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Dog Bites and Strict Liability in California

Who Is Liable for Personal Injury in a Dog Bite Case?

Dog attacks are very common in California, which is unfortunate because dog attacks are mostly preventable when dog owners act responsibly. While the majority of people shower their furry friends with love and affection, not everyone treats their animals humanely. If you were bitten by a dog, you may have been surprised by its strength and athleticism. Some dogs have jaws that actually have the strength to exert as much as 600 pounds of pressure per bite.

Beyond injuries and emotional trauma, a dog bite can carry serious legal implications. With your safety and well-being in mind, we’ve compiled the most important dog bite liability laws you must know about in the state of California. We’ve also included several resources to assist you in the unfortunate event of a dog bite.

If you or a loved one was injured in a dog attack, it’s important that you speak with a dog bite lawyer as soon as possible. The experienced team of dog bite attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers understand what you are going through, and we will fight to recover all the compensation you are entitled to if you or a loved one was the victim of a dog attack.

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

Dog Bite Statistics and Strict Liability

Young children are at the greatest risk of being attacked by a dog, and almost half of all children under twelve will suffer at least one dog bite in their lives. In fact, children are involved in 79 percent of all fatal dog attacks, which is a shocking figure.

A liable dog owner was responsible for more than $686 million in dog-related injury costs in 2017, with an average dog bite claim totaling about $37,000. In total, insurance companies spend over $1 billion a year in dog bite settlements.

More Alarming Dog Bite Statistics

  • More than 1,000 people a day require emergency medical care after a serious dog bite injury.
  • Every 75 seconds a person is bitten by a dog.
  • More than 6,750 U.S. Postal Service workers were the victim of a dog attack in 2016.
  • 4.5 million dog bites occur annually in the United States.
  • 1 in 5 dog bites will become infected.

California’s Dog Bite Laws

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 from 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 in someone’s private property. There is no requirement to prove that the dog owner was negligent or did something wrong. 

Statute of Limitations for Dog Bite Claims and Lawsuits

All states have statute of limitations that place a deadline on filing personal injury lawsuits. A dog bite suit is considered a personal injury claim, and California’s statute of limitations on a personal injury case is 2 years. This means that an injured person is granted 2 years from the time the bite occurred to file a case. 

What About Instances of Dog Attacks Without Biting? 

If a dog attack, without any biting, results in injury, the injured person may recover damages against the dog owner only if the victim can establish that the dog owner’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the dog attack or failing to prevent the dog attack. A dog scratching a victim’s face is one example. 

Another example could be when a dog bites a bicyclist’s wheel and causes the bicyclist to crash and get injured. In these situations, the dog owner is not strictly liable. Instead, the claimant must prove that the dog owner acted negligently. For example, proving that the dog was not on its leash when the incident occurred may be enough to show that the dog owner was negligent.  

Our Team 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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