Dog walking is a serious industry in California, especially in Los Angeles. Many very busy people rely on tens of thousands of dog walkers to ensure their animals are being taken care of when they are unable to walk themselves. However, dog walkers often do not know the dogs that they walk very well, and are sometimes unable to control the animals they are walking, which can result in bites and other injuries to innocent people nearby.
As a premier law firm based in Los Angeles, J&Y Law Firm understands the complexities surrounding dog bite incidents, especially when they involve dog walkers. In California, dog bite cases are often governed by specific laws that outline when and how a victim can seek compensation. Our goal is to guide you through these legal nuances and help you understand your rights. If you have been bitten by a dog that was being walked by a dog walker, read on to learn more.
California’s Dog Bite Laws: A Primer
In California, Civil Code Section 3342 plays a pivotal role in dog bite cases. This statute holds dog owners strictly liable if their dog bites someone, regardless of the dog’s past behavior or the owner’s knowledge of any aggression. This means that if you are bitten by a dog while walking a dog or as a pedestrian, the dog’s owner may be liable for your injuries.
The full law states the following:
- Cal. Civ. Code § 3342
- (a) The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness. A person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner within the meaning of this section when he is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner.
- (b) Nothing in this section shall authorize the bringing of an action pursuant to subdivision (a) against any governmental agency using a dog in military or police work if the bite or bites occurred while the dog was defending itself from an annoying, harassing, or provoking act, or assisting an employee of the agency in any of the following:
- (1) In the apprehension or holding of a suspect where the employee has a reasonable suspicion of the suspect’s involvement in criminal activity.
- (2) In the investigation of a crime or possible crime.
- (3) In the execution of a warrant.
- (4) In the defense of a peace officer or another person.
- (c) Subdivision (b) shall not apply in any case where the victim of the bite or bites was not a party to, nor a participant in, nor suspected to be a party to or a participant in, the act or acts that prompted the use of the dog in the military or police work.
- (d) Subdivision (b) shall apply only where a governmental agency using a dog in military or police work has adopted a written policy on the necessary and appropriate use of a dog for the police or military work enumerated in subdivision (b).
Exceptions to the law
However, there are exceptions. For example, if the victim was trespassing or provoking the dog, the owner might not be held liable. Additionally, if a professional dog walker is bitten by a dog they agreed to walk, the case might be complicated by the assumption of risk inherent in their profession. However, it is vital to review any contracts, verbal agreements, or even handshake deals that may impact the case.
When can a dog walker be found liable for a dog bite?
A dog walker can be found liable for a dog bite under certain circumstances, depending on the laws of the jurisdiction and the specific details of the incident. Here are some scenarios where a dog walker might be held liable:
- Negligence: If the dog walker fails to exercise reasonable care in controlling the dog, and this failure leads to the dog biting someone, the dog walker could be held liable. For example, if a dog walker knowingly takes an aggressive dog into a crowded area without proper restraints and the dog bites someone, this could be seen as negligent behavior.
- Violation of Local Animal Control Laws: Many areas have specific laws or ordinances regarding the handling of dogs, such as leash laws. If a dog walker violates these laws (e.g., by not using a leash in a leash-required area) and a bite occurs, they could be held responsible for any resulting injuries.
- Contractual Liability: Sometimes, the agreement between the dog owner and the dog walker might include clauses that hold the dog walker responsible for certain incidents. If a bite occurs under circumstances covered by such a clause, the dog walker could be liable.
- Assumption of Risk: In some cases, if a dog walker knowingly walks a dog with a history of biting or aggressive behavior, they might assume the risk and could be held liable if the dog bites someone.
- Failure to Warn: If a dog walker is aware of the dog’s aggressive tendencies and fails to warn others (like passersby or clients) about the potential danger, and a bite occurs, the walker could be found liable.
It’s important to note that liability can vary based on the specific laws of the state or municipality, as well as the details of the contract between the dog owner and the dog walker. In any case where a dog bite occurs, it’s advisable for all involved parties to consult with a legal professional to understand their rights and responsibilities.
When Can You Sue for a Dog Bite?
You can sue for a dog bite in California if you were bitten in a public place or while lawfully in a private place, including the property of the dog owner. This right is protected under the strict liability rule, meaning that negligence does not need to be proven.
Is the “One bite rule” the law in California?
The “One Bite Rule” is a common misconception regarding dog bite liability, especially in the context of California law. In many states, the “One Bite Rule” implies that a dog owner is not considered liable for a dog bite if the dog has never bitten anyone before or shown tendencies to be aggressive. Essentially, this rule gives a dog ‘one free bite’ before the owner is held liable for injuries the dog may cause.
However, California does not follow the “One Bite Rule.” Instead, California enforces a strict liability statute regarding dog bites, as outlined in California Civil Code Section 3342. Under this statute, a dog owner is held liable for damages if their dog bites someone, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness. This liability applies if the victim was bitten in a public place or lawfully in a private place, which includes the dog owner’s property.
Therefore, in California, a dog owner cannot escape liability for a dog bite on the grounds that it was the first time their dog bit someone or that they were unaware of the dog’s aggressive tendencies. This makes California’s approach significantly different from the “One Bite Rule” applied in some other jurisdictions.
Compensation You Can Seek
Victims of dog bites can seek compensation for various damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. The specific compensation will depend on the severity of the injuries and the circumstances of the incident.
Why Choose J&Y Law Firm?
At J&Y Law Firm, we have a team of experienced personal injury lawyers who specialize in dog bite cases. We understand the physical, emotional, and financial toll a dog bite can take on an individual and are committed to helping our clients receive the compensation they deserve.
If you’ve been injured by a dog bite in California, whether as a dog walker or in another capacity, it’s important to understand your legal rights. At J&Y Law Firm, we are here to provide you with expert legal guidance and representation. Call us today at (877) 862-4317 for a free consultation so we can review the details of your case and determine if you have grounds for a lawsuit.