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When it comes to dog bites, California is a strict liability state. As long as a dog bite occurred in a public place or lawfully on private property -- including the dog owner’s property -- the dog owner will be held liable for any injuries. Dog bites are emotionally and physically devastating injuries and will always require medical attention. Despite how violent a dog bite can be, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk and severity of an attack.

If you have suffered injuries after a dog bite, you may be entitled to compensatory damages for

  • Emotional Distress
  • Lost Wages
  • Property Loss
  • Medical Bills
  • Loss Of Consortium


According to California Civil Code Section 3342, a dog owner will be held liable for damages when:

  • A victim’s injuries were caused by a dog bite
  • A victim was bitten in a public place or while lawfully on private property

However, this statute does not apply to any victims who suffered a dog bite while a dog was engaged in police or military work. Also, it is necessary for an injury to be caused by a dog bite, and not by another behavior on the dog’s part.

For example, imagine that a child is reading on a public sidewalk and a dog jumps on him or her, accidentally scratching that child’s face and causing minor injuries.

However, because the child’s injury was not caused by an actual bite, this statute will not apply. Instead, standard California negligence rules apply. Ultimately, this means an injured victim who was not bitten must prove that the dog owner’s negligence was the primary cause of any injuries sustained

1.1 What Is The One Bite Law?

Many states actually abide by what’s known as the “one bite rule”. Therefore, several states will not impose liability for a dog bite unless the owner was aware that his or her dog had already bitten someone or had previously proven to be dangerous.

The state of California does not follow this “one bite rule”. In contrast to “one bite rule” states, California will impose strict liability after a dog bite. An aggrieved party does not have to prove the dog who bit them had bitten before, displayed aggressive tendencies, or even that the dog owner acted negligently.

California law will impose an added duty of care on a dog owner if their dog had previously displayed violent behavior. Any owner of such a dog is required to take reasonable steps to keep that dog from biting or attacking anyone. Failure to do so may result in liability.

1.2 Strict Liability In A Dog Bite Case

In relation to dog bites, California is a strict liability state. This means a dog owner cannot escape liability for a dog bite even if he or she had no idea that their dog would behave aggressively. According to strict liability, a dog owner will be held responsible for any damages resulting from a dog bite, whether the dog had previously bitten someone or not.

In summary, if you suffered a dog bite, you only need to prove the bite occurred when you were in a public place or while lawfully on someone’s private property. In such instances, there is no requirement for an aggrieved individual to show the dog owner was negligent or didn’t take reasonable care.

1.3 When Can I Sue And Not Sue For A Dog Bite?

As mentioned, California Civil Code section 3342 is the state’s primary civil dog bite statute. According to CC 3342, a dog owner will automatically be held liable for injuries caused to others if:

  1. The victim did not provoke the dog into biting
  2. The victim was bitten while in public or on private property

A dog bite victim will not usually be entitled to damages in California when:

  • He or she was trespassing on private property
  • He or she deliberately provoked the dog
  • The dog was protecting the owner or someone else according to California’s self-defense laws
  • The dog was engaged in military or police work


Below are the four most common types of dog bite cases:

Dog On Dog Attacks: Dog on dog aggression is dangerous because it has the potential to cause injuries to people and dogs. A homeowner’s insurance policy may cover a person’s damages in such an incident, including pain and suffering, but unfortunately a dog’s pain and suffering is not covered.

Non-Aggressive Dog Attacks. Instances where a non-aggressive dog unintentionally attacks a human by knocking them over or tripping them are common. Large breeds in particular can easily weigh more than some people. A large, excitable dog can easily knock down and injure a person they may just be happy to see.

Dangerous Dog Breeds. There are some dogs that are inherently dangerous and have already been known to attack and bite people. It’s important to know that a vast majority of homeowner’s insurance policies will exclude coverage for any damages caused by dangerous dog breeds, such as Pit Bulls and Rottweilers. In California, dangerous dog breeds are governed by breed specific ordinances, that among other things, mandate that such breeds must be registered and spayed/neutered.

