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Legal Components of a California Dog Bite Case

Dog Bite Case Laws and Legal Processes, Explained by the Best Dog Bite Injury Attorneys

Below, our experienced dog bite attorneys will discuss the basic considerations and elements of a dog bite claim. If you have suffered a dog bite, the experienced dog bite attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers are always here to answer any questions you may have about dog bite claims and available damages.

California’s Dog Bite Laws

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

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.

The One Bite Law

Many states 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.

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.

Available Damages In A Dog Bite Claim

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


  • Emotional Distress
  • Lost Wages
  • Property Loss
  • Medical Bills 
  • 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.

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.”

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.

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 more. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation at our firm. There are no financial risks when you use our services. 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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