Although dogs are “man’s best friend,” dogs are just one small evolutionary step away from their wild counterparts: wolves. Wolves, of course, are apex predators in the wild. They can easily kill a human being. Because they are so closely related, dogs sometimes attack people. Dog attacks can happen for any number of reasons, including random attacks that appear out of nowhere. 

Dog attacks can cause severe injuries and leave lasting emotional scars. If someone’s dog bites and injures you, you should do five things:

  1. Seek immediate medical care including a rabies screening;
  2. Get information about the dog and its owner;
  3. File a police report regarding the attack;
  4. Inform your local health department of the attack so they can screen the animal for rabies; and
  5. Contact an attorney so you can recover any damages you suffered.

It is important to keep in mind that before anything else, you should always seek any necessary emergency medical care. When you get in touch with an attorney after the attack, you should always ask whether punitive damages are possible. Punitive damages often follow different rules than other types of damages, so it is important that you and your lawyer discuss them specifically.

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are a unique form of damages. Most other damage types are compensatory. Their intent is to compensate you, the injured party, for whatever you suffered. Compensatory damages don’t just include medical bills and lost wages. They also include non-economic damages like emotional pain and anguish. 

Punitive damages, on the other hand, are a form of non-compensatory damages. The intent behind them is to punish the offending party for acting in a particularly unsavory or dangerous way. In California, as in most other states, the requirements for claiming punitive damages are different from compensatory damages. Often, punitive damages require a claimant to show malice, intent, fraud, or some form of gross negligence on the part of the offending party.

When Can I Make a Claim for Punitive Damages After a Dog Attack?

In California, you can absolutely make a claim for punitive damages after suffering from a dog attack. To do so, you will need to show clear and convincing evidence of some form of intent, malice, or gross negligence on the part of the dog’s owner. For example, if the dog’s owner orders the attack, you can claim punitive damages. The same applies if the owner does nothing to prevent the attack, if the dog has bitten others in the past, or if the dog has shown repeated signs of overt aggression in the past. If any of those apply to your case, you should include punitive damages in your claim. 

Does California Law Limit Punitive Damages?

California law does not specifically cap punitive damages, but the amount of punitive damages you can claim is not without limits. Generally, California law limits punitive damages in a given case by saying that they must have a reasonable relationship to the other damages in the case. Thus, if you claim a combined $15,000 worth of compensatory damages, a court will not award you $1 million. Instead, the amount of punitive damages in such a case probably would not exceed $150,000. This 10 to 1 ratio is not steadfast, but you should always take it into account.

If You Were Bit by a Dog

If a dog bit you in California, call our lawyers today at Silva Injury Law, Inc. We will closely review your case with you to see what sort of damages are applicable. We will always address punitive damages specifically. If your dog attack case meets the standards to include punitive damages, we will include them in your claim. At Silva Injury Law, Inc., we want our clients to feel like family. By ensuring our clients are treated with respect and compassion, we deliver better results. That’s because our clients know they can contact us at any time no matter what question they have. We work throughout the state of California, so no matter where you are in the state, you can give us a call. Get in touch with us today for a consultation on your California dog attack case.