Dog on beach

The United States loves its pups, with 69 million households saying they have dogs in the family, according to the American Pet Products Association.

And, while there are no bad dogs, any interaction with an animal comes with inherent risks.

In fact, nearly one in every five people bitten by a dog requires medical attention, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Any dog can bite especially when scared, nervous, eating, or when playing or protecting toys or puppies,” according to the CDC. “Dogs may also bite when they aren’t feeling well and want to be left alone.”

Dog bite responsibility

Even if your dog has not shown aggression in the past, California law states that if your dog bites someone in a public place or while the person is legally in a private place (such as your home), you are liable for any damages.

Because the consequences can be expensive — the average claim in the state in 2020 was over $64,000, according to the Insurance Information Institute — it’s important to protect yourself from expensive litigation.

“Dog owners should absolutely talk to their insurance broker and make sure that they are adequately covered,” said Jessica Phillips, partner with local law firm Maho Prentice. “This coverage would likely fall under a homeowner’s or renter’s policy. It is important to check that your specific breed of dog is covered by your policy and to understand how much coverage you have, should your dog injure someone.”

If you aren’t covered, you could be on the hook for medical fees, income loss, and compensation for pain and suffering.

“The victim or the attorney will look for another avenue of compensation from you personally,” Phillips said. “They will want to know things like how much money you make, how much equity is in your home, what your savings and investment portfolio is like, what your monthly expenses are.”

Dog in beach

It is important to check that your specific breed of dog is covered by your insurance policy and to understand how much coverage you have, should your dog injure someone. (Maho Prentice photo)

Dog bite victims

If a dog bites you, it’s important to get contact information from the person responsible, so you are not left with a mountain of medical bills. If that person refuses to give you identification or any information, try to get a picture of a license plate and write down details about the person, dog, and location for later identification.

Serious dog bites often need immediate emergency room care, and your recovery may include ongoing wound care, surgery, trauma support, therapy, and rehabilitation. The costs of these treatments add up quickly, piling onto the burdens you’re dealing with.

“On top of the medical side, an injury like this and the related recovery has a significant impact on our client’s life,” Phillips said. “Suddenly, they are injured, unable to perform regular daily activities, are bombarded with doctor’s appointments and medical decisions, are missing work and losing income, are unable to participate in their family life as they usually do, and all of that takes a significant toll.”

It’s because of those issues that Phillips said the best part of her job is taking stress away from clients by telling them to focus on recovering while Maho Prentice handles everything else.

“We take on everything, from making sure the stack of bills is properly processed through health insurance, making sure our clients are getting the best medical care and treatment, and handling all outside communications with insurance companies,” Phillips said. “Our aim is truly to help our clients focus on getting better, alleviate any unnecessary stressors, and to ultimately obtain maximum compensation for their injuries and the trauma experienced.”

By Maho | Prentice, LLP Attorneys at Law on January 25, 2022