dog bite injury

Understanding California’s Dog Bite Laws

Every state has different laws about liability for dog bites. The rules address when a dog owner has to pay the damages caused by the dog biting or attacking someone. Also, states can vary on their exceptions to dog owner liability.

A California dog bite attorney can advocate for you if you or a loved one got injured by someone else’s dog and go after money damages for your losses if you qualify for compensation. We can also help you understand California’s dog bite laws.

Is California a Strict Liability Dog Bite State?

In some states, the dog owner gets a “free pass” on the first bite, also called the “one-bite” rule, but California does not follow that rule. The one-bite rule means that an owner is not liable if there was no reason to suspect that the dog was vicious. 

Usually, one proves a dog’s vicious tendencies by showing that the dog had bitten or attacked someone before the current incident. The one-bite rule places the burden on the injured person to investigate the dog and its owner to seek information that is unlikely to be on the public record.

Since California does not follow the one-bite rule, a dog owner here is liable for the damages caused by the dog biting someone else, regardless of whether the dog was vicious in the past or the owner knew about the dog’s tendency to be vicious. Also, there is no requirement in California that the injured person must prove negligence on the part of the dog owner. The California dog bite statute does not place a limit on the available damages.

Can a Dog Owner Be Liable if Someone Gets Bitten on the Owner’s Property?

Yes, a dog owner can be liable for injuries caused by the dog in a public place or lawfully in a private place. A public park or the sidewalk or street when taking a dog for a walk are examples of public places. Private places can include the owner’s property and other privately-owned locations.

The owner is not liable for injuries caused by the dog to someone who is on the property illegally, like a trespasser or intruder. A person is on the property legally in these situations:

  • A social guest, like someone the owner invites to the property
  • Someone who is on the property to perform a service for someone in the household, like performing repairs, yard work, or delivering goods
  • An individual who is performing a duty under California law, like a meter reader
  • Someone delivering mail for the post office or a delivery company
  • Anyone who is on the property at the express or implied invitation of the owner

A government agency is not liable for dog bite injuries when using a dog in military or police work if the dog was assisting an employee of the agency to:

  • Investigate a crime or possible crime
  • Execute a warrant
  • Defend a peace officer or another person
  • Apprehend or hold a suspect when the employee has reasonable suspicion of criminal activity by the suspect. 

Also, the injured person is not eligible for money damages if he got hurt after provoking, annoying, or harassing the military or police dog.

Dog attacks can cause severe, even fatal, injuries, including disfigurement and loss of function. A California personal injury attorney can help you hold the dog owner accountable for your damages. Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation.