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California Dog Bite Law and Liability

Who Can Be Held Accountable for a Dog Bite in California?

Owning a dog requires a lot of time and patience. Dog owners are expected to train their dogs to behave, especially when out in public. California laws must also be followed to ensure that a dog is not seen as a threat to the public’s safety. Dog owners who go against these established rules and regulations are likely to face legal repercussions for their negligence. 

Below, we will discuss California’s most important dog bite laws. If you have suffered a dog bite, our 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.

To schedule a free consultation, please contact our 24/7 legal team by calling 213-927-3700 or filling out our quick contact form.

California 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

However, this law does not apply to any victims who suffered a dog bite while a dog was engaged in police or military work. Also, it is necessary for an injury to be caused by a dog bite, and not by another behavior on the dog’s part.

The statute of limitations for personal injury is 2 years starting from the initial date of the incident. If the aggrieved individual exceeds the deadline, then they will no longer be eligible to file a lawsuit against the dog owner. Exceptions may apply if the aggrieved individual is:

  • A minor
  • Living out-of-state
  • Legally identified as insane
  • Incarcerated 
  • Physically or mentally impaired

Strict Liability for a Dog Bite 

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.

Defenses Against Dog Bite Liability

The main exception to dog bite liability is when a trespasser is bitten on someone else’s property. California dog bite laws require that an individual needs to be bitten in a public place or lawfully on someone’s private property in order to file a claim for damages. Therefore, a trespasser is not entitled to any legal recourse. 

There are two more possible defenses, which are when a dog was involved in military or police work and when a dog was provoked into biting someone. It’s important to add that a police or military dog needs to be presently engaged in active duty when the bite occurred. 

Dangerous Dog Laws in California

There are laws in California which require a dog owner to take extra caution when their dog has already bitten someone. None of the previously mentioned defenses will apply when a dog has bitten someone at least twice. Legal action can be taken by anyone against such a dog owner. In cases where a dog has bitten twice, or has been trained to attack, a court may order that animal to be removed from the area or even have it euthanized. 

In California, law enforcement officials or animal control may request a hearing against a dog if they believe it is a serious threat to others. If the court determines that such a dog is a threat, the dog owner will be required to keep the dog indoors, on a leash, and inside a fenced yard where no children or animals can enter. A dog owner who does not follow these requirements will be fined.  

How is a dog determined to be a danger to others? Any dog can be considered dangerous if it has:

  • Displayed aggressive behavior on at least 2 occasions within a three year span that forced someone to defend themselves.
  • Injured or killed someone without any provocation
  • Injured or killed a domestic animal at least twice in the past 3 years.

Once evidence has been proven that the dog is a danger around people and animals, the court will identify it as a vicious animal. The dog owner will be ordered to follow legal requirements to ensure the safety of others. 

West Coast Trial Lawyers Is Here to Help 

If you have sustained injuries as a result of a dog bite, our expert dog bite attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers can help you recover compensation for the losses you have suffered, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.

Contact us today by calling 213-927-3700 or filling out our contact form to schedule a free consultation with our experienced, caring, and compassionate legal team.

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