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  1. #1
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    Default Daughter Bitten by a Dog

    My question involves an injury that occurred in the state of: California

    About two weeks ago, my 9-year-old daughter was bitten in the face by a neighbors dog. We took my daughter to the emergency room immediately and she received stitches on a a 1 and 1/2 inch gash. In this case, my two kids and three others were playing outside on bikes and scooters. The dog, which we recently learned does not live there, gets out pretty much when he wants. The dog was out, when my daughter approached it (she loves dogs) at or near the yard of the home (un-gated front yard). At that point the dog bit her.

    Anyhow, I would think we have a case. As it were, the dogs owner (and the homeowner) left town the day of the incident. They apparently left the dog in the yard in care of their next door neighbor. They got back yesterday and we spoke about the incident at my home.

    I realize that one course of action could have been to hire an attorney immediately to handle the matter. And we are upset, no doubt. But at the same time, we decided to approach this as neighbors, and did not want to have a talk to my attorney line as the first thing.

    At this point, the question we are asking ourselves is whether we want to try to handle this ourselves or whether we should bring in the attorney now. In our conversation with the neighbor, which was cordial, they indicated they would file a claim with their insurance. But the first question I have is, which insurance would cover the incident. Their's (they live 600 miles away) or the homeowner where it occurred (the mother of the owner)? Another question, if we decide to pursue ourselves is, how medical costs are done. We have insurance, and these types of things are often covered. But does the neighbor's home insurance company get my health benefits, which we pay for out of our pockets? Or should they pay the costs period?

    We have let a little time go by, and have had conversations with the neighbors. But I am wondering if it is time to just bring in the professionals at this point?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Daughter Bitten by a Dog

    Quote Quoting andresrr
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    My question involves an injury that occurred in the state of: California

    About two weeks ago, my 9-year-old daughter was bitten in the face by a neighbors dog. We took my daughter to the emergency room immediately and she received stitches on a a 1 and 1/2 inch gash. In this case, my two kids and three others were playing outside on bikes and scooters. The dog, which we recently learned does not live there, gets out pretty much when he wants. The dog was out, when my daughter approached it (she loves dogs) at or near the yard of the home (un-gated front yard). At that point the dog bit her.

    Anyhow, I would think we have a case. As it were, the dogs owner (and the homeowner) left town the day of the incident. They apparently left the dog in the yard in care of their next door neighbor. They got back yesterday and we spoke about the incident at my home.
    California is a strict liability state. So, yes, you do have a case.

    You can read up on California's dog bite law at:

    http://dogbitelaw.com/statutory-stri...a-dog-bite-law

    From a liability standpoint you have three possibilities: the owner, the neighbor at whose house the dog was, and the other neighbor who was supposedly taking care of the dog. Any or all of them could have all or part of the liability.

    Quote Quoting andresrr
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    I realize that one course of action could have been to hire an attorney immediately to handle the matter. And we are upset, no doubt. But at the same time, we decided to approach this as neighbors.
    Whether or not you get a lawyer there is nothing neighborly about this. When you accuse people of negligence and demand money from them (that's what you are doing, so don't sugarcoat it) they become your enemies and will treat you as an enemy.

    The proper way to do this is to put all three on written notice of your child's injuries, their negligence, and that you will be looking to them to pay damages as soon as those damages can be quantified.

    Those letters should elicit responses from insurance companies that will represent their policyholders and either defend their policyholders or enter settlement negotiations with you.

    Quote Quoting andresrr
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    At this point, the question we are asking ourselves is whether we want to try to handle this ourselves or whether we should bring in the attorney now.
    Up to you and depends on a lot of factors which include but might not be limited to the cost of medical treatment, the extent of any facial scarring, length of recovery, emotional trauma to the child.

    If you'd like to reveal medical costs to date and explain the other factors mentioned I may be able to provide helpful comments.

    Quote Quoting andresrr
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    In our conversation with the neighbor,
    Which should be followed up in writing to the neighbor, the owner, and the other neighbor.

    Quote Quoting andresrr
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    In our conversation with the neighbor, which was cordial, they indicated they would file a claim with their insurance. But the first question I have is, which insurance would cover the incident. Their's (they live 600 miles away) or the homeowner where it occurred (the mother of the owner)?
    Could be either, could be both. You'll find out when one or more insurance companies respond.

    Quote Quoting andresrr
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    Another question, if we decide to pursue ourselves is, how medical costs are done. We have insurance, and these types of things are often covered. But does the neighbor's home insurance company get my health benefits, which we pay for out of our pockets? Or should they pay the costs period?
    What generally happens is that you don't get any money from anybody until the claim is ready for final settlement, which could be months away since you want to make sure that your child is completely recovered and monitor the scarring for a few months to see if that clears up or not.

