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Dog Bite Injuries and Trespasser Laws

Is the Dog Owner Liable for an Injury When a Dog Bites a Trespasser?

The reality is that all property owners can usually be held liable for any injuries or losses that occur on their property. This is because a property owner has a duty of care to all visitors who enter their property and must take reasonable steps to ensure safety for their visitors. However, under very specific circumstances, a property owner may actually have to extend this duty of care to non-invitees, such as trespassers.


Below, our experienced dog bite attorneys will discuss the legal considerations of a trespasser who is bitten by a dog while on your property. If you have suffered a dog bite, West Coast Trial Lawyers is always here to answer any questions you may have about dog bite claims and available damages.

Who Counts as a Trespasser?

A trespasser is someone who is neither allowed nor invited onto someone’s property. Unlike an invitee or licensee, who have the greatest duty of care owed to them, a trespasser has very little owed to them. Please be mindful of the fact that just because someone enters a property without being invited does not necessarily mean they are automatically a trespasser. A classic example would be a solicitor or salesperson who enters a property without permission when there is no locked gate.

Property Owner’s Duty of Care

According to California Civil Code 1714(a): “Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person.”

As mentioned, all property owners have a duty of care to reasonably maintain their premises. A duty of care for a property owner essentially encompasses any actions that a reasonable property owner should take or should have taken in similar circumstances. It’s also important to understand that a property owner’s duty of care may vary depending on who is on their property. Also, there are situations where an injured individual contributed negligence towards causing an accident. In such cases, liability may be shared between the property owner and the injured individual.

Duty of Care and Trespassers

Pedestrian Deaths in Los Angeles

A property owner only owes reasonable care to a trespasser. This means that a property owner will not typically be held liable for any injuries or losses sustained by a trespasser if conditions were reasonably safe on that property. Important considerations will include determining what any other reasonable property owner would do in similar circumstances, and also, whether or not a property owner in question, at the very least, met the standard.

Actions that fall under reasonable care are straightforward and include making sure there are no obvious dangers on a property. It also means providing warnings about any potential hazards. This duty of care extends to hazards that are reasonably foreseeable, such as animal attacks.


As mentioned, since a trespasser is not owed a duty of care, there will be very few circumstances in which a property owner will be held liable for any injuries caused to them. As it relates to dog bites, a property owner may be held liable for injuries and losses caused to a trespasser if that homeowner was already aware that the dog in question had dangerous tendencies. However, these dangerous tendencies need to be directed specifically at other people, and not other animals.

Certain dog breeds, such as pitbulls, are already thought of as hazardous. The dog breed in question may play a role in determining liability for a property owner.

Exceptions to the Exceptions

There is a very rare scenario that may be an exception to the exception. If a dog owner was aware that their dog was dangerous, yet took reasonable safety measures, a trespasser will almost certainly not be entitled to any damages for their losses. Let’s say that a dangerous dog was chained up, but the trespasser, fully aware of the dog, still places themselves at a risk of being bitten. That trespasser will most likely not be entitled to anything. This is a very unusual scenario, but it can happen.

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

If you are a dog bite victim and need help getting legal advice, West Coast Trial Lawyers has experienced dog bite attorneys that will help you recover financial compensation for the losses you have suffered, including medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation at our firm. No fees are paid until your case is settled. Reach out to our legal team 24/7 by calling (213) 927-3700 or emailing [email protected].


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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