My son was walking home from school and was attacked by a pit bull. No significant injuries. Can we still sue?

My son was walking on the sidewalk on the way
home. A pit bull ran out of the front yard where it was
standing with its owners and began biting him. The
owner, an adult female, yelled at the dog to stop But
did not intervene. A child attempted to step Between
my son and the dog but itnpushed past her and
continued to attack. finally someone pulled the dog
off him. Thanks to his jacket then bites did not
puncture his skin but it left significant bruising where
he was bit. Neighbors witnessed the incident, police
report filed. Animal control said we could sue for
emotional distress and injuries. Is this accurate? Not
really interested in the money but the animal owner
did nothing to stop the attack and animal control isn’t
taking the dog. My son is terrified to walk home now
because of this. To take another route is going to add
a significant amount of time to his walk.

Asked on January 21, 2018 under Personal Injury, California

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

Your son should receive medical treatment for the bruises and should see a psychiatrist or psychologist for treatment of emotional distress.
When your son completes his medical treatment and is released by the doctor and psychiatrist / psychologist, obtain his medical bills and medical reports.  Compensation for the medical bills is straight reimbursement.  The medical reports document his injuries and are used to determine compensation for pain and suffering, which is an amount in addition to the medical bills.
If the dog owner continues to be uncooperative and won't provide her homeowner's insurance information, your only recourse is to sue the dog owner for negligence.  Negligence is the failure to exercise due care (that degree of care that a reasonable dog owner would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances to prevent foreseeable harm).  Negligence is applicable here regarding your son's physical injuries and his psychological injury (negligent infliction of emotional distress).
If the dog does not have a history of biting, negligence would be the only cause of action (claim) in the lawsuit.  If the dog has a history of biting, a second cause of action, strict liability, should be included in the lawsuit.  Strict liability imposes liability whether or not due care was exercised.
In order to file a lawsuit on behalf of your son against the dog owner, you will need to be appointed guardian ad litem because your son is a minor.
If the case is NOT settled, the lawsuit on behalf of your son must be filed prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations or your son will lose his rights forever in the matter.


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