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Legal Repercussions for Dog Bites

What Happens to My Dog and I After a Dog Bite?

It usually comes as a surprise to the dog owner when their furry best friend bites a human being. In some states, this could mean automatic euthanization. However, you do have certain defenses in a dog bite case if you are being accused of negligence.


For example, if your dog happened to bite a trespasser, California releases the owner from liability. The exact stipulations behind the dog biting scenario can determine the liability of the owner and the fate of the dog. West Coast Trial Lawyers practices dog bite law and can help you with your personal injury case.

One Bite Law

Pedestrian Deaths in Los Angeles

The “one bite law” allows the dog owner to escape liability if they had no idea that the dog was going to bite since the animal never exhibited vicious behavior prior to the attack. However, this only covers the dog and its owner for one bite. After that, the owner has the responsibility of keeping the public safe from their dog. California does not accept this rule.

California is a strict liability state. If the victim is in a public or private space, where they are legally allowed to be and they do not provoke the dog, then the dog owner is strictly liable for the animal’s actions.

California law suggests that it is the duty of the dog owner to train, control, and be aware of their dog at all times, regardless of whether the dog had shown aggression in the past or not.

California Civil Code 3342 puts strict liability on dog bites for owners if:

  • The victim suffered injuries from the attack
  • The victim was in a public place or lawfully on private property

However, there are a few exceptions to the rule. These exceptions include:

  • If the individual was a trespasser
  • If the dog was part of the military or police force and was on duty
  • If the individual was partially responsible for provoking the dog
  • If the individual assumed the risk of being bitten by the dog

Available Damages

Accidents happen. If you were injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. Below is a brief explanation of damages. Damages are a type of monetary award that is determined by a court of law to help compensate an aggrieved individual for any losses or injuries sustained as a result of someone’s negligence.

Economic Damages
Economic damages are intended to compensate a plaintiff for losses that a dollar amount can readily be attached to. Economic damages are calculated by determining the amount of out-of-pocket losses an aggrieved individual has or will expect to incur as a result of their injuries.

A few examples of economic losses include:

  • Loss of Earning Capacity
  • Medical Bills
  • Lost Wages

Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages are essentially intended to cover losses that are thought of as subjective and will not necessarily cover out-of-pocket losses. Non-economic damages may include compensation for:

  • Emotional Distress
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life

Punitive Damages
The third type of damages a California court may award are known as punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended as punishment and are only awarded when a defendant’s behavior is especially harmful. Punitive damages are relatively rare and in fact were only incorporated in 5 percent of all verdicts.

Furthermore, there is no real set standard for calculating and awarding punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded at the court’s discretion and will vary depending on the specific circumstances of a case.

Limitations for Damages in California 
For the most part, there is no real cap on compensatory damages following a personal injury claim. This means that courts are able to award any amount they feel is appropriate and reasonable.

However, the only exception is regarding medical malpractice cases. In these cases, the limit for pain and suffering and other non-economic losses is $250,000.

West Coast Trial Lawyers Is Here to Help

Although California does not enforce the “one bite” rule, there are other defenses that you can take to protect yourself from liability and your dog from being euthanized. However, in most cases, it is difficult to completely escape liability. If you have sustained injuries in the city of Los Angeles as a result of a dog bite, our skilled personal injury attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers can help you recover financial compensation for the losses you have suffered, including medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering. 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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