Dog bites and other canine bites could be very dangerous, especially if kids are the victims. As California’s dog bite statute suggests, the dog owner is responsible for the injuries caused up by the pet. This law holds even if the dog shows no signs of aggression before the incident. In cases when the dog is known to be aggressive, yet the owner refused to take appropriate protection measures, you might be able to claim punitive damages. It is advisable to approach a dog bite attorney in the event of a dog bite. Below is a discussion of the California dog bite law and the eligibility to claim punitive damages.
California Dog Bite Law
California comes under the category of “strict liability” state. This indicates that the owner would be adjudged liable for their dog’s lethal behavior even if the animal has never shown aggressive behavior before the attack.
California Civil Code §3342 is referred to as California’s “dog bite law.” In this statute, the owner is adjudged liable for the injuries caused by their dog. This remains true provided that the victim was not trespassing the property where the event occurred. Dogs that do not come under the range of these laws include the ones on duty for military and law enforcement, dogs that bite after provocation by anyone above the age of 5, and those which inflict injuries other than a bite. Note that even if the conditions of your case are not included under the dog bite statute, you could still be eligible for compensation, as per the state’s negligence laws.
Types of Damages in a California Dog Bite Case
Damages under personal injury cases can be categorized into punitive or compensatory. Compensatory damages include the compensation provided to the victims for the pain and suffering as well as monetary losses incurred by the accident. It is further divided into two more categories:
• Special damages: this includes the money that the defendant had to spend. Further, special damages include lost wages during recovery time from work, expected and outstanding medical costs, damaged earning capacity due to injury, and any other financial losses or expenses caused by the injury.
• General damages: this is also known as non-economic damages. These are hardships or losses that are unrelated to money. This includes pain and suffering from mental stress. Since there are no exact figures associated with general damages, these are found out using the multiplier method. The total figure of special damages is multiplied with a number between 1 and 1.5 according to the situation. For instance, a comparatively minor injury which needs a short recovery time will be multiplied with a factor of 1.5. Meanwhile, a life-threatening dog attack which puts a child on life support may use a multiplication factor of 4 or 5.
In contrast to compensatory damages, punitive damages are meant to penalize the defendant for their negligent or morally negative behavior and to discourage them from taking such actions in the future. As a result of the business pressure and cases of juries allowing huge sums to plaintiffs, there are limitations on the amount of punitive damage that could be offered in a personal injury case.
Punitive Damages for Dog Bite Lawsuits in California
California State allows dog bite victims to collect punitive damages under specific situations. The state laws allow punitive damages in a personal injury case if the plaintiff is able to show that the defendant took actions with malice, fraud, and oppression. Under the dog bite laws, the punitive damages are awarded if the owner gives orders to the dog to carry out the attack. It is also available if the dog has already been aggressive in the past and the owner has still not taken care to prevent future attacks. Homeowners insurance does not cover punitive damages arising from a dog bite lawsuit.
California might not have any cap on punitive damages. There are certain safeguards established to prevent punitive damage awards that far exceed the original harm experienced by the plaintiff. The law needs the plaintiff to offer convincing and clear evidence of wrongful behavior. Further, punitive damages awarded should have a reasonable relationship to the other injuries and losses under the case. This works by following a ratio of less than 10:1. For instance, if the plaintiff suffers $10,000 worth of losses, the punitive damages expectations should not cross $100,000. Besides, the financial abilities of the defendant are assessed while providing punitive damages. Typically, California homeowners that are involved in dog bite lawsuits may not have the ability to pay off a huge amount in punitive damages.
It is advisable to consult a reputed dog bite lawyer in your area before you proceed legally. Majority of them offer a free consultation when you can clear all your doubts regarding the case and then proceed further with the case.