Southern California Dog Bite Laws

June 3, 2024 Personal injury

Dogs may be our beloved furry family members, but they are also animals with sharp teeth and instincts that we cannot always understand or anticipate. When a dog acts on their animal motives and attacks, it’s a terrifying experience for the victim, especially if they sustain serious bite injuries.

If you or a loved one suffered bites from a dog in California, it’s important to take swift action to protect yourself physically, emotionally, and financially from a traumatizing situation. Understanding the dog bite laws in California can help guide you through the process.

Strict Liability With No “One-Bite” Rule

A handful of states have one-bite liability rules for dog owners that protect them from liability the first time a dog bites. These one-bite laws work on the premise that the victim must prove negligence by showing that the dog bit someone or acted aggressively at least one previous time so the owner was aware of the dog’s proclivity to bite. If the dog bites a second time, it’s negligence on the part of the owner. California, however, is NOT a one-bite state. Instead, California dog owners are under strict liability laws that leave them responsible for their pet’s actions from the moment they take ownership. Dog bite victims in California do not have to prove negligence to recover compensation for damages like medical expenses, income loss, and compensation for pain and suffering.

Pet-Owner Liability for Public and Private Spaces

According to California Civil Code 3341, dog owners have strict liability for damages caused by their pets to humans and animals in both public and private spaces. The laws state the following:

“The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.”

California dog bite law also goes on to define lawfully on the owner’s property in the following way:

“A person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner within the meaning of this section when he is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner.”

Trespassers and Dog Bite Laws in Southern California

A dog owner’s strict liability does not apply to trespassers or those bitten while committing a crime on a dog owner’s property. However, it’s important to understand how the dog bite laws define trespassers. Those lawfully on a property doing their jobs, such as delivery and postal workers are not trespassers, so strict liability applies. Those approaching the front of a home on legitimate business or as a friendly neighbor have a right to expect safety. Strict liability applies even to non-invitees who approach the front door of a home and are attacked by a dog.

Children are never considered trespassers under the state’s dog bite laws. Pet owners must reasonably expect neighborhood children to enter their property and should take all reasonable measures to avoid an accident.

Non-Bite Injuries

If a dog attacks and does not bite, the state’s strict liability laws may not apply. Instead, dog attack victims who didn’t suffer bites but sustain injuries such as falling when running away from the dog may recover compensation for damages like medical expenses and lost wages by proving the dog owner acted negligently in allowing the dog to chase or attack.

How a Dog Bite Attorney Can Help

Dog bite injuries are serious, often leading to infection and scarring. If you or a loved one suffered injuries from a dog attack in California, you may have specific questions about your rights, pet owner liability, and how California dog bite laws apply to your situation. Call the dog bite attorneys at Younglove Law Firm so we can evaluate your case and begin a strategy for securing the compensation and accountability you deserve.

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