It’s difficult to lose someone you love, and it’s worse when it happens unexpectedly. I hope you find peace and comfort after this tragedy.

There are two possible cases here.

First: the dog has an owner.

If your friend contracted the virus from an owned dog, then that means the owner did not do his/her duty as a pet owner and vaccinate the dog.

In California, dogs owners are required to give their dogs an anti-rabies vaccine and a rabies booster to ensure that these animals will not carry the virus. Getting these rabies shots is a requisite to obtaining a license to own a dog.

You can file a lawsuit against the owner and seek damages for medical bills, funeral services, and trauma. Another option is to talk to the owner’s insurance, if there’s one, and work out a settlement.

Please note that as a friend, you’re probably not allowed to do this by yourself. Legal actions can only be taken by your friend’s family, primarily the parents, spouse or children.

Second: the infected dog was a stray.

If the carrier was a stray dog, then I’m afraid there’s no liability. Because the dog doesn’t have an owner, you won’t be able to file a lawsuit or pursue for damages. The only chance of getting compensation here is if your friend was covered by homeowners’ or automobile insurance. Some policies cover fatal animal bites, but the circumstances of the attack would play into the evaluation of the case.

Death due to a rabies infection is not common in the United States, as we have state laws on vaccination. From 2008-2017, we only had 23 cases of human rabies. Your example proves that we’re still on the way to making the country rabies-free. We need the cooperation of all pet owners and animal lovers to totally eradicate this deadly disease.

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