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Dog Bite Lawyer

About 74.8 million dogs call the United States home, and according to the Center for Disease Control, 4.7 million of them bite people every year. The majority are harmless, playful nips. Others, unfortunately, lead to serious injury, and the worst are fatal. 

In an attempt to mitigate the number of dog attacks, California has strict pet ownership liability laws. Found under section 3342 of the Civil Code, the statutes outline who is responsible when dogs attack.

Dog Bite Lawyer

Dog Injury Law in California

California has a detailed set of dog injury laws on the books, and in some cases, criminal charges apply. The statutes also allow authorities to order extreme actions for severely problematic pets.

Under the code, “strict liability” rules apply when dogs bite and injure, meaning owners are de facto responsible for their pet’s behavior. So, if your ordinarily angelic Fluffy or Fido acts out of character and bites someone, the responsibility falls on you. To put it another way, arguing “ignorance” isn’t an option in California’s strict liability dog bite cases.

Limits of Strict Liability in California Dog Bite Cases

Understand, though, that strict liability isn’t a silver legal bullet for all dog attacks. For example, judges have rejected the standard in situations involving car and bike chases. In those instances, the claimant must prove negligence on the part of the owner. Moreover, for strict liability to apply, the incident must have occurred in public or when the victim was on lawfully private property, like a mail person or an invited party guest. 

Lastly, law enforcement and military dogs are largely exempted from strict liability standards.

California Dog Bite Liability: Costs

What must Californians pay if their pet bites a person? Owners of injury-causing animals must often pay damages amounting to the victim’s lost wages and medical expenses. 

Legally Dangerous Pets in California

Californian authorities can deem pets legally dangerous if the animal: 

  1. Was involved in at least two “aggressive” incidents over the previous three years; 
  2. Bit someone unprovoked resulting in a minor injury; 
  3. Had already been declared “potentially dangerous,” and the owner didn’t follow through with court requirements.

Additionally, anyone attacked by a recidivist offender can sue in civil court.

Defenses for Dog Bite Lawsuits in California

Plaintiffs must prove they were bitten, without provocation, in a public place or while lawfully on private property to win strict liability dog bite claims in California. As such, owners frequently base their defenses around one of three arguments.

Trespassing: Since claimants must establish that they were lawfully on private property, many defendants argue the opposite.

Fault: Proving that the alleged victim somehow provoked the pet unreasonably is another defense. Alternatively, defendants can show that the claimant voluntarily took a risk.

Innocence: Some people assert that the plaintiff is lying, innocently mistaken, or exaggerating. 

FAQ: California Dog Bite Laws

What’s the First Thing I Should Do if I’m Bit by a Dog or Other Type of Pet?

Get medical attention immediately and document any wounds or bruises. Even if the bite didn’t break the skin, it could have caused an internal contusion, leading to severe conditions. If the skin is broken, get a rabies test as soon as possible.

Should I Chase Down a Dog that Bites Me?

Though your instincts may insist otherwise, it’s never wise to chase down an already agitated, ferocious animal. It only provokes them more. But do your best to remember what the dog looks like in the event it becomes necessary to track it down for a lawsuit.

OK, I’ve Gotten Medical Attention and Want to Sue. What Should I Do Next?

The first thing you’ll want to do is find a dog bite attorney who knows the laws in your jurisdiction. He or she will help you: 

  • Report the incident to animal control;
  • Secure witnesses and evidence;
  • Figure out who owns the dog;
  • Gather all relevant medical records and reports; 
  • Contact insurance companies if necessary; and
  • File a lawsuit, if you chose to go that route.

I’ve Been Bit by a Dog. What Can I Seek to Recoup in a Lawsuit?

Every case is different, but generally speaking, dog bite victims can seek financial redress for:

  • Past and future medical expenses;
  • Lost wages;
  • Diminished earning capacity;
  • Necessary lifestyle changes;
  • Pain and suffering; and
  • Punitive damages.

Does Strict Liability Apply if a Dog Chases Me While on a Bike?

A lot of dog attacks involve bikes. If you incur an injury because a dog — or another animal — chased you but didn’t bite, strict liability may not apply. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a case. It just means you may need to prove negligence on the part of the pet’s owner to win. 

Can California Authorities Command Me to Kill My Pet?

Yes. If an animal proves to be excessively vicious and dangerous, authorities can submit a “destroy” order.

I Got Bit by a Dog at a Party. Does that Qualify as “Lawfully Being on Private Property” for a Dog Bite Lawsuit?

If you were invited over or the owners advertised an open house, then yes, you were lawfully on private property. However, if you crash a party and are bitten, strict liability may not apply, and you’ll need to prove more to win the case. 

My Dog Bit Someone, but I Can’t Afford to Pay. What Should I Do?

Firstly, we understand. Secondly, you’re not alone. And thirdly, we have solutions. For example, homeowners’ insurance typically covers animal injuries. If you don’t own a home, options are still available. The best move is to contact a dog bite lawyer and explain your situation upfront.

Can Dog Walkers be Held Responsible for Dog Bite Attacks?

As is the case with all legal claims, it depends on the exact situation. Under California law, the general rule of thumb is that if walkers act with “scienter” — meaning intentionally — they may be held responsible. 

Can Dog Bites Lead to Criminal Charges for Owners?

Yes. If a dog — and by extension owner — has a record and keeps engaging in “mischievous” and dangerous behavior, a court can issue a felony or misdemeanor charge.

Connect with a Dog Bite Lawyer

If you’re on either end of an animal conflict in California, reach out to a dog bite attorney at Kubota & Craig. We’ve handled all manners of personal injury cases and understand how the system works. Get in touch today. Let’s start working on solutions. We’ll guide you every step of the way, fight fiercely on your behalf, and do everything to ensure the best possible outcome.

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