Irvine Dog Bite Lawyers
A dog attack can be an extremely traumatic experience for a victim as well as his or her family regardless of where and how it occurred. Not only does a dog attack have the potential to inflict severe physical damage in the form of injuries and scars, but it also causes significant psychological damage, irrespective of the victim's age. In addition, dog bite injuries could be costly to treat because most insurance providers do not cover cosmetic surgical procedures that are needed to mend dog bite scars.
If you have been attacked by a dog in Irvine or if you have suffered a severe dog bite injury, the experienced Irvine dog bite lawyers at Bisnar Chase can assist you with getting the compensation you need and rightfully deserve. We know that these devastating incidents can leave you with deep physical and psychological injuries. We will fight hard and advocate for your rights every step of the way.
How Prevalent Are Dog Bites?
There are about 70 million dogs in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the country. About 90,000 dog bite victims seek emergency medical care at U.S. hospitals each year and approximately 25,000 victims of dog bites undergo reconstructive surgery each year.
According to the website Dogsbite.org, in 2017, 39 people in the United States died from dog attacks. Pit bulls contributed to 74 percent of these deaths despite making up only 6.5 percent of the total U.S. dog population. During the 13-year period between 2005 and 2017, dogs killed 433 people nationwide. Two dog breeds – pit bulls and rottweilers, contributed to 76 percent of these deaths and 35 different dog breeds contributed to the remaining fatal dog attacks. German shepherds were responsible for the second highest death rate in 2017, inflicting four deaths.
Physical and Emotional Injuries in Dog Attacks
Since dogs have rounded teeth, the pressure exerted by their jaws can cause significant damage to the tissues and organs under the skin including the bones, muscles, tendons, blood vessels, and nerves. At the same time, dog bites may also result in serious emotional and psychological damage. Here are some of the common physical and emotional injuries victims suffer in dog attacks.
Dog bites often result in severe physical injuries including abrasions, lacerations, puncture wounds, tissue loss, crush injuries, fractured bones, sprains and scars. Victims of dog bites, particularly children, should be closely examined for facial injuries such as fractures and nerve damage. Death could also occur as a result of these bodily injuries. When a dog attack occurs, some of the physical injuries happen when the dog bites the victim, while others may result as the victim is pushed to the ground by the dog. So, it is important to remember that in addition to bite wounds and lacerations, victims may also suffer broken bones, skin abrasions, head trauma and back injuries as a result of making contact with the ground.
While injuries from dog bites can be treated, dog bite wounds that bleed often result in scars. It is tough to tell right away if the injuries will be disfiguring, disabling or painful. Some types of skin produce what are known as "keloid scars." This involves scar tissue that grows out of control producing raised, disfiguring scars. Small scars may fade away with time. Others may be fixed by procedures such as surgical excision, dermabrasion and pressure scar modification.
Surgeries may also be required after severe dog attacks. When portions of skin or flesh is missing because of the bite, surgeons may perform skin graft surgery by taking skin from another part of the body to cover up the exposed part. In some cases, surgeons may have to re-attach fingers or toes after a dog attack. There are also instances where doctors may have to amputate limbs due to the severe nature of the attack.
After a traumatic event such as a dog attack, a victim may not feel or behave normally for a significant amount of time. He or she may experience depression, nervousness or fear. The individual may also display changes in behavior such as taking risks and not getting along with friends and family. Dog bite victims may suffer from what is known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for months after the attack. It is important that victims get the treatment and counseling from a qualified mental health practitioner to help cope with this condition.
One of the most common psychological effects of a dog attack is the fear of dogs. Sometimes, victims – even those who had previously liked dogs or had termed themselves as dog lovers may develop a fear of dogs after being attacked. Such fears may interfere with relationships, friendships and quality of life. For example, some people are afraid to take walks or participate in other social activities after they are attacked, which could significantly affect their lifestyle.
Dog bite victims who have suffered a disfiguring injury may feel humiliated to go out in public. They might be extremely conscious about their scars, which could prevent them from having a social life. Disfigured victims may also have to endure stares, painful questions and face discrimination in the workplace.
Children, in particular, may be affected emotionally after a dog attack. They might show symptoms such as withdrawal, anger, fear and depression. For very young children typical reactions may include a fear of being separated from a parent, crying, clinging or trembling. Older children may show some withdrawal, disruptive behavior or lack of attention. Children may also have trouble sleeping or find it hard to stay focused in school. Teens may exhibit responses similar to adults. They may have flashbacks of the attack or nightmare and may even resort to substance abuse. There are treatments available for children who have suffered such emotional trauma. Art therapy can help young children. For older children, support from family and friends can be an important part of the recovery process. It's also important to remember that how parents respond to a traumatic event can strongly influence their children's ability to recover. For example, if a mother appears troubled or anxious, she may need to get counseling first in order to be able to help her child.
