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Service Dog Bite Personal Injury Laws

What to Do When a Service Dog Bites You

For centuries, man’s best friend has been trained to assist humans in a myriad of different ways ranging from protecting property to collecting livestock. However, in more recent times, the concept of a service dog has blended into mainstream society and become a familiar staple in many American homes. In fact, according to a government study, there are approximately 500,000 registered service dogs helping people with disabilities in the United States.

In California, a person with a disability is allowed to possess and carry a trained service or psychiatric dog into most public areas. However, just because the dog is trained to perform a duty, does not mean that it can’t misinterpret a command or act inappropriately all together. If you are bitten by a service dog, be sure to contact our dog bite attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers for a free consultation.

What Is a Service Dog?

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It is a well-known fact that dogs have been useful in treating both physical and mental disabilities in humans. For years, dogs have been assigned duties, such as guiding the blind and even soothing symptoms of depression. The Americans with Disability Act differentiates between the types of jobs given to a dog and separates them into several categories.

Service Dogs. Psychiatric service dogs are responsible for aiding the physically disabled. Service dogs are specifically trained to perform tasks that are atypical to the tasks normally performed by pets. These tasks include activities, such as leading the blind, bringing attention to noises, assisting with mobility issues, and even sensing diabetic or seizure dangers. Service dogs are required to be certified by the Americans with Disabilities Act, which exempts these animals from certain restrictions, such as housing bans. Service dogs are used to help people with both mental and physical limitations.

Emotional Support Animal. While emotional support animals are providing a service, they are given a different set of rules. Mostly, emotional support animals are assigned to their owners as part of a treatment plan. Emotional support dogs are not required to undergo any specific training as they do not help individuals with daily duties and are only used as comfort tools. These animals do not have the same level of liberties as support dogs do and are only allowed in planes for travel and home that normally have heavy pet restrictions.

Federal Laws About Service Dogs 

Service dogs are excused from public restrictions on animals, which means that they can legally be where other animals are prohibited. This includes on planes and in homes where landlords have rules against them.

If You Are Bitten by a Service Dog

Support dogs are treated like other dogs under dog bite statutes. Service dogs are not, and they enjoy more protection under the American with Disabilities Act. This means that if a service dog bites someone, the injured party may not have legal recourse. If a support dog bites someone, on the other hand, that injured individual can take legal action provided that he or she can prove the dog’s owner knew the dog was dangerous, the owner should have known the dog was dangerous, or the dog has already been deemed dangerous.

In addition to these obvious issues, a service dog that is approached by a poorly behaved dog may feel threatened or want to protect their handler. Therefore, it’s always best to leave your dog at home when they are not allowed in the public place rather than claim he or she is a service animal.

What to Do When a Dog Bites You

The steps you take after you are bitten by a dog can affect your dog bite lawsuit. Listed below are a few considerations to take after a dog has bitten you so that you can prevent further damage or infection.

  1. Put pressure on the wound.
  2. Wash the wound.
  3. Apply a clean cloth to slow the bleeding.
  4. Apply an antibiotic cream.
  5. Wrap the wound with a sterile bandage.
  6. See a doctor if the wound continues to bleed.
  7. Watch for signs of infection.

Available Damages

Accidents happen. If you were injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. Below is a brief explanation of damages. Damages are a type of monetary award that is determined by a court of law to help compensate an aggrieved individual for any losses or injuries sustained as a result of someone’s negligence.

Economic Damages
Economic damages are intended to compensate a plaintiff for losses that a dollar amount can readily be attached to. Economic damages are calculated by determining the amount of out-of-pocket losses an aggrieved individual has or will expect to incur as a result of their injuries.

A few examples of economic losses include:

  • Loss of Earning Capacity
  • Medical Bills
  • Lost Wages

Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages are essentially intended to cover losses that are thought of as subjective and will not necessarily cover out-of-pocket losses. Non-economic damages may include compensation for:

  • Emotional Distress
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life

Punitive Damages
The third type of damages a California court may award are known as punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended as punishment and are only awarded when a defendant’s behavior is especially harmful. Punitive damages are relatively rare and in fact were only incorporated in 5 percent of all verdicts.

Furthermore, there is no real set standard for calculating and awarding punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded at the court’s discretion and will vary depending on the specific circumstances of a case.

Limitations for Damages in California 
For the most part, there is no real cap on compensatory damages following a personal injury claim. This means that courts are able to award any amount they feel is appropriate and reasonable.

However, the only exception is regarding medical malpractice cases. In these cases, the limit for pain and suffering and other non-economic losses is $250,000.

Contact West Coast Trial Lawyers Today

Victims of dog bites are subject to costly repairs, bodily damage, and mental anguish. We at West Coast Trial Lawyers understand how stressful these situations can be and we handle each case with the individual attention and compassion you deserve. Our attorneys will make it a top priority to make sure that you have a satisfactory end result with your settlement. We will help you recover financial and emotional damages that you have suffered because of the accident. This includes medical expenses, lost wages, emotional distress, property damage, and pain and suffering. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation with the attorneys at our firm. No fees are charged until your case has been settled. Reach out to our friendly legal team 24/7 by calling (213) 927-3700 or emailing [email protected].


If you have been injured in an accident, you can count on the legal team at West Coast Trial Lawyers to fight for your rights every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney.
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