California Civil Code Section 3342 states that a dog owner is liable for damages when:
- The injuries were caused by a dog bite.
- The victim was bitten while in a public place or lawfully on private property.
This statute has exceptions for victims who suffered a dog bite injury while a dog was doing police or military work. Also, an injury must be caused by a dog bite, and not by another behavior on the dog’s part.
For example, imagine a young girl is reading a book on the sidewalk when a dog jumps on her, accidentally scratching the 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, ordinary negligence rules will apply where the victim must prove that the dog owner’s negligence caused the victim’s injuries.
When it comes to dog bites, California is a strict liability state, which means that a dog owner cannot escape liability for a dog bite even if he or she had no idea that their dog would behave aggressively. A dog owner will be held responsible for any damages resulting from a dog bite, whether the dog had bitten someone before 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 lawfully on someone’s private place. So there is no requirement to prove that the dog owner was negligent or did something wrong.