California Dog Bite Laws
Americans love their dogs. There are nearly 90 million dogs living in homes in the United States, and many pet owners treat their four-legged companions as if they were a member of the family. While dogs can be a wonderful addition to a home and can even provide security and companionship, there are times when these animals can cause serious harm. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that about 4.7 million dog bites occur each year in the United States. Most of these only cause minor injuries but some lead to hospitalizations, infections, and occasionally, fatalities.
There is some debate as to whether certain breeds should be banned because they are more likely to behave aggressively. However, any dog can bite under the right set of circumstances, whether it is to protect themselves, their owner, or their young, because they are frightened, ill, or just playing too roughly. If you do suffer from a dog bite, you might wonder who is liable? The answer depends on the specific circumstances, and on the laws in the state in which you live.
California: Strict Liability
In California, if you are bitten by a dog, the owner is liable in most situations. This is because dog bite law in California is based on strict liability. Strict liability means that a person is responsible for the damages caused to another, even in the absence of negligence or a showing of fault. This is significant because if you suffer injuries resulting from a dog bite in California, you do not have to show that the owner of that dog was aware of the animal’s aggressive or dangerous tendencies. If your neighbor’s golden retriever who has never been anything other than a mellow family pet decides to bite you one day, the fact that your neighbor had no reason to believe his or her dog would bite will not prevent you from being entitled to compensation for any injuries that you suffered.
Limits on Strict Liability for Dog Bites and Injuries
It is important to note that California’s law only applies to bites or to situations when a dog uses their teeth to injure another person (such as biting their clothing and causing them to fall). Dogs can cause injuries in a number of other ways, such as running into traffic and causing a car accident, throwing someone off of a bicycle, or scratching someone. In these cases, the injured person could still be compensated, but there would need to be showing of negligence. For instance, if your neighbor let their completely untrained golden retriever run free in the neighborhood where it jumped on people frequently, then an injury caused when the dog knocked someone over would likely be the result of your neighbor’s negligence.
Additionally, strict liability applies when a bite occurs in public or when a person is on private property with permission. What this means is that if you were trespassing in your neighbor’s yard and were bitten, strict liability would not apply.
If you were injured by a dog in California, you could be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox LLP’s experienced personal injury attorneys are ready to help. Contact us today at 909-798-3300 for a free consultation.
Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.