Dog bites can cause severe injuries. The dog owner and/or the property owner could be liable for damages. As a property owner, it is important to understand the California dog bite laws and premises liability laws if you have a dog on your property. 

California Liability Laws for Dog Owners 

Some states have a “one bite rule” for personal injury claims involving dog attacks. The rule gives a dog owner a “one-time pass” if their dog bites another person. The dog owner would only be liable for the person’s damages if the owner knew or should have known the dog had a natural tendency or inclination to be vicious or has a history of biting people.

Instead, California imposes strict liability for dog owners under California Civil Code §3342.

The dog owner is liable for damages caused by their dog if the dog bites another person. The attack can occur on public property or when the victim is lawfully on private property. The victim does not need to prove the dog had a history of biting people, or the dog owner should have known the dog was vicious to recover damages. 

Holding Property Owners Liable for Dog Bites 

Anyone party whose negligence contributes to the cause of a dog bite could be held liable for damages. Therefore, a negligent property owner could be held liable if a dog bites someone on their property.

Proving a property owner is negligent requires you to:

  • Establish a legal duty of care between the property owner and the victim
  • Prove the property owner breached the duty of care
  • The property owner’s breach of duty was the proximate and direct cause of the dog bite victim’s injury
  • The dog bit victim sustained damages because of the property owner’s breach of duty

The property owner may or may not be the dog owner. They could be liable if they negligently contributed to the situation that resulted in the dog biting a person. They could be financially liable for damages based on their percentage of fault for the cause of the dog attack.

It can be difficult to determine whether a property owner is liable for a dog bite. For example, is a business owner liable if a customer’s dog bites another customer? Is a landlord liable for a tenant’s dog that bites someone?

The facts and circumstances of the case determine liability. The best way to know who is liable for your dog bite claim is to talk with a Vista dog bite lawyer about your case.

Defenses to Dog Bite Claims

Even though California imposes strict liability for dog attacks, it does not mean property owners cannot raise defenses to the claims. 

For example, if the victim provokes or antagonizes the dog, the victim could be partially to blame for the cause of the dog bite. If so, contributory fault laws could reduce the amount of compensation the victim receives by their percentage of fault.

For example, suppose a jury decides that a dog bite victim is 50% at fault for the cause of the dog bite because they provoked the dog. The victim would only receive one-half of the amount of compensation awarded by the jury for damages. If the jury awarded $200,000 in damages, the victim would receive $100,000.

What Should Dog Bite Victims Do After an Attack?

The first priority is to seek medical treatment for the dog bite. Dog bites can cause infections, scarring, disfigurement, nerve damage, and other conditions. Delays in treatment could cause life-threatening complications.

Report the dog bite to the dog owner, property owner, and authorities. File a written report with the local animal control agency. 

Document your injuries by taking pictures of each injury. Taking pictures throughout your recovery can help prove the extent of the injury. 

Keep copies of all medical bills, invoices, and receipts for expenses related to the dog bite. Also, keep a log of the time you miss from work. You can recover reimbursement for your economic damages

Severe dog bites can cause extreme emotional distress and pain. A journal detailing your pain and suffering during recovery can help prove you are entitled to non-economic damages

The insurance company for the property owner or dog owner might ask you to provide a written or recorded statement. However, it is not wise to agree to any recorded statements or sign documents without legal advice. It is essential you understand your legal rights to help ensure you receive the compensation you deserve after a dog attack.

Contact the North County Personal Injury Lawyers at Petrov Law Firm for Help Today

For more information, please contact the Vista personal injury law firm of Petrov Law Firm to schedule a free consultation today.

We serve in North County, CA and its surrounding areas:

Petrov Law Firm
380 S Melrose Dr Ste. 201
Vista, CA 92081
(760) 813-3313