Every year, more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs. California has more dog bite occurrences than any other state. Thankfully, someone who has been bitten by a dog has significant legal rights in California as well. If you have suffered from a dog bite or attack, you need to speak with an experienced dog bite attorney who can walk you through which options are available to you.
Dog Bite Law in California
California is one of several states that impose “strict liability” on dog owners if they harm another person. You must meet specific qualifications to prove your dog bite case.
First, you must show that your damages were actually caused by the dog bite. Second, the bite must have occurred in a public place or in a private location where you were lawfully present. That means that owners will generally not be liable for dog bites that happened on their own property. Dogs can be very defensive of their territory, and many owners keep dogs specifically to protect themselves and their property.
Dogs can cause other injuries that do not result from a bite, such as when a dog jumps up on someone and knocks them over. In those situations, the dog bite rule in California would not apply. However, you can still use regular negligence laws to show that the dog’s owner was careless or reckless in how it was keeping the dog secure and safe from others.
What Does “Strict Liability” Mean?
California law sets out that the dog’s owner is liable for a dog bite in virtually any situation. This includes circumstances where the owner had no idea that the dog was aggressive or had violent tendencies. The owner is still legally responsible even if the dog has never bitten anyone before or is acting out of character.
An owner is also liable even if the dog was provoked at the time of the incident. Having a “strict liability” standard essentially means that the owner will be legally responsible for the dog no matter why it bit someone else. If the bite occurred, the dog owner is liable.
Exceptions to California Dog Bite Laws
There are really only two exceptions to strict liability for dog bites in California:
- The dog was carrying out police or government business or
- The bitten individual was trespassing at the time of the incident.
The police or military can also raise the defense that the dog was being provoked at the time the bite occurred. Private citizens, however, generally do not have such an argument.
Getting Legal Help with Your Dog Bite Case
While dog bite situations may seem straightforward, they can be complicated. Many of these cases involve the dog owner’s home insurance policy. Insurance companies may attempt to unfairly take advantage of your situation and decline to pay anything for damages after a dog bite. This is unfair and unacceptable. The Law Offices of J. Jeffrey Herman is home to a California dog bite attorney that can help you assert your rights after a dog bite occurs.