What to Know About the California Dog Bite Law

Posted on: March 22, 2019

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 4.5 million dog bites that occur each year in the country. Majority of the victims are dog owners since 36 percent of households in the United States. have at least one dog. However, there are also instances wherein people get attacked by another person’s dog which can have grounds for personal injury claims.

While there is a specific law that covers these cases, there are also a few exceptions to know since it is vital for dog owners and bite victims to understand the California law for dog bite claims. Knowing when to file these claims and understanding other factors of the law affect the result of this type of case.

What is the California Dog Bite Law?

Under the California Civil Code, section 3342 states that the owner of the dog is liable for dog bite damages under these circumstances:

A dog bite caused the injury.
The victim was bitten while he or she was in a public space or was legally in private property.

If a dog bites another person on private property, the reason for the victim’s presence on that premise must be determined before the owner can be held liable for the damages. The presence of a person on private property is considered lawful under the following circumstances:

The victim was invited by the owner onto the property directly or through implication.
The victim was performing a form of duty that’s state laws provide.
The victim was performing federal postal law duties.

It is also essential to know that the California dog bite law applies only to an injury caused by a dog bite and not by another action or behavior done by the dog. This means that if a dog causes harm to someone by accidentally scratching the victim’s eye, the statute isn’t applicable since a bite did not cause the injury. Victims may instead apply the California negligence rules in this situation and may claim that the owner failed to secure the dog.

Strict Liability for Dog Bite Laws

Understand that California is a “Strict Liability” state for dog bite claims. Owners cannot escape liability by claiming that they had no knowledge of such viciousness or aggressiveness of their dogs. The responsibility falls under the owner’s hands for any damage that a dog bite inflicts, even if the dog has never done any harm to anyone before.

So if you are a victim of a dog bite, you only need to provide evidence that the incident happened while you were lawfully present in a private property or a public place. There’s no need to provide proof that the owner was aware of the viciousness of the dog or failed to secure the dog and prevent the bite. Keep in mind that there are extra steps that need to be taken if you were injured by a dog that was not caused by a bite.

Defenses to the Dog Bite Law Regarding Liability

There are a few situations when the owner of the dog becomes exempted from the dog bite law.
One of which is when the victim was bitten because he or she was trespassing private property. As mentioned above, the California dog bite law requires the person who suffered this type of injury to be legally present in a private place to collect damages.

For military or government agencies, the dog bite law becomes inapplicable when military or police dogs were fulfilling a work-specific activity when the bite happened. Understand that this defense only applies if the agency has a written policy for handling dogs for their duties.

Lastly, victims might not acquire compensation if they provoked the dog. Contributing to the injury due to such behavior reduces the amount of compensation because of the comparative fault laws in California.

Statute of Limitations: Filing Dog Bite Lawsuits in California

Every state provides a statute of limitations that includes a deadline when filing personal injury lawsuits in the civil court system. As for the statute of limitations in California, personal injury cases should be filed within two years of the date of the incident. A dog bite is considered a personal injury lawsuit and must be filed in court within two years. If the two-year deadline is not met, the case would no longer be valid and would have no hearing.

Seek Legal Advice from Lawyers for Dog Bites in California

Filing one for a dog bite incident requires evidence from the one who was bitten or the complainant as with other personal injury claims. These pieces of evidence must prove the other party’s liability. However, due to these requirements and tedious processes, it would be wise to avoid negotiating or reaching for a settlement on your own due to the amount of work needed to gather and present evidence. You might also face seasoned defense lawyers hired by the party in question to challenge and disprove your claim.

To ensure that you acquire the maximum compensation from your claim, seek legal assistance from lawyers for dog bite claims in California. You need proper advice and representation from legal professionals in Los Angeles. With their knowledge and professional experience, they would know how to negotiate and litigate these types of personal injury claims related to dog bites and ensure you get the proper compensation you deserve.