Dogs are regarded as the most loyal and obedient pets of humans and they are generally well-behaved and friendly. In fact, most owners train their furry friends well. However, you can never predict the behavior of even the most tempered canine. Note that they are likely to snap and attack an innocent person under certain circumstances.
In such cases, the victims are likely to suffer from financial, physical, and emotional damages. In California, such dog bite victims can seek a fair dog bite settlement from the dog owners by filing a dog bite lawsuit against them. Thankfully, almost every dog attack attorney in California works on a contingency fee basis.
Claiming Punitive Damages for Dog Bites
In most personal injury cases including dog bites, the responsible party will be held liable for economic and non-economic damages. However, you can also claim punitive damages and punish the defendant for their grossly careless, reckless, and malicious behavior and not regarding the safety of others. Undoubtedly, seeking punitive damages is the best way to convey a clear message to the defendant as well as other people with similar recklessness that such behavior will never be tolerated. In this case, the victim can pursue additional compensation from the defendant for his/her willfully irresponsible and thoughtless behavior.
According to California civil code 3294, ‘if a victim can prove by clear and convincing evidence that a defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice, the plaintiff may recover damages for the sake of example and by way of punishing the defendant in addition to actual damages’. Note that the state law defines malice as the conduct of the defendant that is intended to cause harm to the plaintiff. So, a plaintiff will be eligible to claim for punitive damages against the defendant if the former can prove that the latter intended to cause an injury.
The most blatant cases when punitive damages are awarded in case of dog bites are when the owners order their pets to attack someone. In this case, malice is evident and the victim can easily obtain punitive damages from the dog owner. Another case when a dog bite victim is entitled to pursue punitive damages is when the dog has a history of bite cases and the owner chooses not to act and prevent further incidents.
Unlike the homeowners’ insurance that can be used to cover all type of dog bite damages, the owners shall not expect insurance coverage for punitive damages, since it is not an accident. Hence, one must think well before pursuing a punitive damage claim, especially if the dog owner does not have enough personal assets to provide compensation. Needless to mention, it will be a sheer waste of time, effort, and money at the end of the day.