What to Do after an Irvine Dog Attack
There are a number of steps you would be well advised to take in the aftermath of a dog attack. Here are some of those measures:
- Identify the dog and its owner. If it's a stray and you are unable to identify it, you may need to get rabies shots, which could be painful. Also, when you know who the dog owner is, it is easier for you to file a claim against him or her seeking compensation for your injuries and damages. It is also good to know if the dog has been licensed or if it has displayed violent behavior in the past toward other dogs or toward humans.
- Take photographs of the injuries before you treat them. Preserve any type of physical evidence you have from the scene including the dog's collar, tags or torn or bloody clothing. You may also want to get contact information for anyone who may have witnessed the dog attack or may have even helped you or rescued you from the dog.
- Get prompt medical attention, treatment and care for your injuries. Dog bites may result in infections, which can even prove fatal. Nearly 1,000 people are treated in U.S. emergency rooms each day as a result of dog bites. If you have suffered facial injuries, be sure to request a plastic surgeon so you get the appropriate treatment and care. Make sure you are following the doctor's instructions. Take all prescribed medications as directed.
- File a report with your local Orange County animal control agency. Don't depend on the hospital or some other agency to report the incident for you. In Irvine, the Animal Services department is a part of the Irvine Police Department.
- File a police report with the Irvine Police Dept.
- If the dog owner is insured, you may get a call from his or her homeowner's insurance company, which typically covers dog attacks. If you get this call, it is important you get information including their name, office address, telephone number, email address, the claim number for your case, the name of the person who is insured and the amount of money that is available to pay for your medical expenses.
There are also certain mistakes that victims tend to commit in the aftermath of a dog bite incident. Here is how these may be avoided – Do not discuss money, settlement or the value of your case with anyone other than your Irvine personal injury lawyer. Do not write a letter, memo or provide any written statements about your case.
Don't allow the insurance company to record what you say. Any statements you make can and probably will be used against. Don't make admissions such as you may have been trespassing or that you may have unknowingly provoked the dog. Don't make any guesses or verbalize assumptions about the case. Don't discuss who is responsible and finally, do not accept any money or sign off on paperwork without consulting your injury lawyer.
California's Dog Bite Law
California has what is known as a "strict liability statute" when it comes to dog attacks. California’s Civil Code Section 3342 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."
This dog bite law essentially means that dog owners can be held financially responsible for the actions of their pets. The only exceptions may be when a person was bitten by a dog while trying to commit a crime or while trespassing or if the injured person abused or deliberately provoked the dog. The law also categorically states that the dog owner is liable regardless of whether the attack occurred on public or private property or whether the dog had a prior history of attacking others.
What Damages Can Victims Seek After a Dog Attack?
Dog bite injuries can have a devastating impact on the victim while taking an emotional and financial toll on the victim's family as well. The value or worth of your dog bite claim will likely depend on the nature of the attack, the severity of your injuries and the extent of liability of the dog owner. Victims of dog bites can seek compensation for economic losses such as medical expenses, lost wages, cost of hospitalization, surgery (including reconstructive procedures), rehabilitation services and psychological therapy. They may also seek compensation for non-economic losses such as physical pain and emotional suffering caused by the dog attack and injuries. If a victim of the attack dies from the injuries, family members may seek additional damages by filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
There may be several sources from which you may be able to receive compensation. Homeowner's insurance, and sometimes, even renter's insurance, may cover dog bite injuries. Please remember that the homeowner's and renter's insurance may also cover the dog bite injuries even if they occur outside the dog owner's property. If the dog owner has a personal umbrella liability policy, this could provide coverage over and above what the homeowner's policy provides.
An auto liability policy's coverage may apply if the dog bite occurred in the car. In some cases, dog owners may also have a separate policy that specifically provides coverage for dog attacks. In addition, if a person other than the dog's owner is liable for your dog bite injuries, their insurance could cover your injuries as well. Sometimes, a property owner who allowed a dangerous dog to remain on his or her premises could also face a premises liability lawsuit in connection with a dog bite incident.
Contacting an Experienced Irvine Dog Bite Lawyer
The Irvine dog bite lawyers at Bisnar Chase know and understand the physical, emotional and financial strain dog bite victims and their families are under. We will fight for your rights and help ensure that you are fairly and fully compensated for your losses. Please call us at 949-203-3814 for a free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.