If Iwas attacked by a dog but not bitten, can I sue the dog owner for being negligent?

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If Iwas attacked by a dog but not bitten, can I sue the dog owner for being negligent?

I was out for a walk the other evening. While I was returning home I was attacked by a bulldog. I managed to avoid being bitten by moving fast and using my walking stick to defend myself. However I am outraged that the dog owner did not have his dog under control and that this could happen. What legal recourse do I have in this matter? Can the dog owner be prosecuted? If not there is something terribly wrong here. I was extremely lucky to escape this attack with very minor injuries.

Asked on September 5, 2010 under Personal Injury, California

Answers:

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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

You can sue the dog owner for negligence.  Negligence is the failure to exercise due care (that degree of care that a reasonable person would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances to prevent foreseeable harm).  The dog owner's failure to control his dog constituted negligence because it was foreseeable that the dog would attack someone.

In addition to a cause of action (claim) for negligence in your lawsuit, you may be able to include an additional cause of action for strict liability.  Strict liability is applicable in dog bite cases and means that even if due care was exercised, the dog owner is liable because the harm (attack) was foreseeable.  Strict liability in a dog bite case is only applicable if this was NOT the first incident in which this dog had attacked someone.  If your particular incident was the first time the dog had attacked someone, then strict liability is NOT applicable.

Prior to filing your lawsuit, if the dog owner has an insurance policy that would be applicable to this situation, try to negotiate a settlement with the insurance carrier.  If you are dissatisfied with settlement offers from the insurance carrier, file your lawsuit against the dog owner.  If the case is settled, no lawsuit is filed.  If the case is not settled, you will need to file your lawsuit prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations or you will lose your rights forever in the matter.  California has a two year statute of limitations in personal injury cases.


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