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Understanding California dog bite law

On Behalf of | Jun 2, 2023 | Premises Liability

Dogs are popular family pets, and for good reason. They provide joy, companionship and protection. The vast majority of dogs are friendly and pose no danger to humans.

It’s the few bad apples that can cause significant harm. In San Diego County alone, Animal Services reports more than 6,000 dog bites every year. Poorly socialized animals, or those bred to be aggressive, can terrorize neighbors, visitors, mail carriers, passers-by, family members and children. In the worst-case scenarios, they can inflict life-altering or fatal injuries.

When are dog owners responsible?

Some states have a negligence standard for dog bites. Under that standard, dog owners are only responsible for bites if they knew, or had reason to know, that the animal was dangerous, or if they weren’t careful in exercising control over their dog.

California, by contrast, has a “strict liability” standard for dog bites. This means dog owners are legally responsible for their animal’s attack, regardless of where and how it occurred. The only exception is for attacks on trespassers.

What legal options do dog bite victims have?

Victims of dog bites can pursue a legal claim against the owner. Dog bites are considered a type of premises liability claim, which is a subset of personal injury law. Victims can seek damages for their:

  • Medical bills
  • Rehab and therapy bills
  • Future care needs
  • Missed work due to the attack
  • Permanent disabilities resulting from the bite
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Pain and suffering

A financial award can ease the difficulty of dealing with the tremendous financial and emotional burdens of a dog bite.

Who pays for dog bites?

Dog bites are generally covered by the owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy, even if the attack didn’t occur at their home. However, it depends on the policy. It’s important to consult a personal injury lawyer about possible sources of compensation in your case.