Dog Attacks On Children. A dog attack on a child will always raise unique liability issues, because dog bites and attacks on children require treatment not only for physical injuries, but for emotional and mental trauma. In the worst cases, dog attacks on children can be fatal. A victim of such an attack may also be entitled to punitive damages on top of the normal damages they may already be entitled to.

2.1 What Happens To A Dog That Bit Me?

California dog bite quarantine laws mandate that any dogs who have bitten someone must be quarantined for ten days. This period of time is necessary to ensure that the animal is not carrying rabies.

The dog will usually be allowed to remain on the owner’s property during this time. Once it has been determined that the dog is healthy, it will be released back into the owner’s care.

Dogs who bite people are not typically euthanized. Euthanasia is only permitted by law for dogs who bite in California if:

  • The dog had already bitten someone on two separate occasions
  • The dog was trained to attack or kill, had bitten once, and that bite caused substantial physical injury

Any dogs who meet the above requirements can be taken away from their owners and can be euthanized after a hearing. A hearing process can be initiated by any individual, including the dog bite victim, a concerned member of the community, or a government official.


Dog bite victims in California are typically entitled to compensation for their losses. Compensatory damages may include:

  • Emotional Distress
  • Lost Wages
  • Medical Bills
  • Loss Of Consortium
  • Physical/Vocational Therapy
  • Psychological Counseling
  • Lost Earning Capacity
  • Scarring
  • Loss Of Limb(s)

Further, the surviving family members of anyone who was killed by a dog may be entitled to damages on the decedent’s behalf. Such a claim would be filed as a wrongful death case and would possibly entitle survivors to additional damages.

3.1 Suing For Punitive Damages

An aggrieved individual may be able to recover punitive damages in certain cases. Punitive damages are rarely awarded and are intended to punish a defendant who has engaged in particularly egregious behavior.

In order for a dog bite victim to recover punitive damages, he or she must prove with clear and convincing evidence that the dog owner’s actions were fraudulent or malicious in nature.

This essentially means the dog owner acted “with a willful and conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others.”

3.2 Statute Of Limitations For A Dog Bite Claim

All states have a statute of limitations which places a deadline on a personal injury lawsuit. A dog bite case is considered as a personal injury claim. California’s statute of limitation on a personal injury case is two years. This means that an injured dog bite victim has two years from the time the dog bite first occurred in order to preserve their rights and file a claim in court.

4) Dog Bite Resources And Cat Bite Resources

  • Cat Bite Lawsuits

    Cats are more mysterious than dogs. It can be difficult to know when they’re about to attack. But when they do the damages can be severe.

  • Los Angeles Dog Park Laws

    Most of these regulations are straightforward and common sense. A few, however, are not so obvious and a dog owner can easily violate them without meaning to.

  • California Leash Law

    California has very strict leash laws. In California, it is illegal to leash a dog to any stationary object, including fences, poles, and trees without proper food and shelter.

  • Reporting Dog Bites

    Reporting a dog bite to the proper authorities is not only lawful but responsible. These rules and regulations were set in place for the protection of the public.

  • Does The Size Or Breed Of A Dog Affect Liability?

    Most states, California included, have breed specific laws for dogs. These breed specific laws are primarily targeted at pitbulls and other breeds included in the pitbull line, as well as other dogs mixed with pitbull blood.

  • Bites From A Service Dog

    In California, a person with a disability is allowed to possess and carry a trained service or psychiatric dog into most public areas. However, just because the dog is trained to perform a duty, does not mean that it can’t misinterpret a command or act inappropriately all together.

West Coast Trial Lawyers Is Here to Help

If you have sustained injuries as a result of a dog bite, you have the right to hold the guilty party responsible. A dog bite attorney at our firm can help you recover financial compensation for the losses you have suffered, including medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering from your injury.

Call us today at (213) 927-3700 or email [email protected] to schedule a free consultation with our experienced, caring and compassionate legal team.



If you have been injured in an accident, you can count on the legal team at West Coast Trial Lawyers to fight for your rights every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney.
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