injuries, even if the dog did not have a history of vicious behavior or biting. California Civil Code §3342 and §3342.5 are two statutes that apply to dog bite cases in California.


Liability Imposed by Local Ordinances (Negligence per Se)

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Liability Imposed by Local Ordinances (Negligence per Se)

In addition, some towns and cities in California have enacted their own laws to protect their citizens from dangerous animals. For example, the municipality of Beverly Hills has enacted a code that imposes strict liability on dog owners and some non-owners for any injuries the dog causes, not just dog bites, including injuries to property. In addition, Santa Monica has an ordinance requiring Pit Bulls to be muzzled when they are on public property. An injured person may be able to recover for injuries sustained due to a violation of a local ordinance through the theory of negligence per se.


Common Law Liability for Dog Bite Injuries based on Prior Knowledge

Common Law Liability for Dog Bite Injuries based on Prior Knowledge

Even though California has enacted a dog bite statute, a person may also be able to file a claim for dog bite injuries under the common law rule. For example, a trespasser may be prevented from recovering damages for dog bite injuries under a dog bite law or dog bite statute, but the trespasser may still be able to file a claim under common law.

Under common law, in order to hold the dog owner liable for a dog bite injury, the injured party had to establish that:

  1.  the dog had dangerous tendencies
  2.  the dog owner knew or should have known about the dog’s dangerous tendencies.

This was usually established by proving that the dog owner had some knowledge that the animal had previously injured a person in the same manner, such as a bite. Evidence establishing the dog’s propensity or tendency to bite could include:

  • Prior bites or attacks by the dog
  • Prior complaints to the dog owner regarding the dog
  • Prior verbal warnings by the dog owner about the dog’s dangerous propensities
  • Prior statements by the dog owner about the dog’s dangerous behavior or character
  • The dog’s tendency to snap or bite without being provoked
  • The dog’s tendency to bark or lunge at people
  • A “Beware of Dog” sign posted on the dog owner’s property
  • The size or breed of the dog (e.g., Pit Bull or Rottweiler)


Proving Liability through Negligence or Negligent Entrustment

Proving Liability through Negligence or Negligent Entrustment

Even if a dog has not violated any dog law/statute or shown any vicious tendencies, your California dog bite lawyer may be able to establish liability based on the traditional theory of negligence. To prove negligence, the injured person would have to show:

  • The dog owner or handler was unreasonably careless in handling or controlling the dog; and
  • A reasonable person would have foreseen the possibility of injury by the dog.

In addition, parents may be held liable for injuries caused by a dog left in the care of their child under the theory of negligent entrustment. In this situation, your dog bite lawyer will have to prove that it was unreasonable for the parents to entrust the dog to the care of their child because the child lacked the experience or judgment in handling or controlling the dog.


Liability for Landlords

Liability for Landlords

In some circumstances, a landlord may be liable for injuries caused by a tenant-owned dog. As a general rule in California, landlords do not have a duty to inspect the premises for the purpose of discovering the existence of a tenant’s dangerous animal. Only when the landlord has actual knowledge of the animal, coupled with the right to have it removed from the premises, does a duty of care arise. Therefore, if a tenant’s dog bites another person, the landlord could be liable for that person’s injuries if the landlord knew of the dog and its dangerous propensities.

In addition, a landlord may be liable for California dog bites if the landlord fails to control their property and the dog bites someone off their property. For example, if a dog escapes from the landlord’s property due to a defect on the property, the landlord may be liable for any dog bite injuries that occur off the property site.

To successfully recover damages against a landlord for dog bite injuries in California, you must prove the following two elements:

  1. The landlord knew of the dog being on premises of the property in which the
    landlord was renting to the owner of the dog; and
  2. The landlord knew of the dog’s dangerous propensities, which were the cause of the injuries.

Can a family member who witnesses the dog bite or dog mauling recover damages?

A family member who sees another family member attacked by a dog may also be entitled to recover compensation for emotional distress even though the eye witness family member was not bitten by the dog. Although these clients generally do not suffer a physical injury, their emotional injury may be severe. Such emotional distress may include mental anguish, fright, horror, nervousness, grief, anxiety, and worry. Serious emotional distress exists only if an ordinary, reasonable person would be unable to cope with it.

According to California Civil Jury Instructions 1621, to successfully litigate a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress (bystander injuries), you must prove:

  • The owner of the dog was negligent;
  • The family member was present at the scene of the injury when it occurred and was aware that the other family member was being attacked by the dog;
  • The family member suffered serious emotional distress; and
  • The dog owner’s conduct was a substantial factor in causing the family member’s serious emotional distress.


A dog bit me. What do I do?

A dog bit me. What do I do?

If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, you should do the following:

Seek medical attention

No matter how small the bite marks may be, if the dog’s teeth have punctured your skin you are at risk for getting an infection or worse. Seeking medical attention should be your first priority. If there is any risk that the dog has rabies, you should tell your doctor immediately because there is medical treatment that can help.

