Dog Bites in California - Know Your Rights

When a dog bite occurs, the results can be both physically and emotionally devastating to the victim, particularly when the victim is a child.  California law protects victims and allows them certain rights that do not exist in other situations involving bodily injury.  If you or a loved one is a dog bite victim, you should know your rights in order to make sure all of the compensation deserved is recovered from the dog's owner or other party responsible.

California is a Strict Liability State

Under California law, the owner of a dog is automatically liable for injuries their dog inflicts when it bites.  It does not need to be proven that the dog was in general vicious or had any history of biting.  This is known as "strict liability", and it applies to all dog bites that occur regardless of the breed of the dog or the propensity for biting.  While there are defenses to strict liability (such as where the dog is intentionally provoked to bite by the victim), the law almost always imposes liability on the dog owner.

What happens when the dog is in someone else's possession or on the property of someone who is not the owner?  In these circumstances, the owner is still automatically liable for the bite, and the one who allows the dog on their property or takes control of the dog may also be liable if they were negligent.  To establish liability against a party who is not the owner, you must prove they were careless.  For example, in the case of a landlord who allows a tenant to keep a dog on the rented property, it must generally be shown the landlord knew or "must have" known of the dog's dangerous propensity.  That dangerous propensity may be proven with evidence the dog had attacked other people or pets or it is of a breed that is known to be aggressive and exhibit such behavior.

Where the Injury is Not Caused by a Bite

What happens when the dog does not bite but either scratches or knocks a victim down?  In those circumstances, the victim must prove the owner was negligent.  In order to do that, it must be proven the owner knew or must have known of the dog's dangerous propensity to be aggressive and then failed to take reasonable steps to prevent someone from being hurt.  Once again, the victim must show the dog had a history of vicious behavior or was of a breed that is known for being aggressive and exhibiting that behavior.  If such negligence can be proven, then the victim is entitled to recover compensation for the injuries and damages sustained.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a dog, contacting an experienced Orange County personal injury attorney can be the first and most important step toward recovering compensation.  Too many dog owners and property owners fail to do the right thing, and they should have to compensate their victims.  


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