March 16, 2017 Dog Bite Injuries

Every state has its own set of dog bite laws. Some have adopted so-called “one-bite” statutes that gives pet owners one shot at escaping legal responsibility in the event their dog bites or attacks someone. There are 14 “one bite” states, but California is not one of them. In California, dog owners are held strictly liable for any injuries or damages suffered by individuals who are bitten by their canines.

Strict liability is a legal term that means the defendant is held legally accountable for injuries or damages that occur, regardless of whether the defendant was negligent or had no intention of causing harm. In other words, California’s strict dog bite statutes make it much easier for victims to prove and win a dog bite lawsuit, because the dog’s owner cannot legally dispute who was to blame.

California – strict liability for dog bites

When California legislators passed Section 3342 of the Civil Code, they imposed a legal duty on all canine owners to control their pets in an effort to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities caused by dog attacks. Prior the enactment of Civil Code section 3342, hundreds of dog bite victims in the state went uncompensated for their physical harm and emotional suffering unless they were able to establish that the owner knew or should have known their dog had displayed a “dangerous propensity” to bite, or had a vicious nature.

Under the current dog bite statutes, all victims have to prove in order to secure money damages from a dog owner is that they were in a public place or lawfully in a private place when they were bitten.  Considering that in more than half of all dog bite cases, the canine belongs to family, friends or is otherwise familiar with the victim, California’s strict liability dog bite laws pave the way for speedy resolution of injury claims, without assignment of fault on the part of the dog owner.

California dog bite statutes allow up to two years from the date of injury to file a personal injury lawsuit against the dog’s owner in cases where the victim was lawfully on private or public property. This statute can be invoked even in dog bites where the skin is not broken. For example, canine owners are still held strictly liable in cases where the victim is knocked down and traumatized, but no puncture wounds were sustained.

Who cannot sue after a dog bite?

People who illegally trespass on another’s property and are subsequently bitten by a dog are not able to sue for damages under California’s Civil Code. Another defense that can thwart a recovery is if the victim alarms, excites or provokes the dog into biting. In cases like these, the courts would find that the plaintiff contributed to the animal’s behavior, and this “contributory negligence” could bar a successful claim for compensation. However, this “provocation defense” does not apply in cases involving children under the age of 5, who sadly represent more than 50 percent of all victims.

Dog bite lawyer in Los Angeles

Unfortunately, young children are the most frequent victims of dog bites and attacks, often sustaining disfiguring injuries and lifelong psychological trauma. If you or someone you love were bitten by a canine, Los Angeles dog bite lawyer Sean Salamati can file a claim on your behalf to secure compensation for your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering and other damages.

For expert legal assistance with your dog bite lawsuit in Southern California, call today to set up a free case review with an experienced legal advocate you can count on, Sean Salamati.

Additional Dog Bite Liability Resources:

  1. Justia, California Dog Bite Statute (Civ. Code, § 3342) https://www.justia.com/trials-litigation/docs/caci/400/463.html
  2. AnimalLawInfo, California Statutes – Dangerous Dog Provisions https://www.animallaw.info/statute/ca-dangerous-california-dangerous-dog-statutes#s3342