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.