    Meantime, your own medical insurance covers it and your medical insurance company is likely to require reimbursement out of any settlement that you get on behalf of your child.

    Quote Quoting andresrr
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    But I am wondering if it is time to just bring in the professionals at this point?
    Two weeks with no contact from any insurance company? I strongly suggest you get those letters out. Then, if you still don't get contacted by anybody's insurance you can decide whether to sue in small claims court if the $10,000 limit takes care of it or hire an attorney if you think the case is worth more than that.

    You can get small claims information at:

    http://www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-smallclaims.htm

    Let me know if you have any more questions.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Daughter Bitten by a Dog

    Thank you for your response. A part of the reason it has been two weeks is that the neighbors left the country the day it happened (before it happened of course). We met yesterday and they indicated a claim would be filed. The neighbors have no witnesses or first-hand knowledge of anything. As long as the claim is filed, I would think it comes down to us against the insurance companies, assuming one picks up the case. I would imagine we should be hearing something within this week if the claim is filed. If they all deny, then a suit it is.

    The bite left a significant scar on my daughter. Up to this point, we have not seen any bills except for copays from our doctor, which are minimal. The other known cost might be the visit to the ER, except nothing has come yet and we do not know if it ever will. But overall, I would think this would be well in excess of a $10,000 matter. My daughter has a scar for life now. No plastic surgery will make it go away. And I have not gotten to pain and suffering yet. We have no idea how this will impact her psychologically.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Daughter Bitten by a Dog

    Hold on just a second - in your original post, you specifically say that your daughter approached the dog. She wasn't just walking past the house and attacked randomly. She approached the dog. Doesn't that have any significance here? What does approach mean? Did she enter someone else's property in order to approach the dog? I would think that your daughter, approaching a dog, and as a result, getting bit, would place some (if not all, depending on the circumstances) blame on her, no?

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Daughter Bitten by a Dog

    Quote Quoting PADriver13
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    Hold on just a second - in your original post, you specifically say that your daughter approached the dog. She wasn't just walking past the house and attacked randomly. She approached the dog. Doesn't that have any significance here? What does approach mean? Did she enter someone else's property in order to approach the dog? I would think that your daughter, approaching a dog, and as a result, getting bit, would place some (if not all, depending on the circumstances) blame on her, no?
    Good question but from everything I have heard, the answer is no difference. Apparently dog owners are strictly liable in CA.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Daughter Bitten by a Dog

    Quote Quoting andresrr
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    Good question but from everything I have heard, the answer is no difference. Apparently dog owners are strictly liable in CA.
    Liability may be strict in that proof of negligence is not required but there are still defenses available to the dog owner.

    If your daughter actually entered the neighbor's property uninvited that could be an issue. At 9 years old she would be presumed to know better.

    You haven't made clear whether that's the case or not. You referred to "at or near" the property and something about an "ungated yard."

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Daughter Bitten by a Dog

    Collecting from an insurance policy is going to be easier than trying to collect from individuals but I would encourage you to talk to an attorney before you get anywhere near communicating any facts or any settlement numbers with the insurer(s). The reason is that you are probably not well-versed in how to calculate damages on these types of injuries while the insurance company has a lot of experience with these claims and how they go about negotiating them. The insurance company is an adverse party to your claims and isn't going to help you out to get a fair number.

    There is a lot to consider in the valuation of these types of injuries. Obviously you have past and future medical bills. A significant facial scar on a child can result in a lifetime of emotional harm, less favorable treatment in the job market, etc. that can have both purely emotional harm and actual future financial losses as an adult, not to mention that it's probably going to be a tough ride through the teen years. That can also be affected by the ability for your daughter to undergo plastic surgery now or in the future to reduce or, hopefully, eliminate the scar. The average settlement on these kind of claims is usually around $30k but depending upon the emotional and physical injuries they can, on rare occasions, go into the six figures. I don't know the severity of the harm your daughter suffered and I hope it is not severe. It is unlikely that your daughter's injuries will be a six figure claim but at the same time the insurance company is unlikely to even offer you in the ballpark of the average if you sandbag yourself by not knowing what you're doing.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Daughter Bitten by a Dog

