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Legal Repercussions for Dog Bites

What Happens When My Dog Bites Someone? Explained by the Best Dog Bite Injury Lawyers

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 practice dog bite law and can help you with your personal injury case. 

One Bite Law

In the past, California employed a “one bite law”, which meant that if the dog owner had no idea that that dog was going to bite, as in the animal never exhibiting vicious behavior, then the owner could escape liability. This law, however, only covered the dog and its owner for one bite. After that, the owner has a responsibility to keep the public safe from the dog. 

California is a strict liability state. Unfortunately, it does not abide by the one bite law. If the victim is in a public or private space, where they are legally allowed to stand 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 bite occurred:

  • In a public place 
  • If the victim was a lawful guest on private property 

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

  • If the victim was a trespasser 
  • If the dog was a law enforcement animal 
  • If the victim was partially responsible for the bite, if they provoked the dog for example 
  • If the victim assumed the risk of being bitten by the dog
  • The owner is not the one being sued

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
  • Other Non-Economic Damanges

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 are only incorporated in 5% 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 Can Help Defend You In A Personal Injury Lawsuit

Although California does not enforce the “one bite” rule, there are other defenses that can take to protect yourself from liability and your dog from euthanasia. 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, attack, or accident, a personal injury 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. Call West Coast Trial Lawyers 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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