Dog bite injury

Does California’s Dog Bite Law Protect Trespassers?

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

California holds dog owners strictly liable for injuries caused by a dog bite. However, this strict liability does not apply to trespassers. So, if you’ve been bitten by a dog while trespassing, you may be wondering if you can sue the owner. 

The answer is… it depends. 

Read on to learn more about what our California dog bite attorneys have to say about California’s dog bite law and what your options are if you’ve been injured.

California’s Dog Bite Statute and Trespassers

California’s dog bite statute provides that dog owners are strictly liable for dog bites that happen either:

  • On public property, or
  • Anywhere the victim had a lawful right to be

Trespassers are people who are:

  • Not on public property, and 
  • Not lawfully allowed

Trespassers may become or remain trespassers because:

  • They weren’t invited onto the property
  • They weren’t performing an official duty on the property
  • They were invited onto the property, but their invitation was revoked
  • They refused to leave the premises after being asked to leave

Because of this, they are not allowed to use California’s dog bite statute to sue the owner.

This isn’t the end of the story though.

The next question is: “Can a trespasser sue an owner for injuries from a dog bite?”

Of course, they can. But, they will have the burden of proving that the owner was negligent and that negligence caused the bite and the injury.

How Can a Trespasser Prove Their Injuries Stemmed from Negligence?

In order to obtain compensation for their injuries, trespassers must prove all elements of negligence. These elements are:

  • Duty
  • Breach
  • Causation
  • Damages

Let’s look at each of these elements in a little more detail.


Both dog owners and the people charged with the dog’s care have a legal duty to ensure there is no unreasonable risk of injury to other people. If the dog has a history of attacking others, this increases the foreseeability that the dog might bite someone.


If a dog owner or the dog’s keeper failed to ensure that a violent dog did not bite someone else, their actions may be in breach of their duty to protect others from unreasonable risk.

Causation & Damages

If the trespasser can satisfy duty and breach, they must then show that the dog bite caused an actual injury.

What if the Trespasser Was Partially At-Fault?

This is one of the most important defenses available to a dog owner. This is because California is a comparative fault state, which means that the trespasser’s damages would be reduced by the amount of fault a judge or jury decided fell to the trespasser.

If Your Were Bitten By a Dog, We Can Help

If you were bit by a dog in California, whether you were trespassing or not, you may be able to succeed in a claim against the owner. The experienced dog bite attorneys at J&Y Law Firm can help determine whether you were actually trespassing and what laws protect you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.