Statute of Limitations for Dog Bite Lawsuits in California

Dog attacks inflict severe injuries like nerve damage, scarring, internal bleeding and facial lacerations, often leaving victims and their families burdened both physically and emotionally. Despite the severity of these injuries, victims frequently encounter legal hurdles in pursuing compensation. Legal limitations can jeopardize your chances of securing the financial assistance you are entitled to receive.

With approximately 4.5 million dog bite injuries occurring annually in the United States, it’s important not to underestimate the gravity of this issue. If you’ve sustained injuries in a dog attack, promptly consulting with a California dog attack attorney is crucial.

Additionally, understanding the statute of limitations for dog bite lawsuits in California is vital for securing the rightful compensation you deserve.

Understanding the statute of limitations

In legal terms, a statute of limitations dictates the timeframe for initiating a lawsuit. The duration of this timeframe varies depending on the nature of the case and the jurisdiction involved. Typically falling between two to four years, statutes of limitations are specific laws governing the period for legal action. 

For instance, in personal injury cases such as dog bite incidents, the injured party must file a claim within a designated period from the accident or injury, typically ranging from 2 to 4 years in most states. It’s very important to note that if the full extent of the injuries isn’t immediately apparent, the countdown to file a claim starts when the injury becomes evident. 

Understanding these limitations is of utmost priority when considering legal action, ensuring that one adheres to the prescribed timelines set forth by law.

How statutes of limitations apply to dog bite lawsuits?

In California, the same statutes of limitations that apply to other serious personal injury cases govern dog bite cases. According to the CA Code of Civil Procedure section 335-349.4, plaintiffs generally have two years from the incident date to file a personal injury case against a defendant in court. This means you must take legal action within two years of the bite.

Therefore, if you are a dog bite victim, you must promptly seek legal advice to ensure you meet the necessary deadlines for filing your claims.

California's dog bite laws

As outlined in the California Civil Code §3342, California’s dog bite laws hold dog owners accountable for injuries resulting from dog bites. The law mandates that owners are responsible for all injuries caused by their dogs biting individuals in public places or lawfully in private places.

California's strict liability rule for dog bites

California law regarding dog bites follows a strict liability principle. Under this rule, the injured party does not need to prove negligence on the owner’s part to seek compensation. Simply owning the dog is enough to establish liability. However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as if the victim was trespassing, provoked the dog or was performing a paid service at the time of the incident.

It’s important to note that each dog bite case is unique, and exceptions may apply depending on the circumstances. Nonetheless, California’s strict liability approach ensures that victims are protected and can seek recourse for their injuries without the burden of proving fault.

What is the "one-bite rule" and its implications for dog bite cases?

The “one-bite rule” holds dog owners liable for injuries their pets cause if the owner knew or should have known about the dog’s dangerous tendencies. This rule derives its name from the pivotal evidence in dog bite cases: if a dog has previously bitten someone, it alerts the owner to the dog’s potential danger. As a result, the owner must take preventive measures to avoid future incidents.

Unlike strict liability laws, which hold owners accountable regardless of precautions taken, the one-bite rule requires proof of wrongdoing on the owner’s part. While California’s dog bite laws primarily emphasize strict liability, the one-bite rule still holds significance in certain scenarios, providing avenues for compensation in dog bite cases where strict liability may not directly apply. For instance, it is highly relevant when the victim is a trespasser or engaged in high-risk occupations like veterinary work. Even if strict liability doesn’t apply, a prior bite can establish the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s danger, potentially leading to liability under negligence claims.

Can you sue for a minor dog bite in California?

Whether the bite appears minor or not, in California you have the right to pursue legal action to recover damages caused by the incident. The owner is liable for any damages, even if the bite seems minor or has not appeared to cause much bleeding or tissue damage.

If you’ve been bitten by a dog and suffered damages, you have legal grounds to seek compensation from the owner. However, one must reasonably expect to note that the court will assess the severity of the bite to determine the appropriate compensation.

