California Dog Bite Laws
Dog bite laws vary from state to state. In some states, dog bite liability is still based primarily on common law theory, under which a dog owner is only liable if he had prior knowledge of his dog’s dangerous propensities. Most states, however, including California, have enacted dog bite statutes under which a dog owner can be found strictly liable for injuries caused by his dog.
Strict Liability Dog Bite Statutes
Strict liability dog bite laws generally impose liability on the dog’s owner for dog bite injuries without regard to the dog owner’s knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities or the owner’s own carelessness.
The actual scope of the statutes varies widely among the states. Some statutes apply only to the dog’s owner while others also apply to caretakers and keepers. Certain statutes only cover dog bite injuries while others cover all injuries caused by the dog. In two states, the statute is only applicable to dog bites that result in severe injuries, and in one state, the attack must have occurred off the property of the owner or keeper. Under some state statutes, compensation is limited to medical expenses or to economic losses (i.e., medical expenses and lost income, but not pain and suffering).
If your dog bite lawyer determines that your state’s strict liability dog bite law does not apply to facts of your dog bite case, you may still be able to seek compensation based one or more other theories of liability. Your dog bite lawyer will recommend the best strategy for your case.
California’s Strict Liability Dog Bite Statute
California’s strict liability dog bite statute or “Dog Bite Statute” has four major elements. In order to make a claim under the Dog Bite Statute, a dog bite lawyer must prove:
- the defendant owned the dog
- the plaintiff (i.e., victim) was in a public place or legally in a private when the bite occurred
- there was an actual dog bite
- the plaintiff was injured as a result of the dog bite
Ownership: California’s statute, by its terms, only imposes liability on the dog’s owner. However, California courts have held that persons other than a dog’s documented owner may also be deemed an “owner” under the statute. Ownership may be attributed to any person who cares for or has custody of the dog. If the defendant challenges a claim that he is the dog’s owner, your dog bite lawyer may seek to establish ownership on the basis of such evidence as where the dog generally slept and who typically tended to the dog’s care and medical needs.
Dog Bite Requirement: Under California’s Dog Bite Statute, the dog owner is only responsible for injuries caused by an actual “dog bite.” The owner will not be subject to liability if the victim’s injuries were caused by a dog pouncing on him or chasing him.
In order to establish that there was a “dog bite”, a dog bite lawyer does not need to prove show that the dog’s teeth punctured the victim’s skin. It is only necessary for the dog bite lawyer to show that the dog clenched his teeth on the victim. In one case, a repairman fell from a ladder and was injured after the dog gripped his leg through his pants. The court found the dog’s actions constituted a “dog bite” and that the dog owner was therefore liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.
If you have been the victim of a dog bite attack, you should consult with an experienced dog bite lawyer (or attorney) as soon as possible. A skilled dog bite lawyer will help you protect all of your rights and obtain all the compensation to which you are entitled.