There are very few experiences in life that are more terrifying than being attacked by a dog. Many times, these attacks result in serious injuries, both physical and emotional. A victim of a dog bite often requires medical care to treat these injuries, including possible infections and scarring. In some cases, the victim has to miss work to recover from the effects of the attack. After a dog bite, many questions arise concerning the rights of the victim. These questions may include:
- Who is responsible for the dog’s actions?
- What if the dog bite occurred while I was at the dog owner’s home?
- Who will pay for my medical treatment?
- What if the dog bite leaves a scar?
- Will I be compensated for the pain I suffered?
- Should I deal directly with the insurance company?
- How long will the process take?
- Why choose Brown & Gessell to represent you in the San Joaquin Valley?
The attorneys at Brown & Gessell have the answers to these questions and have the expertise to make sure you are treated fairly after a dog attack. The attorneys have handled many dog bite cases that have settled for hundreds of thousands of dollars. You can be almost certain that the owner of the dog will have an attorney representing his interest. It is important that you have someone on your side who is looking out for you. Call us now at (209) 430-5480.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
Who is responsible for the dog’s actions?
California law holds a dog owner liable for injuries to other people caused by his or her dog. A person injured by a dog does not have to show negligence on the part of a dog owner in order to recover for the harm caused by the dog. There are certain circumstances, however, which may limit or even eliminate the responsibility of a dog owner for the injuries caused by the dog. A dog owner’s responsibility may be limited if the victim was trespassing on the dog owner’s property or if the injured person was provoking the dog. In addition, someone other than the dog’s owner may be held responsible for the harm caused by a dog if the dog causes harm to another person while in that person’s custody and control. Finally, a business owner may be responsible for harm caused by a customer’s dog to another customer if the business owner allows a dog to be on the business property without ensuring the safety of the customers.
What if the dog bite occurred while I was at the dog owner’s home?
California law holds a dog owner liable for injuries to other people caused by his or her dog even when the dog bite occurs in the dog owner’s home or on the property. A person injured by a dog does not have to show negligence on the part of a dog owner in order to recover for the harm caused by the dog. As long as the victim is not trespassing and is not provoking the dog, the owner of the dog will be responsible for the harm caused.
Who will pay for my medical treatment?
There are several possible ways for a victim of a dog bite to pay for the medical treatment related to injuries sustained in a dog attack. These include:
- Private Health Insurance: Under most circumstances, a person’s private health insurance is required to cover the cost of treating injuries caused by an aggressive dog in accordance with the terms of the health insurance policy. Be aware, however, that a person who receives medical treatment paid by the health insurance company may be responsible for reimbursing that health insurance company for all or part of the cost of that treatment depending on the outcome of the personal injury lawsuit.
- Government Health Insurance: For those without private health insurance, the state or local government may have programs available to assist with the payment of medical bills caused by a vicious dog. Generally, those programs are reserved for children and those that have limited financial resources. Keep in mind that if a person receives government assistance in paying for medical bills, the person may be required to reimburse the government for all or part of the cost of medical treatment depending on the outcome of the personal injury lawsuit.
- MedPay: Often times, a homeowner’s insurance policy of a dog owner may have “MedPay” coverage which allows for a pre-determined amount of money to be available for the treatment of injuries sustained in a dog attack. This coverage is usually available immediately after the incident and does not apply based on the fault of the respective individuals involved.
- Medical Lien: In some circumstances, a medical provider or financing company may be willing to provide or pay for medical treatment as needed by the patient and wait for the payment for those services until the conclusion of the personal injury lawsuit. In these situations, the victim of a dog bite promises to pay for the medical services out of the recovery obtained in the personal injury lawsuit.
- Out-Of-Pocket: The final option is the payment of medical treatment by the victim. It is not uncommon for the victim of a dog attack to pay for at least part of the cost of medical treatment. This often comes in the form of co-payments of medical services or prescription medication. It is very important that the victim of a dog attack keep all receipts and other proof of out-of-pocket expenses to ensure reimbursement.