Identify the dog that bit you and dog’s owner

It is important for you to identify the dog that bit you and the owner of the dog. The identity of the dog’s owner is important because he/she may be the responsible party in a dog bite case. In addition, the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance may provide coverage for dog bite injuries.

Report the dog bite

The dog bite should be reported to the local county animal control agency or the sheriff’s department. In addition, you should report the dog owner’s name and address to the authorities. If the dog was a stray, you should describe the animal and the location of the attack.

Photographs

You’ve heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” This is definitely the case in a dog bite claim. Photographs of the bite marks immediately after the bite are critical to help capture the seriousness of the attack as well as the pain suffered by the victim. Photographs taken during your recovery process are also important to show the progress of your wounds healing, as well as the permanent nature of any scarring. In dog bite litigation cases, photographs are used to help establish the painful nature of the recovery as well as the severity of any disfigurement.

The Law Offices of Fernando D. Vargas uses the assistance of a professional photographer who will travel to the client’s home to capture these important images. Depending on the severity of the injuries, the photographer may travel to the client’s home on several occasions over a period of time.


Plastic Surgery Medical-Legal Evaluation

Plastic Surgery Medical-Legal Evaluation

In addition to seeking initial medical attention as mentioned earlier, it is important that the victim also be evaluated by a plastic surgeon. A plastic surgery medical-legal evaluation is vital in order to obtain a specific diagnosis concerning the type of scar and to describe its location, size, and dimensions. This medical-legal consult is important to identify all non-surgical and surgical options available concerning scar revision treatment, the costs of these treatments, the potential outcomes of these treatments regarding what effect, if any, they will have on minimizing the scarring, and the costs of these treatments. The costs of the available treatments must be included in any negotiations to help maximize settlement value.

The Law Offices of Fernando D. Vargas works with highly qualified and experienced plastic surgeons who perform scar revision surgeries on a lien. All costs of the scar revision procedure, including hospital costs, surgeon’s fees, and anesthesiologist’s fees, are placed on a lien. This means that the client who wants to undergo scar revision surgery in order to help minimize scaring can do so without having to pay any money up front for the procedures, and the costs are recovered in the client’s settlement.

Psychological Evaluation and Treatment

Sometimes in serious dog bite cases, the emotional injury is the most severe injury suffered by the victim, notwithstanding the fact that the scarring and disfigurement may be severe. In these types of cases, it may be necessary to refer the client for psychotherapy evaluation and treatment because the psychological component of the injuries may be the most severe and result in a loss of self confidence, loss of self worth, depression, anxiety, feelings of inferiority, feelings of insecurity, withdrawal, a loss of interest in socializing, an excess fear of animals, and an overall emotional injury that renders the client almost dysfunctional.

The Law Offices of Fernando D. Vargas works with highly qualified and experienced psychiatrists, psychologists, and other healthcare professionals to help evaluate and treat his clients.


Free Consultation!

If you or a loved one has suffered a dog bite injury due to the negligence of another, the Law Offices of Fernando D. Vargas can help. Mr. Vargas has the skill, expertise, and experience necessary to successfully litigate your dog bit injury case.

In addition, attorney Vargas has a team of experts that will work with him to prove your injuries and damages in order to fight the insurance companies and get you the maximum compensation you deserve. During your free consultation, Mr. Vargas will personally discuss the facts of your case, review the details about your injuries, and advise you about your rights.

Since 1987, California Dog Bite Injury Attorney Fernando D. Vargas has successfully litigated thousands of personal injury accident cases including dog bite injury claims throughout the Inland Empire and the counties of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino with an emphasis in the cities of Pomona, Rancho Cucamonga, Claremont, Montclair, Upland, Ontario, Chino, Fontana, Riverside, and San Bernardino.

No Recovery, No Fee!

Dog Bite injury cases can be expensive to litigate. However, the Law Offices of Fernando D. Vargas, which is located in the city of Rancho Cucamonga, takes all of the firm’s dog bite injury cases on a “contingency fee” basis. This means that you will pay nothing up front and Mr. Vargas will advance all money necessary to prepare your case for either settlement or trial. If Mr. Vargas is unsuccessful in resolving your case, you pay absolutely nothing. The Law Offices of Fernando D. Vargas, which is fully staffed with bi-lingual personnel that are fluent in Spanish, has successfully championed the rights of personal injury victims by wining millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for their clients since its foundation in 1995.

If you or a loved one has suffered a dog bite injury, it is vital that you consult with a reputable and experienced California Dog Bite Injury Trial Lawyer. Call the Law Offices of Fernando D. Vargas at 909 / 982-0707 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. If your injuries prevent you from coming to our Rancho Cucamonga office, we can arrange to visit you at your home or the hospital to ensure the timely investigation of your claim.

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