Exceptions to the statute of limitations for dog bite lawsuits

Exceptions to the statute of limitations for dog bite lawsuits provide avenues for victims seeking legal recourse. Minors under 18 have until their 20th birthday to file a claim, extending the statutory period. If the victim was unaware of the injury right away or if they were physically or mentally unable to take legal action immediately, the timeframe to file a lawsuit might be extended. However, certain scenarios, such as trespassing, provocation or injuries sustained while performing paid services, may exempt the dog owner from liability. It’s crucial to recognize that each case is unique, necessitating careful consideration of applicable norms and exceptions.

Proving liability: Is it a common legal challenge in a dog bite injury case?

Proving Liability common legal challenge in a dog bite injury case

You may find it challenging to establish liability for the resulting injuries when a dog bite occurs. Here’s a closer look at the key challenges involved:

  • Limited evidence often complicates matters, as these incidents typically happen unexpectedly, leaving little concrete proof to support your claim. Without witnesses or clear documentation, proving liability becomes difficult.
  • Moreover, dog owners may dispute their responsibility, arguing that their pet was not aggressive or that you provoked the attack. To overcome this, you’ll need to conduct a thorough investigation and present compelling evidence demonstrating negligence or the dog’s behavior as the cause of your injury.
  • Additionally, even if you establish liability, you may face constraints due to insufficient insurance coverage, hindering your compensation for medical expenses and suffering. California’s comparative negligence system further complicates matters, as it could reduce your compensation if your actions contributed to the incident.

Despite the challenges, obtaining compensation is possible with diligence and expert support. By working with skilled personal injury attorneys, you can pursue justice and hold negligent dog owners accountable for the harm caused by their pets.

Steps to take after a dog bite incident

Experiencing a dog bite can be alarming, but knowing what to do next is critical for your health and safety and for defending your legal rights. Here are the steps to take after such an incident:

  1. No matter how small the bite seems, seeking medical attention is mandatory. Even minor bites can lead to infections, so get the necessary care quickly.
  2. Take photos of the bite wounds and keep records of any medical treatments you receive. This documentation will help in your recovery and any legal matters that may arise.
  3. Contact your local animal control or law enforcement agency to report the incident. This ensures that you take appropriate measures to prevent similar incidents from happening to others.
  4. Gather information about the dog, its owner (if known) and any witnesses to the incident. This information will be valuable for any potential legal proceedings.

Why should you take action promptly?

Acting promptly is necessary to handle personal injury claims, particularly bite injuries. The statute of limitations imposes a limited timeframe within which you must take legal action. Failure to adhere to this deadline results in forfeiture of the right to pursue damages for the injury.

Seeking legal representation

Experienced attorneys understand how to quantify damages accurately, ensuring that you receive maximum compensation for your loss. They can help you focus on your recovery while handling all communications and legal proceedings. They will guide you through every stage of the legal process, providing personalized advice and strategic counsel tailored to the circumstances of your case. This ensures you make informed decisions and understand your rights throughout the proceedings.

Personal injury lawyers have access to a network of resources, including medical experts, investigators and expert witnesses, which can strengthen your case and enhance your chances of success.

Contact Nordean Law for assistance with dog bite claims

california dog bite lawyer

If you or a loved one has been injured in a dog bite incident, seeking legal representation from Nordean Law can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. With a proven track record of success in handling personal injury claims, our personal injury lawyer Sam Nordean is committed to providing compassionate support and aggressive advocacy for our clients. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your legal options and learn how we can help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

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Author Bio

Samuel ‘Sam’ Nordean is a founding partner of Nordean Law, APC. He is passionate about standing up for people who struggle with accidental injuries and mistreatment from insurance companies. He holds Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science degrees in Biochemistry from Portland State University. He then earned his Juris Doctor degree from Chapman University School of Law. Sam started Nordean Law to commit to helping people who cannot fight for themselves. His strengths are in representing victims in car accidents, fatal accidents, negligence cases and liability accidents.

Picture of Author Bio
Author Bio

Samuel ‘Sam’ Nordean is a founding partner of Nordean Law, APC. He is passionate about standing up for people who struggle with accidental injuries and mistreatment from insurance companies. He holds Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science degrees in Biochemistry from Portland State University. He then earned his Juris Doctor degree from Chapman University School of Law. Sam started Nordean Law to commit to helping people who cannot fight for themselves. His strengths are in representing victims in car accidents, fatal accidents, negligence cases and liability accidents.

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