California Dog Bite Liability Laws
Dog bites can result in serious injuries to victims. In 2017, there were more than 90 million dogs in the U.S. Roughly 4.7 million dog bites occur every year. Of those bitten, roughly 316,200 victims are treated at emergency departments for their injuries. Sometimes those bites only result in minor injuries, but dog bites can actually cause very severe injuries in some cases. In 2015, there were more than 28,000 reconstructive surgery procedures performed on dog bite victims.
Who is Liable for Damages Resulting from a Dog Bite?
If you are bitten by a dog, who is liable for your damages? State laws vary on their handling of dog bite liability. In California, dog bite liability follows a strict liability statute. That means that a dog owner is strictly liable for dog bite damages, even if the owner was not aware that the dog might act aggressively. With strict liability, the dog bite victim does not have to prove that the dog has a history of violent behavior in order to receive compensation. According to the California Civil Code, a person who is bitten by a dog is eligible for damages if he or she is bitten either in a public place, or while on any property lawfully.
What About the One Bite Rule?
One common question about dog bite liability is whether California adheres to the “one-bite rule.” This is a rule upheld by several states, which means that a dog owner must have been aware of the dog’s aggressive behavior in order to be liable for injuries caused by the dog. Under this statute, the owner is considered negligent if he or she was aware of the dog’s aggressive behavior when the attack occurred. However, California does not require proof that the owner was negligent in order to award damages to the dog bite victim. An owner’s ignorance of his or her dog’s aggressiveness cannot be used to escape liability.
Exceptions to Strict Liability
As with many strict liability statutes, there are some exceptions to California’s strict liability regarding dog bites. Someone who works directly with dogs, such as a veterinarian, groomer or dog walker, is considered to have assumed the risk of a dog bite. It will be more difficult for someone who works with animals professionally to receive compensation for an injury caused by a dog bite. However, if the dog has a history of aggression that was not disclosed to the animal worker, it may be possible to hold the owner liable for the damages.
Another important point to note is that California’s dog bite laws only protect victims who were lawfully in a private place at the time of the incident. If a person is trespassing on private property and is bitten by a dog, the dog’s owner is not considered liable for the damages. The person must have been on the property legally to hold the dog owner liable for damages under California’s dog bite statute. In rare cases, a trespasser might be able to hold the dog owner liable under a negligence theory of liability. For instance, if a dog owner knows that people frequently run through his or her front yard as a shortcut, and one day the dog bites someone who is running through the yard, the victim might be able to claim that the owner had a duty to keep the dog locked up. However, this kind of claim may be more difficult to win because the person was not lawfully on the property.
Dog Bite Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for bringing a dog bite lawsuit in California is two years from the date the injury occurred. Failing to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations will almost certainly result in the case being dismissed. If you have been injured by a dog, don’t wait until it’s too late to file a personal injury claim.
“Suffering a dog bite is a traumatic experience and can result in serious injury. If you have been injured in a dog attack, contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options,” said Attorney Walter Clark, founder of Walter Clark Legal Group.
Our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout the California Low Desert and High Desert communities for over 30 years. With a 95% success rate, the California personal injury attorneys at Walter Clark Legal Group will fight to hold those responsible for your loss accountable and win compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have been injured by a dog bite and want to discuss your legal options, contact us today at (760) 777-7777 for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. We have offices in Indio, Rancho Mirage, Victorville, El Centro, and Yucca Valley, and represent clients through the entire California Low Desert and High Desert communities.
DISCLAIMER: The Walter Clark Legal Group blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal or medical advice. References to laws are based on general legal practices and vary by location. Information reported comes from secondary news sources. We do handle these types of cases, but whether or not the individuals and/or loved ones involved in these accidents choose to be represented by a law firm is a personal choice we respect. Should you find any of the information incorrect, we welcome you to contact us with corrections.