California Dog Bite Law: What You Should Know About in 2023
Dogs make up a vast majority of animal bites in the United States. In the case of California, there were 2,396 claims made from dog bite claims with a total payout of $122.8 million. The next-ranking state on the list, Florida, is just over half of California’s total in claims and payout. With approximately 40% of California households owning a pet, with dogs taking a significant percentage of household animals, it is no surprise that having a basic knowledge of California dog bite laws1 as a dog owner, or as a citizen for that matter, is essential. Dog owners must be more serious about their responsibility and for anyone in California to know about compensation should they suffer from dog bite-related losses.
Who is At-Fault If a Dog Bites Someone?
In the case of California, the dog owner is strictly liable if the dog bites someone in a public space or when someone is legally in a private place. For instance, you are liable for your dog’s action if it attacks a mail carrier on your property or anyone who can be there, such as a visitor you invited for dinner. Moreover, any dog attack should be reported to animal control.
Strict liability rules apply to dog bites in California. Unlike in most states which use “one-bite” laws, it doesn’t matter if your dog was established to have displayed vicious behavior before they attack. The owner is responsible for all dog bites.
The rules apply differently for trespassers because they are not lawfully on private property. However, there are certain cases where a trespasser might be able to recover some compensation from a dog bite if they prove that the dog owner was negligent.
An Important Question: What Qualifies as a Dog Bite?
A dog bite is defined as when a dog uses their teeth to grab a person or at any time the dog’s jaw closes on a person. A dog bite doesn’t mean it breaks the skin and causes a wound.2 There are cases when a dog bite causes an incident that leads to a person getting injured, for instance, when a dog grabs a piece of clothing, leading to a victim falling off their bicycle. Dog bite laws apply to dog bites made to other dogs but should be filed as a property damage lawsuit.
It is important to note that any incidents caused by dogs, or any animals, should be reported to animal control, whether or not an animal bit you. This means that since California dog bite laws only apply to dog bites, an incident caused by other canine actions, such as when a dog chases a bicycle rider. However, the owner is still liable for their dog’s actions if their negligence was proven to be the cause of the incident.
Can You Sue Someone if a Dog Bites You?
Yes, you can sue the owner of the dog that bit you. You can also sue someone if they are negligent in keeping their dogs away from children or a public place. Moreover, you can sue an at-fault dog owner to cover your dog bite injury costs. To prove a dog bite case in California, you need to show that the defendant owns the dog, you were a victim of a dog bite in a public place, or if you are lawfully on private property, the dog bite hurt you. The dog bite was a significant cause of your injuries.3
When filing a personal injury or a premises liability lawsuit in California because of a dog bite, the statute of limitations is two years.
What Steps Should You Take If a Dog Bites You in California?
If a dog attacked you, here are the steps you should take:
- Identify the dog’s owner.
- Report the incident to Animal Control.
- Describe the events to animal control in detail, including the location, the identity of the dog’s owner, and the damage inflicted on you by the dog.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
- Ensure you have complete and detailed documentation of your injuries from the doctor who treated you.
- Update your report to Animal Control and ask what evidence they need to document a final report.
- Collect evidence of the attack. If there are witnesses present, get their contact information as well.
- Seek help from a dog bite lawyer.
What Damages Can You Claim from a Dog Bite?
You are entitled to compensation for all financial or non-financial losses if you are a victim of a dog bite accident in California. Compensation includes payment for the following:
- Medical expenses incurred resulting from the dog bite, including hospitalization, surgery, and psychological counseling related to the dog bite incident.
- Permanent disfigurement and scarring.
- Loss of income if you miss productive time because of the injuries you received from the dog bite, including the time you spent having your injuries treated.
- Loss of future earning power if applicable.
- Emotional Distress
- Reduced Quality of Life
- Pain and Suffering
The dog owner’s homeowners’ or renters’ insurance typically pays for the damages. Victims may also recover compensation by settling with the insurer, filing a lawsuit, or settling with the owner informally, but this is rarely the case.
Seeking legal advice from an experienced and specialized California dog bite lawyer is extremely helpful in understanding the claims process, the types of damages available, providing communication with authorities and insurance companies when fighting for compensation allowed by California dog bite laws, and providing litigation support if your case goes to court.
Takeaways: An Experienced California Dog Bite Lawyer Can Help You Get Full Compensation for Dog Bite Injuries
To ensure that you understand the damages entitled to dog bite victims and to find help in assisting in getting full compensation as allowed by California dog bite laws, consulting with a specialized dog bite lawyer in California is the best move you can make. If you are a victim of a dog bite incident or a responsible dog owner who wants to be informed about dog bite laws, call us at (949) 404-4826 for a free consultation. If you are a dog bite victim who needs legal assistance in your case, you can also visit our contact page and fill out the form.
- California Civil Code 3342
- Johnson vs. McMahan, 1998, 80 Cal.Rptr.2nd 173
- Fullerton vs. Contan et al., Respondents, 1948, 87 Cal.App.2md 354