Dogs are widely regarded as man’s best friend and are the most popular pets throughout the United States. While most Santa Monica area residents are fortunate to only have positive experiences with dogs, there is always a possibility for a dog to inflict severe injuries unexpectedly. If you or a family member recently suffered bites or other wounds from someone else’s dog, a Santa Monica dog bite attorney is an essential resource and asset as you determine your best options for recovering your damages.
Experienced Legal Representation for Dog Bite Cases in Santa Monica
McLachlan Law, APC, offers client-focused personal injury representation in Santa Monica for all types of claims, including those pertaining to dog attacks. If you were hurt by another person’s dog, California’s strict liability rule applies as long as you did not intentionally provoke the attack and you were legally present at the location where the attack occurred. Under the strict liability rule, the dog owner is fully liable for your damages, and the right attorney can ensure you hold them appropriately accountable.
Proving Liability for a Dog Attack in Santa Monica
Some states use a one-bite rule pertaining to dog attacks, essentially providing dog owners with one chance to address their pet’s aggression after it has harmed someone else. Under the one-bite rule, a dog owner cannot be held liable for the damage their pet causes the first time it bites someone else, as long as the dog owner was not negligent in their care and handling of the dog. However, after the first bite, the dog owner will be strictly liable for any future injuries the dog causes others.
California does not enforce any type of one-bite rule, instead using the strict liability rule for all dog attacks. This means it does not matter if a dog has a known history of aggression. The law assumes that if a dog bites someone, it is because the dog’s owner was negligent in their handling of the dog. The two prerequisites of strict liability for the victim are a legal presence at the location of the attack and a lack of provocation. This means the victim must not have done anything to provoke the attack, and they must have been legally present wherever the attack occurred.
Your Santa Monica dog bite attorney can assist you in proving strict liability for your dog attack. In most cases, this simply requires proving that you were lawfully present on public property or on private property with the property owner’s permission. The strict liability rule does not apply to trespassers or intruders. For example, if a person breaks into another person’s home and the homeowner’s dog attacks the intruder, the intruder will not have grounds for a civil claim against the homeowner because strict liability would not apply.
Potential Damages in a Dog Bite Case
A dog bite case is a form of personal injury claim. Once the victim has proven that strict liability applies to the dog owner, they have the right to seek accountability for all the economic losses suffered in the attack. This type of injury case may involve not only bite-related injuries but also broken bones, traumatic brain injury from being thrown to the ground, and a host of long-term or permanent complications. In addition to extensive medical care, the victim may also face a prolonged period of inability to work, and they could face extensive immediate and long-term financial losses because of the incident in question.
Under California’s personal injury laws, the victim of any personal injury has the right to seek full repayment of any and all economic damages caused by the defendant’s negligence or intentional misconduct. These are likely to include:
Property damage, if the attack also resulted in damage to any of the victim’s personal property, such as clothing, their smartphone, jewelry, or any other belongings damaged or destroyed in the attack.
Medical expenses. The plaintiff has the right to claim full compensation for their immediate and future medical treatment costs resulting from the attack. The plaintiff can seek repayment of immediate medical expenses like their hospital bills as well as any costs associated with necessary ongoing treatments and rehabilitation.
Lost income. If the dog attack you experienced resulted in severe injuries, you could be left unable to work for an extended time. The defendant would be liable for any income you are unable to earn because of your injuries, and if you suffered any permanent harm, they could be liable for lost future earning potential as well.
Aside from economic damages, state law also allows the plaintiff in a personal injury case to seek appropriate financial compensation for their pain and suffering. There is no limit on pain and suffering damages in dog bite cases under California law, so if the plaintiff suffered any catastrophic injuries resulting in permanent disability, their pain and suffering compensation could be the largest of all the various types of compensation they obtain from a successful civil claim.
When a plaintiff is expected to make a full recovery in the near future, their attorney may opt for a “per diem” pain and suffering calculation. This method entails a set compensation for every day the plaintiff spends recovering from their injury until they reach maximum medical improvement. Alternatively, the attorney may use the multiplier method if their client has suffered permanent damage of any kind. This would entail multiplying the plaintiff’s total economic damages by a factor of one to five to reflect the severity of their condition and the scope of the long-term damages they face.
How Do You Negotiate a Dog Bite Settlement?
The vast majority of all the personal injury claims filed in California each year end in a private settlement. For example, after filing your complaint against the owner of the dog that harmed you, a swift settlement process would allow both parties to resolve the case in question quickly with a mutually beneficial resolution. During settlement negotiations, the two parties review the details of the claim and the scope of the victim’s losses, and ideally, they are able to negotiate appropriate compensation for the victim.
Unfortunately, settlement may prove fruitless if the defendant denies responsibility for the plaintiff’s actions, if they dispute the range of damages sought by the plaintiff, or if they assert comparative fault. Under California’s pure comparative fault rule, a plaintiff may lose a percentage of their case award if they bear any partial responsibility for causing their damages. If comparative fault applies in any personal injury claim, the plaintiff loses a percentage of their case award equal to their percentage of fault for causing the damages in question. If a defendant asserts comparative fault, this could compel a case into litigation, and the judge would assign each party a fault percentage after a careful review of the facts of the case.
In the event a plaintiff is found partially liable for their claimed damages, they will receive a fault percentage. This percentage is then deducted from their final compensation. For example, in a $50,000 claim in which the plaintiff is 10% at fault, they would lose 10% of their case award or $5,000 to reflect their comparative negligence. Your Santa Monica dog bite attorney is the best asset you can have on your side if liability for your claimed damages is contested in any way.
What to Expect From Your Santa Monica Dog Bite Attorney
Experienced legal representation is an invaluable resource for any type of civil claim for damages in California. When you choose McLachlan Law, APC, as your legal counsel for a dog bite claim, our goal is to guide you to the best possible resolution to your case as efficiently as possible under state law. We will work to settle your case as quickly as possible if we can, but if settlement is not a viable option for any reason, we are fully prepared to represent you in litigation.
Our team will assist you in gathering the evidence you need to assert strict liability for your dog bite claim. We’ll help you prove that you were legally present at the location of the attack, and if there is any question as to whether you provoked the incident in any way, we can gather evidence and witness testimony, if available, to help you prove your case. When it comes to the scope of your claimable damages, we can work with your medical care team to ensure you receive full compensation for all medical expenses resulting from the incident, now and in the future. If you are unable to work for any length of time, we will ensure you receive fair compensation for the income you are unable to earn.
Ultimately, no attorney can ever promise a specific outcome to any client in any type of case, but when you choose McLachlan Law, APC, to represent your dog bite injury claim, we can ensure that you have a reliable legal advocate readily available to answer your questions and address your concerns as they arise through all stages of your personal injury case. If you are ready to pursue legal recourse against the owner of the dog that harmed you, contact us today to schedule a consultation with an experienced Santa Monica dog bite attorney.
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"Attorney Mike McLachlan, did such an awesome job for me and I feel like anyone who has Mr McLachlan representing them is completely in capable hands as well as fortunate. Between his knowledge, compassion for the law, he takes his time and listens to your concerns and answers all questions thoroughly (Even the ones you ask three times, with patience!) returns phone calls or emails on a timely manner as well. Mr McLachlan and his team was always there for me at every step during this long process."
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