What if the dog bite leaves a scar?
Unfortunately, there is a high probability that a dog bite will leave a scar in the affected area because of the violent nature of dog bites and the likelihood of infection. The victim of a dog bite has the right to be compensated for the disfigurement caused by a resulting scar. The amount of money required to compensate the victim will depend on many factors such as the size and visibility of the scar, the location of the scar and the age and gender of the person affected. In addition, the victim of a dog bite is entitled to medical treatment that may reduce the visibility or size of the scar. The treatment options include the application of topical creams, laser treatment and scar revision surgery. The owner of the dog is responsible to pay for any treatment needed to reduce the visibility or size of the scar. It is important to take pictures of the dog bite on the day that it occurs and weekly thereafter to show the healing process. If a scar remains after healing, it may be necessary to consult with a dermatologist or plastic surgeon to discuss treatment options. The attorneys at Brown & Gessell can help you with the process of receiving compensation for each and every harm you have suffered because of the dog bite incident.
Will I be compensated for the pain I suffered?
Yes. In almost all cases, the victim of a dog attack is entitled to compensation for the pain, suffering and inconvenience caused by the aggressive dog. There is no set formula for determining how much a victim should or will receive for pain and suffering. There are, however, many factors that may influence the amount that a victim will receive including: the extent of the injuries, the duration of the injuries, the amount of medical care required to treat the injuries, the impact the injuries have on the life of the victim, the frequency, duration and intensity of the pain and the condition of the victim prior to the subject incident. In the end, if the victim and dog owner are not able to reach a settlement, a jury will be required to weigh all of the evidence and determine how much money will fairly compensate the victim for the pain, suffering and inconvenience caused by the incident.
Should I deal directly with the insurance company?
No. The insurance company has only one goal: to keep its money. It does this by limiting the amount of money it has to pay to people injured by the negligence of its clients. The insurance company has hired professional adjusters and defense attorneys to help it accomplish this goal. Most dog bite injuries are covered by the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy or their renter’s insurance policy. You should not talk directly to the insurance company or sign anything from the insurance company until you have consulted with an attorney. To protect yourself and ensure that you are treated fairly, it is important that you have someone on your side that has experience both in the legal field and in dealing with insurance companies. By hiring an attorney to assist you with your case, you can focus on getting better and leave the complex process of dog bite litigation to an expert.
How long will the process take?
This is a very difficult question to answer because the duration of a particular case depends on many different variables. The average case takes between six months and one year to resolve. Smaller, less complex cases can resolve in as little as three months while complex cases that go to trial can take as long as three or four years. Some of the variables that may affect the length of a case are: the extent of the injuries, how long a victim takes to recover from the injuries, the amount of insurance available and which insurance company is handling the claim.
Why choose Brown & Gessell to represent you in the San Joaquin Valley?
Brown & Gessell is located in Stockton, the County Seat of San Joaquin County, and central to the San Joaquin Valley. The partners at Brown & Gessell are uniquely qualified to handle your case here in Stockton because they are intimately familiar with the City of Stockton, its courts, its judges and staff, the local attorneys and with the people that will make up the jury who may hear and decide your case. Douglas A. Gessell was raised in San Joaquin County, and Steven L. Brown has raised his family for the last 20 years in the County. Mr. Gessell has attended school and church in Stockton and has worked for the Stockton Unified School District as well as several local businesses. He has been representing accident victims in Stockton for the past 12 years. Mr. Brown is the past President and a member of the Board of Directors of the San Joaquin County Bar Association and a past member of the American Inn of Courts. Prior to representing injured individuals, he represented hospitals and doctors throughout the Central Valley. Their familiarity with the streets, highways, waterways, courts, hospitals and neighborhoods allows them very personal insight into the area where your case arose. Start your case with an advantage.