Strict Liability for Dog Bites in California – What You Need to Know

Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 1.54.52 PM.pngDogs can make great companions, but a dog bite can be a traumatic (or even fatal) injury event. Unfortunately, such events are not uncommon in California: as recently as 2014, the Los Angeles Times dubbed California the “dog bite capital” of the United States based on the number of insurance claims filed for dog bite-related injuries and losses.

In California, dog owners are held strictly liable for the injuries that these canine companions cause. This does not always mean that dog bite injury victims have an easy time recovering compensation, however.

What Does “Strict Liability” Mean?

In some states, dog owners are only held responsible for the injuries and harm caused by their dog if the owner “knows or has reason to know” of the dog’s vicious or destructive tendencies. In these states, dog owners are said to have “one free bite” before they are held legally responsible for dog bite injuries: this is because a dog owner generally does not have reason to know that his or her dog is aggressive until after the dog has attacked at least one person.

This is not the case in California: in other words, dog owners in California do not get “one free bite.” California law holds that the owner of a dog is held responsible for any harm or injury that the dog may cause, even if the dog has never attacked anyone previously and/or the dog owner has no reason to suspect his or her dog is vicious or aggressive.

Strict Liability Does Not Guarantee Recovery

This does not mean a person injured by a dog’s bite will automatically receive compensation for his or her injuries, however. A bite from a stray dog or a dog whose owner cannot be identified may not result in any compensation as there is no one who can be identified and held to account. Similarly, California’s strict liability dog bite laws will not allow compensation to be awarded to someone who antagonized the dog prior to the dog’s attack, including individuals who trespass on the private property of others.

When to Contact a California Dog Bite Lawyer

Many victims of dog bites are young children: dog bite attacks of children, or any dog bite to the face, neck, or other vulnerable area of the body should be treated at the local emergency room right away. As soon as possible, though, you and/or your loved one should contact Case Barnett Law for legal assistance and direction. Taking swift legal action after a dog bite helps ensure the dog responsible for your injuries – as well as the dog’s owner – can be promptly located. Case Barnett Law’s team of dedicated personal injury attorneys will also examine the attendant facts and circumstances of your case so that you can understand your rights and to what compensation you may be entitled.

Contact your Orange County dog bite lawyers today by calling Case Barnett Law at (949) 861-2990, or by completing the firm’s online contact form.

No Cell Phones While Driving in California

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In response to the dangers of distracted driving, several states have banned drivers from using cellphones or smartphones to read or send text messages or e-mails while driving. This year, California goes one step further than the rest of the nation: a statewide ban on using a cellphone or smartphone for any purpose while driving – whether to watch online videos, talk to a friend or loved one, or look at a map. This new law (California Vehicle Code 23123.5) requires drivers to put down the cellphone while driving and not use it for any reason unless they are able to do so without touching the phone.

Eliminating Distracted Driving Through Legislation

When one describes “distracted driving,” references are made to activities that take the driver’s eyes and/or attention off of the road. However, distracted driving can also include actions that prevent the driver from using his or her body to safely control the car – such as holding a cellphone with one hand while attempting to drive the cellphone with the other hand. For this reason, the new ban in California prevents any use of a cellphone that requires the driver to physically hold the cellphone. The driver may use a cellphone that is securely mounted to the dash of the car and are able to be used hands-free. Fines begin at $20 for a first offense and then increase for subsequent violations.

Distracted Driving Requires Aggressive Action

Despite educational efforts and public awareness campaigns designed to shed light on the dangers of distracting driving, many Californians and other Americans continue to use cellphones without regard for the danger they present themselves and to others on the roadway. According to DistractedDrivingAccidents.com:

  •      About 25 percent of all traffic crashes in the United States involve a driver using a cellphone at the time of the crash;
  •      Seventy-eight percent of all distracted-driving crashes result in at least one person involved suffering severe injuries;
  •      Seventy-seven percent of adults and 55 percent of teenagers claim that they can safely text while driving (but it was also determined that teens veer out of their lane of travel for approximately ten percent of their total drive time when they text and drive);
  •      Ten percent of adults and 20 percent of teenage drivers have had actual text conversations (involving multiple text messages sent and received) while driving. One quarter of all teenage drivers will respond to at least one text every single time they drive.

Legal Dangers of Texting While Driving

Aside from the physical danger a distracted driver presents to him- or herself and others, violating California’s new law can also lead to you being held civilly liable for the injuries, losses, and related expenses suffered by an individual with whom you collide.

For those who have been injured by a distracted driver, your Orange County car crash lawyers at Case Barnett Law stand ready to assist you in seeking compensation for your injuries. Call our office at (949) 861-2990, or reach out to us through our website, and we will get to work helping you obtain the monetary damages you need for your distracted driving accident-related injuries.