Who is Liable for a Dog Bite in California?

a canine barks before a dog bite attack | The Law Offices of Mickey Fine

The Bakersfield dog bite lawyer at the Law Offices of Mickey Fine understands how frightening a dog attack can be. If you were seriously injured, your entire life could be impacted. From high medical bills to disability and emotional trauma, you need to know your rights and who may be held liable for your injuries.

Nearly 800,000 people require medical treatment for a dog bite in the United States annually, according to the CDC. That doesn’t include accidents caused by an altercation with a dog. The bite itself can cause significant injuries and trauma, but a dog bite doesn’t have to break the skin to lead to damage. 

One example is a 1998 dog bite lawsuit in which a worker fell off a ladder after a dog clamped its jaws on the man’s pants. The court held the dog owner liable for his injuries. The circumstances matter in dog bite claims, but the essential factors for liability include the injured victim did not provoke the animal, and the incident occurred on public property or private property with permission to be on site.

Our dog bite attorneys have substantial experience in animal attack claims. We can help injured victims through every stage of the legal process. We have helped many clients achieve successful outcomes and settlements after a dog bite.

What is Strict Liability for Dog Bites in California?

California is one of many states with “strict liability” laws for dog bites, which makes pet owners liable for the damage caused by their animal regardless of the dog’s history. The owner or caregiver for the pet may argue that they didn’t know the animal could be dangerous, but the strict liability statute makes this claim irrelevant. A dog owner is strictly responsible for any injuries and property damage from the incident, whether or not they took precautions or were unaware of the risk.

As long as the injured victim is bitten in a public place or was lawfully on private property when the dog latches onto them, they may sue the dog owner for compensation for the injury and pain and suffering.

Another California state law says owners are responsible for making “reasonable” changes necessary to reduce the risk for future dog attacks if their dog has bitten someone. If it’s a second occurrence, any person may file a civil lawsuit against the owner or if a trained attack dog causes severe injury.  

How is Strict-Liability Different than the One-Bite Rule?

Each state has specific laws for dog bite cases and legal options for victims to pursue compensation. Some laws only hold the owner liable if they knew or had reason to know the dog might bite someone. That’s called the “one-bite rule,” which essentially gives all dog owners one free pass before legal action. Strict-liability dog bite laws typically don’t allow a single bite. The dog owner may be liable after the first bite if the dog is prone to biting under certain circumstances, is a dangerous breed, or has other factors at play.

The focus of these laws is whether the owner knew or should have known about the dog’s potential for violence and if they took steps to prevent a biting scenario. The one-bite rule gives a little leeway that strict liability laws make irrelevant.

Are There Exceptions to Strict Liability?

Strict liability stipulations only apply if the injured party was not trespassing or breaking and entering at the time of the incident and did not provoke the dog. People injured by a police or military dog doing their law enforcement tasks or defending someone cannot sue the city for damages unless they are innocent victims who weren’t suspected of a crime at the time.

Dog bites that happen during routine visits and procedures with veterinarians or vet assistants do not have legal recourse because it’s an accepted risk of the trade.

These cases can be extremely complex, and require the knowledge of a Bakersfield dog bite lawyer with experience handling such claims. At the Law Offices of Mickey Fine, our attorney has the skill and resources needed to help you pursue the justice you deserve.

For What Damages Can a Dog Owner Be Liable?

Civil cases against dog owners for compensation may include economic (monetary losses), non-economic (pain and suffering), and punitive damages (meant to deter future attacks). However, some dog owners may also face criminal charges if the animal harms someone while roaming free. Dog owners are liable if their pet injures someone and may have home insurance coverage for the incident. The owner or insurance company may be ordered to pay for:

  • Medical bills.
  • Pain and suffering.
  • Lost income or lost days of wages.
  • Property damage related to dog bite (broken prescription eyeglasses or a wrecked bike or motorcycle).
  • Punitive damages if the dog owner’s behavior was especially egregious to prevent another attack. 

California is a comparative negligence state, so dog bite victims may have their settlement amount reduced by the percentage they were to blame for the altercation.

How Can a Dog Bite Attorney Help?

These claims require detailed knowledge of California laws and statutes. An attorney will review the facts in your case and determine if the animal’s owner may be liable for your injuries. A lawyer will build your claim and provide a detailed estimate for the compensation you’re owed for your ongoing medical bills and pain and suffering. By hiring an experienced attorney to handle your claim, you can focus solely on healing.

Talk to a Bakersfield Dog Bite Lawyer for Free

The Law Offices of Mickey Fine has decades of experience successfully helping injured victims pursue their dog bite cases. 

Call (661) 333-3333 today to speak with an attorney for free. Our firm works on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t owe us unless we win.

Dog Bite
by Mickey Fine Law
Last updated on - Originally published on