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Does California Follow a “One-Bite Rule” in Dog Attacks?

On Behalf of | Jan 11, 2023 | Personal Injury

California is one of the states with numerous dog bite cases. If you’re a victim of dog bites, you may want to familiarize yourself with dog bite laws. Doing so will put you in a position of knowledge when filing a compensation claim for the injuries.

Initially, the state had a one-bite rule but later became a strict liability state. While both laws hold dog owners to a high standard, one regulation is much more stringent than the other. Lawyers from our Torrance personal injury law firm explain what the rules mean, the implication of each, and the one that applies in California dog bite cases.

What is the California Dog Bite Law?

According to California Law, Section 3342, a dog owner is liable for damages the dog causes to a victim when it attacks or bites them. The dog bite can occur in a public or private place, including on the dog owner’s premises.

One-Bite Rule

The one-bite rule is lenient to dog owners in cases where their dog has never caused injuries to anyone before. After the dog causes injuries for the first time, the owner will be held liable if it subsequently attacks someone. The reason is that the owner should have known their dog is vicious and taken precautionary measures to prevent another attack.

While the dominant dog bite law in California is the strict liability law, the one-bite rule may apply under the following circumstances:

  • The victim was trespassing
  • The victim works with dogs
  • The defendant wasn’t the dog’s owner

Proving your case under this rule can be complex as the court requires you to show that the dog has bitten someone else before. A skilled Torrance dog bites lawyer can help you gather the relevant evidence to help you build a strong case.

Strict Liability Law

Under the strict liability rule, a dog owner can be liable for such damages even if the dog has never been vicious. The law applies to victims of dog bites while legally on the dog owner’s property. Examples are guests and people conducting business on the property, for example, contractors.

The exceptions to this rule are:

  • Dog bites caused by a dog used by the police or military in the line of duty
  • Dog bites that happen in “self-defense,” meaning that the dog was defending itself from harassing, provoking, or annoying act
  • Injuries caused by a dog’s jumping or scratching, although the victim has the right to file a negligence claim against the dog owner

The state also has laws that impose additional responsibility on the dog owner if it has previously attacked someone. The owner must take reasonable care to prevent further bites from happening in the future. In a subsequent attack, the district attorney will assess the measures the owner took to prevent more attacks. Let a dog bites lawyer in Torrance represent you for the best-case outcome.

Why Does California Not Follow the One-Bite Rule?

The reason California doesn’t follow the one-bite rule is the presumption that conditions other than a previous bite will put a dog owner on notice. The conditions include the following:

  • The dog has been trained to attack or fight back
  • The dog’s breed is known to be dangerous or aggressive
  • The dog has been provoked or mistreated, causing it to lash out at the slightest provocation
  • The dog is in circumstances that cause it to exhibit aggressive tendencies, for example, when recovering from injuries or protecting its puppies.

The state’s laws assume that the owner should know the dog’s characteristics. With that knowledge, they should be able to handle their animal to keep them and people safe.

Are There Specific Dog Breeds Considered Dangerous in California?

California doesn’t outlaw any specific dog breed under the strict liability statute. However, it does mention specific dangerous breeds in breed-specific laws. For example, the law outlines that a pit bull terrier should be spayed or neutered.

What Are the Common Dog Bite Injuries?

Dog bite injuries entail more than just the actual bite. A victim attacked by a dog could lose their balance and fall, sustaining substantial physical and psychological injuries.

Typical dog bite injuries include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Neck injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Permanent scarring
  • Wounds

An experienced dog bites lawyer in Torrance can assess the extent of the injuries and determine a fair compensation amount for the damages. They can also provide legal representation in court for the most favorable outcome.

What Damages Can I Recover in a Dog Bite Case?

Victims of dog bites can seek recovery and compensation for the following damages:

  • Medical bills associated with treating the dog bite injuries
  • Lost wages for victims who are unable to work as a result of the injuries
  • Psychological wellbeing
  • Pain and suffering
  • Physical or occupational therapy
  • Scarring and other damages arising from the attack as determined during the case assessment

If the injuries become fatal, the victim’s family can seek compensation for wrongful death.

A Compassionate Dog Bites Attorney Fighting for Fair Compensation

Dog bite injury cases can be tough to navigate under the strict liability laws in California. When pursuing compensation for injuries, it’s in your best interest to have an experienced lawyer from our personal injury law firm in Torrance represent you. A dedicated lawyer can help you create a solid case to fight for the maximum compensation you deserve.

Our attorneys take personal injury cases seriously and fight aggressively to defend the client’s rights. We are committed to helping them maximize their potential recovery while giving them the support they need as they heal and rebuild their lives. Don’t wait too long to file a claim. Contact us to schedule a FREE case assessment.