    adjusterjack gave a good response and, if you read through this, you'll find that I largely concur with his assessment.
    Quote Quoting andresrr
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    About two weeks ago, my 9-year-old daughter was bitten in the face by a neighbors dog.... The dog, which we recently learned does not live there, gets out pretty much when he wants.
    So it's not the neighbor's dog? How is it present frequently enough that it "gets out pretty much when he wants" if it doesn't actually live at the house?
    Quote Quoting andresrr
    The dog was out, when my daughter approached it (she loves dogs) at or near the yard of the home (un-gated front yard). At that point the dog bit her.
    You should anticipate that the insurance company (or companies) is going to take the position that your daughter's manner in her approach to the dog was provocative, as was what I expect they'll allege to be her entry into the yard where the dog was present. Note that Civil Code section 3342(a) provides,
    Quote Quoting Civil Code Sec. 3342(a)
    The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner' s knowledge of such viciousness. A person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner within the meaning of this section when he is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner.
    You should anticipate that the dog owner's insurance company will try to argue that your daughter crossed into somebody's yard without permission, and thus was not lawfully on the property where the bite occurred. Keep in mind that insurance companies are in the business of denying claims and, when that's not possible, resolving them for the least amount of money -- they're not your friend. For claims against the other parties, as they are not owners the strict liability provision of Sec. 3342 does not apply to them, although negligence theories can be applied.

    As an aside: child who loves dogs needs to be taught the first rule of dog safety: Never approach a dog -- particularly a strange dog -- without the permission of its owner. Your daughter seems to have learned that lesson the hard way. So did my sister, many years ago, but she was fortunate in that she escaped with a single puncture wound above her lip -- had the dog not released she would have suffered a terrible, tearing injury to her face.
    Quote Quoting andresrr
    As it were, the dogs owner (and the homeowner) left town the day of the incident. They apparently left the dog in the yard in care of their next door neighbor.
    So the dog was contained in a fenced yard, but escaped confinement. In your estimation, is the neighbor's fencing of the sort that would be reasonably anticipated to contain a dog? If you know, did the dog jump the fence? Tunnel under it? Squeeze through the fence in a damaged area?
    Quote Quoting andresrr
    I realize that one course of action could have been to hire an attorney immediately to handle the matter. And we are upset, no doubt. But at the same time, we decided to approach this as neighbors, and did not want to have a talk to my attorney line as the first thing.
    You say "my attorney", which makes it sound like you have a good relationship with a lawyer. If so, you should discuss your daughter's case with your lawyer. Although exceptions can arise, you should not anticipate that the insurance company (or companies) is simply going to write you a check, and you should anticipate that any settlement offer you do receive is going to be a lowball offer.
    Quote Quoting andresrr
    But the first question I have is, which insurance would cover the incident.
    You can make a claim with all three insurance companies. (That doesn't mean you'll get a triple recovery, but you can let them address issues of liability between themselves.) You have to be very careful when negotiating with multiple insurance companies, as settling with one can significantly impair your ability to negotiate with the others (who will likely argue that you were fully compensated and that the party that settled was the responsible party) and you may inadvertently release the other possible defendants by virtue of the release form you execute.

    I think the case against the absent homeowner would be a tough one to make, as even if she concurred with the owner's decision to keep the dog in the neighbor's yard, that was ultimately the owner's decision to make, the dog bite did not follow the dog's escape from her property, and she was absent from the home during the entire period of time from when the dog escaped to when the bite occurred.
    Quote Quoting andresrr
    Another question, if we decide to pursue ourselves is, how medical costs are done. We have insurance, and these types of things are often covered. But does the neighbor's home insurance company get my health benefits, which we pay for out of our pockets? Or should they pay the costs period?
    You will need to investigate whether your health insurance company has a subrogation claim against the recovery -- meaning that they would have a contractual right to be repaid from any money your daughter receives -- and you also need to consider future medical costs.

    Many scars, particularly those for lacerations not repaired by a cosmetic surgeon, benefit from a subsequent scar reduction surgery. Sometimes complications arise during recovery (e.g., keloids). Some scars when well repaired, due to location or skilled surgery, are barely noticeable (see, e.g., Harrison Ford's scar, which is about 1.5 inches, or Tina Fey's scar, which is much longer.) Most people with facial scarring are not that lucky and, although I suspect that you would have mentioned nerve damage if it were an issue, even without nerve damage scar tissue can affect facial movement and expression.
    Quote Quoting adjusterjack
    View Post
    If your daughter actually entered the neighbor's property uninvited that could be an issue. At 9 years old she would be presumed to know better.
    That could be relevant to non-statutory theories of liability but, for the sake of completeness of information, I want to note that the dog bite statute's conception of trespasser includes any person of any age who is on somebody else's property without permission.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Daughter Bitten by a Dog

    Thanks again to everyone for the kind and detailed responses. I will try to clarify as much as I can and add an update. The dog is owned by the son of the homeowner. I live in SoCal and the dog owner lives in Nocal. I had seen the dog three or four times over the past six months. I have come to learn that the son has been visiting frequently for business; apparently he brings his dog with him to his mothers house.

