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California Dog Bite Law on Provocation

What if a Dog Bite Was Provoked by the Victim?

For the most part, if a dog was provoked into biting someone, the aggrieved individual will not be entitled to any damages. Below, our experienced dog bite attorneys will discuss dog bites that were provoked, as well as the special circumstances behind these claims. If you have suffered a dog bite injury, West Coast Trial Lawyers is always here to answer any questions you may have about dog bite claims and available damages.

The Role of Provocation

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Provocation can mean many things. Most people assume it automatically means poking or teasing a dog in an overt way, such as by taunting it from behind the safety of a fence. Of course, taunting a dog from behind a fence is a valid example of a behavior that is intended to provoke a dog. But there are many other actions that can easily trigger a dog to attack.

For the most part, any behavior or action that makes a dog act aggressively can count as provocation. If it can be proven that you provoked a dog, you will not likely be entitled to any damages and the dog owner will not be subject to liability.

An aggrieved individual needs to show proof that the dog bite occurred without the dog being teased or taunted at. This person must be truthful and convince a court that it was more than 50 percent likely that the dog’s reaction was brought on by itself rather than having it caused by the aggrieved individual. On the other hand, the dog owner would have to argue the inverse, that the dog was indeed provoked. 

Special Circumstances

Let’s consider a few unique circumstances. For example, an unstable dog reacts very aggressively after a minor provocation. In that case, the dog owner can be held liable since they should have already known that their dog was overly sensitive and would react aggressively.

Unintentional provocation may also occur. The court could potentially relieve owners of liability, depending on the situation. The victim is expected to show proof that they did not harm the dog on purpose. Some common dog bite cases that have been claimed to be unintentional include:

  • Petting the dog while it was eating food
  • Spraying pepper spray on a dog for self-defensive purposes
  • Accidentally stepping on the dog’s paw or tail
  • Breaking up a dog fight

The court will have to analyze evidence and statements given by both parties in order to determine who should be held liable for injuries based on the severity of the injury, what caused the dog bite, and the dog’s history.

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. There are no financial risks involved when you use our services. Contact us today by calling (213) 927-3700 or emailing [email protected] to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our knowledgeable, 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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