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What Happens If My Dog Bites Someone in California?

On Behalf of | Mar 9, 2023 | Personal Injury

What Does the California Dog Bite Law Say?

Dog bites can happen when least expected, and the consequences can be devastating. Even the best-behaved dogs can suddenly lash out when startled, leaving the owner and the victim in shock. The situation can be contentious, but the dog bite law in California comes in to help both parties know what’s expected of them.

California is a strict liability law state. Civil Code 3342 stipulates that the dog owner shall be liable for the damages sustained in a dog bite case. The law applies whether the attack happened in a public place or lawfully in a private location such as the owner’s residence. Dog bite victims can consult a personal injury attorney in California to file a claim against the dog owner.

Examples of Strict Liability Scenarios

The strict liability rule contrasts with the one-bite law that applies in some other states, in which the dog owner would not be held liable for the injuries their dog inflicts on a victim unless the dog has a bite history. The following are surprising scenarios where the strict liability rule would be applicable:

  • A dog attacks another dog, knocking down the owner or someone else during the attack. If the other person sustains injuries, the dog owner could be held liable even if both dogs were on leashes.
  • A person lawfully steps into someone’s property, for example, a guest or salesperson, and the dog attacks them. The homeowner would be fully liable for the injuries and any resulting complications. In some special circumstances, the owner may also be responsible even if the victim was unlawfully on the premises.

Dog bites can lead to costly medical bills, loss of earning capacity, lost wages, and the cost of rehabilitation. Depending on the case circumstances, the victim’s dog bites lawyer in Torrance may also help them recover compensation for other damages like pain and suffering suffered due to the injuries.

So, as a dog owner, you must take the necessary steps to keep your dog in check and prevent it from attacking people.

What If the Dog Belongs to Someone Else?

The strict liability law in California applies to any dog harborer, owner, or possessor. Even if the dog was under your watch at the time of the incident but belongs to someone else, you could still be held liable for the injuries. If it was a stray dog, premises liability rules could apply in your situation.

The rule states that property owners are responsible for most accidents and injuries within their premises. You could be held liable for the damages if a California personal injury attorney finds that a prudent and reasonable property owner would have taken steps to prevent an attack.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

Since you never know when your dog might attack someone, the first step to protect yourself would be to get homeowner’s insurance. Personal liability coverage in your home insurance can cover compensation claims in dog bite cases.

Most home insurance policies come with a $100,000 cover in personal liability, but the average claim is often less than that amount. Sometimes, the claim amount may exceed the insurance amount. In that case, the dog owner could be financially responsible for the remaining settlement.

Dog Breeds Not Covered by Home Insurance

Some dogs can be more aggressive than others, and those that top the list are:

  • Rottweiler
  • Terrier
  • Mixed breed
  • Pitbull
  • German shepherd

Most of these are not covered in home insurance policies, so consult a skilled dog bites attorney or your insurance agent to ensure you benefit from adequate coverage.

Can A Dangerous Dog Be Euthanized in California?

While the strict liability dog bite statute applies regardless of the dog’s bite history, another law makes dog owners responsible for taking reasonable steps to make their dogs less dangerous. The measures also prevent the possibility of future attacks if the dog has a history of biting people.

The law allows anyone to file a civil lawsuit against someone whose dog has bitten the same person twice in separate incidents. They can also file a lawsuit against the owner of a trained dog that caused severe injuries to someone, even in a single incident. In such circumstances, the court may order the owner to remove the dog from the area or destroy it (euthanized).

Exceptions to the Rule

Exceptions to the rule are if the dog is a working police or military dog or a dog with a history of attacking trespassers. If the court also determines that the dog is potentially dangerous, it may rule that the dog be kept indoors or in a fenced yard. Other options are to secure it on a leash under the control of a responsible adult.

Depending on the circumstances, the court may also prohibit a dog owner from owning a dog for up to three years. A dog that isn’t euthanized must be controlled to protect the public. Dog owners of vicious dogs will be fined for violating these restrictions.

Skilled Legal Counsel and Representation Against Dog Bite Charges

Dog bite victims may file a civil lawsuit against a dog owner to seek compensation for their injuries in a dog attack. Torrance dog bite attorneys can investigate the case’s circumstances and help them prove dog owner liability. To protect yourself from dog bite lawsuits, take the necessary steps stipulated under California dog bite statutes.

We have skilled and experienced dog bite attorneys who provide aggressive legal representation for dog bite victims. We know how devastating the consequences of a dog bite can be, and therefore hold that dog owners should be responsible for their dogs. If you’re a victim of dog bites in California, don’t suffer alone in silence. Contact us for a FREE case assessment.