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I've been bitten by a dog: What now?

Suffering a dog attack can be a traumatic experience that leaves you with both physical and emotional scars. Fortunately, you do not have to suffer dog bite injuries in silence. If you have been bitten by a dog, you have the right to take legal action through the civil court system in California.

First steps

Once you have experienced a dog attack, seeking medical attention right away is most likely paramount for your health. If you choose not to receive treatment, your dog bite may end up causing you serious injury and infection, and you may even be at risk of death if the dog that bit you had a disease.

After you have undergone a medical evaluation, you can write down detailed information regarding the circumstances surrounding the dog bite. This information may include the contact information and name of the owner of the dog, which a neighbor in the area might know if you do not have this information. It can also be helpful to get the names and phone numbers of any witnesses as well.


California is a strict liability state when it comes to the owners of dogs that bite other people. Under the strict liability theory, the owner of the dog that attacked you is liable, or legally responsible, for the dog bite. This is true whether or not he or she attempted to protect you and others from being attacked. Even if the dog owner did not have a reason to believe that the dog was dangerous, the owner will still be legally responsible for your injuries that resulted from the incident.


Based on the severity of your dog bite injuries, you might be able to recover for lost wages, medical expenses, and even pain and suffering. In some situations, you might also receive an award of punitive damages, which punish people for their behavior and are awarded in cases of egregious fault.

In the situation of a punitive damage award, the court must determine that the dog owner's conduct was not just negligent but rather was intentional or reckless. For instance, perhaps the dog owner knew that the dog was dangerous but did nothing to contain it.

If you have been bitten by a dog, contacting an attorney right away could be a critical step toward protecting your best interests. It is best to avoid talking with anybody else about the dog attack, including an insurance company representative or even the dog owner. A knowledgeable attorney in California can tell you if you have a claim as well as what damages you are likely to recover.

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