Dog Bite Discovery | Requests for Admission
Dog bite and dog attack cases have many factors in common with other types of personal injury claims, but some aspects are very much different. Obviously, different insurance coverages are involved -- traffic injury claims against private motorists usually involve auto liability insurance or uninsured motorist insurance, while dog bite claims are typically made against the general negligence coverages in homeowners or renters insurance policies.
Most of the processes of filing and pursuing insurance claims and, when necessary, filing a lawsuit to begin litigation follow the same paths for dog bite cases and traffic accident cases, for example, but what needs to be proven in each can be somewhat different. In litigation for dog attack incidents, that proof is often revealed and developed during dog bite discovery.
Any personal injury lawsuit begins with the filing of a complaint in court on behalf of one or more plaintiffs and the complaint being "served" on the defendants in the case. And most personal injury lawsuits end up being resolved by a settlement agreement among the parties, or sometimes by trial or binding arbitration. What happens in between those "start" and "finish" events can vary quite a bit from one lawsuit to another, with much of that variability being involved in the "discovery process." Discovery involves the plaintiffs and defendants formally requesting and exchanging evidence through methods including depositions, interrogatories, document production requests, and subpoenas to outside parties like medical providers. One tool in the discovery toolkit is the "request for admission" -- a tool that is particularly helpful in dog bite discovery.Requests for Admission in General
Each state will have laws detailing the discovery process and discovery tools for civil litigation like personal injury lawsuits. In California, those laws are mostly contained within the Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) and include rules for:
- When discovery can begin and when it must be completed. (CCP 2024.010)
- Oral depositions. (CCP 2025.010)
- Written interrogatories. (CCP 2030.010)
- Requests for production of documents. (CCP 2031.010)
- Physical or mental examinations. (CCP 2032.010)
- Requests for admission. (CCP 2033.010)
- Expert witness discovery. (CCP 2034.010)
- Subpoenas to outside parties. (CCP 2020.010)
Requests for admission are a bit different from other types of discovery, which are usually seeking specific facts and physical evidence. A request for admission, rather, seeks to have a party admit or deny a particular statement of fact. As such, the request for admission can be very helpful in narrowing down the specific points in contention in a case, thereby making resolution of the case more efficient. For example, in a traffic accident case where it is very, very clear who caused the accident and how they caused it, an admission by the negligent driver that they and they alone were liable for the incident makes it unnecessary for both plaintiff and defendant to spend time and money -- and the court's time and a jury's time -- proving who was responsible for the incident.
And requests for admission have some "teeth" to them -- if a party is asked to admit something and fails to do so, and the opposing party thereafter proves that thing to be true, the opposing party can ask the court to order the non-admitting party to pay reasonable costs and fees incurred in making that proof.Requests for Admission in Dog Bite Discovery
Admission requests in dog bite cases are usually aimed at establishing the elements of proof relevant to liability for the injuries that occurred. Additionally, they may seek admissions as to the nature and degree of the plaintiff's injuries and monetary damages, but this is common in all types of personal injury lawsuits.
Liability is a bit different in dog bite cases. As with cases such as traffic accident injury incidents, liability is often shown by proving negligence -- proving that the defendant did something or failed to do something that a reasonably prudent person would or would not have done, and that this failure caused injury. Many dog bite cases, however, can also seek to prove what is called "strict liability," which makes the defendant automatically liable for the injury even if they were not negligent in the particular incident. California's strict liability law for dog bites is established by Civil Code Section 3342, which simply states that the owner of a dog that bites someone is liable for the bite victim's damages if the incident occurred in a public place or while the victim was lawfully on private property.
To prove the elements of liability necessary, requests for admission in dog bite discovery will typically ask a defendant to admit that:
- The defendant owned or rented the premises where the attack occurred;
- The defendant owned the dog involved in the attack;
- The injured plaintiff was either on public property or lawfully on private property when the attack happened;
- The animal had a past history of attacks or "vicious" behavior;
- The animal wasn't properly leashed or restrained (especially where local leash laws may have required this);
- Previous complaints had been received about the dog's behavior;
- The dog bit the plaintiff.
Some of these requests for admissions will be aimed at proving strict liability -- such as the defendant's ownership of the dog and that the incident was in a public place or while plaintiff was lawfully on private property -- while others will be aimed at proving negligence -- such as knowledge of past incidents with the animal, failure to leash or restrain the dog, etc. Along with other types of dog bite discovery, a defendant's responses to these requests for admission will help point an experienced personal injury attorney toward positively proving liability in the case or toward other avenues of investigation and discovery that need to be pursued.
Violation of a leash law is another way to potentially prove liability in a dog attack cases. Leash laws are not in place everywhere and can vary significantly from place to place. View this video describing the safety concerns behind one city's leash law:Sacramento Dog Bite Lawyer
Hello, I'm Ed Smith, and I'm a Sacramento Dog Bite Lawyer. Proof of liability in dog bite and other animal attack cases can be substantially different from other types of personal injury claims. Developing a specific and detailed plan for discovery during litigation in these cases takes experience and knowledge. If you or a member of your family has been injured in a dog bite incident, give us a call at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free and friendly advice. You can also reach us by using our online contact form.
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Photo by ttwan from Pixabay
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