California Dog Bite Laws [2021]

Features,Personal Injury | January 11, 2021

Being the victim of a dog attack can change your life. Serious dog bite injuries can cause substantial pain and suffering, as well as permanent scarring and disfigurement. You may need to spend thousands of dollars in medical bills alone to recover. Understanding California’s dog bite laws can help you protect your rights as a victim and hold the pet owner financially responsible.

Does California Have a “One-Bite” Rule?

With a “one-bite” rule, a pet owner will only be legally responsible for an attack if the dog bit someone previously, giving the owner knowledge of the dog’s propensity for viciousness. States that use a “one-bite” rule require injured victims to prove a pet owner’s negligence. A victim must show the dog had a history of violence and that its owner failed to act in a reasonable manner to obtain financial compensation. California, however, is not a “one-bite” state. It is a strict liability state.

California’s Dog Bite Statute

California Civil Code Section 3342 states that the owner of a dog is liable for injuries and damages suffered by someone bitten by the dog, regardless of whether or not the pet owner knew or had reason to know of the dog’s viciousness. In other words, the dog owner (or controller) is financially responsible for an attack whether or not the owner was negligent. This is called a strict liability dog bite statute.

California’s dog bite law will apply as long as the injured victim was in a public place at the time of the attack or lawfully on private property. If the victim was trespassing, he or she cannot hold the pet owner liable, in most cases. If the victim was a child under the age of 18, however, this is an exception to the rule. Another exception is if the victim was harassing, provoking or annoying the dog prior to the bite injury.

What About Attacks That Don’t Involve Bites?

California’s strict liability dog bite statute only applies to dog bites, not injuries or damages caused by other dog behaviors. If a dog jumped on you, knocked you down and caused an injury, for example, the strict liability rule wouldn’t apply. Instead, you would have to prove the pet owner’s negligence to hold him or her financially responsible.

Defenses to Lawsuits in California

The most common defense to a dog bite injury lawsuit in California is to assert that the victim caused or significantly contributed to the attack through an act of wrongdoing. A pet owner may try to prove you were trespassing on his or her property at the time of the attack, for example, or that you provoked the dog into biting you.

Another possible defense is that the dog was performing active police or military work when the attack occurred. This might be a usable defense if the dog was assisting a government agency employee in apprehending a criminal suspect, investigating a crime, executing a warrant or defending the employee.

Note that it is not a usable defense for the dog owner to state that he or she had a “Beware of Dog” sign. Typically, a sign warning visitors of a dangerous dog is not enough to shield a pet owner from liability in a strict liability dog bite state. Even with a sign, and even if the pet owner was not guilty of negligence, the owner will be liable for an attack according to California law.

Questions About California Dog Bite Law? Contact The Ryan Law Group

Get Help From a Los Angeles Dog Bite Attorney

It is important to protect your rights as a dog bite injury victim – especially if you suffered serious or catastrophic injuries that will impact you for the foreseeable future. Hiring a dog bite lawyer in Los Angeles can help you combat a pet owner’s defenses to your claim and negotiate with the owner’s insurance company for a fair settlement. A dog bite lawyer can help you get the results you need to move forward.

During the COVID-19 crisis, The Ryan Law Group is open for business and continues to be available to existing and new clients through virtual meetings and teleconferences. We can handle all of your legal needs without you leaving your house. Please, call (310) 321-4800 or contact us here to be connected to our attorneys who can get to work on your case.