If your dog bites someone in the state of California, it is your responsibility to pay for any damages. Therefore, as the dog owner, you are legally responsible for any injuries a person sustains. You are also responsible for reimbursing those suffering for the following:

  • medical bills
  • lost income
  • pain and suffering
  • property damage

If your dog has injured someone before, you may also be liable for:

  • double or triple damages
  • punitive damages (damages meant to punish you for misconduct)

Medical Bills

The most obvious of expenses for those who suffer from injuries because of a dog bite, are medical bills. Medical bills include all costs that resulted in the injury. These bills include the following:

  • doctor’s bills
    • this includes specialists such as plastic surgeons, etc.
  • hospitals services
  • medications
  • physical therapy
  • counseling/psychiatrist

If the injuries someone sustains due to the dog bite are substantial and it aggravates a victim’s pre-existing condition, the final amount of compensation they will be due will be more than expected.

“The common legal rule is that if you hurt someone, you are responsible for all injuries that flow from your action, even if those injuries are made worse by an underlying issue the victim already suffers from.”

Loss of Income

If your dog injures someone and they must take time off of work, for medical reasons, treatment, recovery, etc. you, as the owner are responsible for reimbursing the victim’s lost income. If the injuries impair the victim’s ability to work in the future, you may be responsible for compensating them as such.

Pain and Suffering

Though it is very difficult to put a number on the pain and suffering of those who are suffering, their pain is very real. Some states have a limit on the amount that can be awarded to those who are seeking compensation for pain and suffering.

Here are some factors that affect how a victim receives a pain and suffering settlement:

  • If an injury was caused by an unprovoked attack, a sympathetic jury is likely to award more money to a victim. The same will go for injuries by breeds that are dangerous or vicious.
  • A common way to get a reliable figure for pain and suffering is to multiply the amount of medical damages by two or four.
  • A child is more likely to suffer more from a dog attack then an adult is. The child is more likely to become terrified of dogs and suffer from nightmares.
  • If did not receive their vaccinations for rabies, the person it bit will be spending more time waiting for results of their rabies test. The animal will be put in quarantine for 10 days. Therefore, a jury may be motivated to give the victim adequate compensation for their pain and suffering.

Punitive Damages

As an owner, it is your responsibility to make sure that everyone is safe around your animal. If you conduct yourself in such a way that puts others in danger of your dog, you may have to pay an extra amount. An amount over and above the amount that the victim needs. A jury is free to base punitive damages on the wealth of the owner of the dog. For example, to make a big company feel “pain” it must be stung with a bigger verdict than against an average person.

Liability Insurance

In many instances, the insurance company will take the burden of paying for any damages. Most people have coverage with their homeowners or renter’s insurance. In 2003, about one-fourth of all homeowner’s insurance policies included dog bites.

Homeowner’s Insurance

A standard homeowner’s insurance policy covers legal liability the owner insures as a result of any negligence. The typical homeowner’s insurance policy provides about $100,000 to $300,000 worth or liability coverage; the larger amount usually being the most common.

Insurance companies have a “one-bite rule.” That is, a company will pay for the first occurrence, but will then either cancel your insurance policy or add a “canine exclusion” into your policy. This means, anytime a dog bites after the first time, the owner picks up the tab.

It is true that most companies will refuse to cover certain breeds. These breeds include: pit bulls, Dobermans, Rottweilers, chow-chow’s, etc. The more aggressive breeds.

Special Liability for Your Dog

If you really need liability insurance for your dog, it is available. You usually will need this because your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance will not cover your dog. Reasons for needing separate insurance for your pet include:

  • You have one of the dogs that your insurance company will not cover
  • The dog has been deemed “dangerous” or “vicious” by animal control
  • Your dog has bitten someone in the past

All of these and more are red flags to an insurance company. Therefore, you may need to seek coverage elsewhere. Seeking coverage from a specialty company, which is likely to charge you $1,000-$1,500 a year for a policy that will provide $100,000 of coverage.

Insurance Company and Their Duty to Pay

It is very difficult for a policy holder who has a claim against them to get money out of insurance companies. If you are suffering from injuries due to a dog bite, please do not hesitate to contact our office. Consultations are free.