    From what I understand, the dog jumps the back gate at will. On the day it happened, the son/dog owner, his wife and kids, and his mother left for Canada. As mentioned, they left the dog at the mothers house in care of the neighbor. So in this case, the dog jumped the back gate, which I presume they knew he could, and was in the street when my kids were playing. The exact location of the incident is unclear, as the stories of my son and my daughter differ to a degree. According to my son, it was in the yard. My daughter suggests it was on the sidewalk. Either way, she had free access to the dog.

    And yes, I have, on numerous occasions warned my daughter about approaching dogs. Unfortunately, she would have approached a polar bear to pet it if she could. She is very stubborn and as said, seems to have learned a lesson here the hard way. Two other things of note; I am 100% confident that my daughter would never intentionally hurt or scare and a dog. In the other words, she was not beating it with a stick when it bit her. Two, she'd actually interacted with the dog in the past (the first time it got out). So you might say she was even more comfortable with the dog.

    As for attorneys, I have spoken to a couple; one off yelp and another referenced to me by a friend. I gave them details, they said they'd be happy to take the case, but I have been noncommittal up to now. As for making claims against three insurance companies, it is my understanding that I cannot make a claim with any company but my own. It is the insured that would have to make them. And I have not gone that route except for with the dog owner.

    My daughters physical injuries were moderate I suppose. She had the one significant gash that required six stitches and one puncture/hole. It was extremely scary looking at the time. The stitches looked even scarier, as it did during the first week after the incident. We were very concerned.

    Now two weeks out, it doesn't look quite as bad. I think see was lucky from that standpoint because the bigger scar runs across her jaw line. It isn't as visible as it could be and appears to be healing well. As for my daughters psyche, she is at least somewhat affected. She is already sensitive about people looking at the scar, and on her first day back as school asked my wife to apply makeup to hide it. She doesn't want to talk about it at all.

    Hopefully this information provides some useful insight.

    As to the update, I got a call from the State Farm adjuster this afternoon. It was during work hours, where I do not have much reception, so I missed it. I did not call back because I was not sure what to do. But I figure I will need to figure it out quickly.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Daughter Bitten by a Dog

    Quote Quoting Mr. Knowitall
    View Post

    You can make a claim with all three insurance companies. (That doesn't mean you'll get a triple recovery, but you can let them address issues of liability between themselves.) You have to be very careful when negotiating with multiple insurance companies, as settling with one can significantly impair your ability to negotiate with the others (who will likely argue that you were fully compensated and that the party that settled was the responsible party) and you may inadvertently release the other possible defendants by virtue of the release form you execute.
    True. A personal injury release is generally worded so that it totally releases all parties from further liability.

    However, things get a little more completed when a minor is injured. The minor's claim survives until her 20th birthday.

    If a settlement is reached CA law requires a judge to conduct a hearing to determine if the terms of settlement are in the child's best interest. Andressr, you can read more about it at:

    http://www.victimslawyer.com/recover...in-california/

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Quoting andresrr
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    it is my understanding that I cannot make a claim with any company but my own. It is the insured that would have to make them. And I have not gone that route except for with the dog owner.
    What you are actually doing is making an allegation of negligence against another person and that person's insurance company is stepping in to represent that person. That's what generally is meant by "filing a claim against an insurance company."

    Quote Quoting andresrr
    View Post

    My daughters physical injuries were moderate I suppose. She had the one significant gash that required six stitches and one puncture/hole. It was extremely scary looking at the time. The stitches looked even scarier, as it did during the first week after the incident. We were very concerned.

    Now two weeks out, it doesn't look quite as bad. I think see was lucky from that standpoint because the bigger scar runs across her jaw line. It isn't as visible as it could be and appears to be healing well. As for my daughters psyche, she is at least somewhat affected. She is already sensitive about people looking at the scar, and on her first day back as school asked my wife to apply makeup to hide it. She doesn't want to talk about it at all.

    Hopefully this information provides some useful insight.
    It does. And, frankly, it kind of relegates your daughter's injury to small claim status.

    Quote Quoting andresrr
    View Post

    As to the update, I got a call from the State Farm adjuster this afternoon. It was during work hours, where I do not have much reception, so I missed it. I did not call back because I was not sure what to do. But I figure I will need to figure it out quickly.
    Go ahead and call back. You risk nothing by having a discussion with the claim rep. Just be a little cagey with the details of the incident as you weren't a witness to it. Best thing you can do at this point is let the claim rep do the talking, take notes, and don't get into any discussion about the merits because you'll likely say something you'll regret later.

    I suggest that you decline any requests for recorded statements at this time.

    Then sit down with your son and daughter and have them write statements as to what happened. It's best to do that early while memories are fresh.

    Then talk to an attorney before you decide whether to hire one or handle this yourself.

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