Punitive Damages Dog Bite Lawsuit in CA

As per the statistics released by State Farm Insurance, California has the highest number of dog bite claims in the country. Most of the time the dog bites are not very severe and don’t require any hospitalization or medical treatment.

However, many times the dog bite attack is very serious, requiring extensive medical treatment and care. In some instances, the dog bite victims are left with permanent scarring and disfigurement.

As a victim of a dog bite or attack an individual is unaware if there is any available recourse to compensate them for their injuries and damages. In California, a dog bite victim can claim compensation from the dog owner or liable party for the losses and damages suffered.

California Dog bite law

As per Section 3342 under California Civil Code, dog owners are strictly liable for any injuries suffered in dog bite cases. What is strict liability? Strict liability means that in case of a dog bite attack, the dog owner can be held liable even if the owner was unaware of the dog having any violent or aggressive tendencies.

The legal statute is applicable to almost every individual injured in a dog bite or attack, though there are few exceptions for the same.

  • If the person bitten by the dog provoked it by teasing, taunting, or hitting it, in such cases the person may not be awarded compensation.
  • If the person was trespassing a private property then they are not eligible to receive compensation. To be able to recover damages for a dog bite, the victim should be lawfully present on private property or bitten on public property.

What types of damages can be recovered in a California Dog Bite Case?

A victim of a dog bite in California can seek compensation from the dog owner or responsible party. The victim can seek damages by filing a personal injury case, the damages can be classified as compensatory or punitive.

Compensatory damages compensate the dog bite victim for the property damage, monetary losses and pain suffered. The compensatory damages are further classified as:

  • Special damages or economic damages: 

The amount of money the victim had to spend for the injuries suffered are covered under economic damages. Special damages or economic damages cover the present and future medical costs, loss of wages or loss of job due to injury, reduced earning capacity due to disability and any other financial expenses sustained due to the dog bite injury or attack.

  • General damages or non-economic damages:

The losses or sufferings that are not related to money can be compensated through non-economic damages. The damages for pain and mental anguish suffered in the dog bite attack are covered under the general damages.

We cannot determine the monetary value for the mental suffering or trauma, hence a multiplier method is used to determine the amount of non-economic damages. The amount of special damages is arrived at by multiplying a number between 1.5 and 5 depending on the circumstances and severity of the attack.

Contrasting to compensatory damages, punitive damages in a dog bite case are levied for punishing the defendant for their negligence or unacceptable behavior. Punitive damages are aimed to deter the defendant or the dog owner from making similar mistakes in future.

Several states have placed restrictions or capped the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded in a personal injury case.

Claim for Punitive Damages for a dog bite in California

In California, a dog bite victim can recover punitive damages from the dog owner under certain circumstances. The California state Dog bite law permits awarding of punitive damages in a personal injury case if the plaintiff can prove that the defendant acted with cruelty, deception, or malice.

Punitive damages in case of dog bite attack may be awarded if it is proved that the owner ordered the dog to attack or if the dog had shown aggressive or violent behavior but the owner overlooked and took no measures to prevent an attack. If punitive damages are awarded, the homeowner’s insurance can cover the damages to be paid.

California does not have a cap or restriction on the amount of punitive damages awarded but there are safeguards in place to prevent awarding damages that are way higher than the actual harm suffered by the plaintiff. The plaintiff needs to provide clear and convincing evidence depicting the wrongful behavior of the defendant.

The punitive damages awarded needs to have a reasonable relationship to the other damages in the case. Generally, a ratio of less than 10:1 is used to determine the punitive damages. For example, if the plaintiff incurred $5,000 in actual damages, then the punitive damages cannot generally exceed $50,000.

Have you been bitten? Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer in California

Dog bite cases may look straightforward but they are not. The insurance company providing homeowner’s insurance to the dog owner will get involved in the case and try to reduce the amount of compensation to be paid. In such instances hiring an experienced personal injury attorney who specializes in dog bite cases can be very helpful.

If you or your family member has been bitten or attacked by a dog and have sustained serious injuries, contact our team of experienced personal injury lawyers at Khashan Law Firm. We will represent you and ensure you receive just compensation from the insurance company or the liable party. Contact us at 951.461.2387 for a confidential and free consultation.