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Understanding California's Dog Bite Laws

Who is liable for my dog bite injuries?

When it comes to dog bites and animal attacks, California is a strict liability state. This means that a dog owner is strictly liable for the actions of their pet. While some states require the victim to show that the same dog had previously bitten someone else, and that the pet owner was aware of their dog’s prior viciousness, California has no such law. While there are certain exceptions, it is generally true that the owner will be liable for any damages.

More specifically, California Civil Code § 3342 states that a dog owner is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is “bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog.” If you or your child has suffered a dog bite injury in California, we encourage you to discuss the details of your case with a Pasadena personal injury attorney at Gille Kaye Law Group, PC. We offer free consultations.

Exceptions to the “Strict Liability” Dog Bite Rule

Although strict liability will apply in most dog bite cases, there are exceptions. For example, the owner could not be held accountable for the actions of their pet if the victim was trespassing on their property. You would be trespassing unless you were invited onto the property by the owner and/or you were performing a duty imposed by the laws of the state or by the laws or postal regulations of the U.S. Similarly, dog bite liability would not apply if the dog was assisting the military or police in:

  • Apprehending or holding a suspect
  • Investigating a crime or possible crime
  • Executing an arrest or search warrant
  • Defending an officer or other person

What if the owner claims that I provoked the dog?

Provocation is another defense to strict liability when it comes to dog bites and attacks. The owner cannot be held accountable for a dog bite injury if the victim provoked the attack; however, there are exceptions to the provocation defense. This defense would not apply if the victim was under the age of five, since a child this young cannot be regarded as negligent. Furthermore, the provocation defense would not apply to a child who was following their parents’ instructions or explicit directions prior to the attack.

What if my dog was injured or killed by another dog?

If your dog was attacked or even killed by another person’s dog, you may be wondering if you are entitled to damages. As long as no legitimate defenses apply, California law states that the dog owner would be liable for all damages stemming from the attack. This could include the cost of your dog’s medical treatment (i.e. X-rays, medications, casts, stitching, etc.) or end-of-life medical care. In most cases, however, you would be prohibited from seeking damages for emotional distress in a dog bite case.

Ready to take action? Gille Kaye Law Group, PC is here to help.

Are you interested in filing a personal injury claim for your dog bite injury? If so, you should contact a Pasadena personal injury lawyer at Gille Kaye Law Group, PC for a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team can put more than 30 years of combined legal experience to work for you as soon as you give us a call. We care about our clients’ well-being, so you can count on us to fight for the level of compensation that you truly deserve—even if that means taking your case to court. Call now to learn more about how we can help!

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