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Understanding The California Dog Bite Law

Posted by Denis Zilberberg
Filed in Dog Bite

In California, the statute governing incidents of dog bites is known as the “strict liability” statute. This simply means that no matter the dog’s history of aggressiveness, the dog’s owner can be held financially responsible for any injuries resulting from a dog bite.

If you or someone you love has been the victim of a dog attack, you need an experienced personal injury lawyer—someone who can walk you through and handle the difficulties that may arise in a dog bite claim. The Santa Barbara dog bite attorneys at the Law Offices of John B. Richards are here to help.

What does strict liability mean?

Certain states operate under a “one bite rule” which holds dog owners liable for dog-bite injuries if they were aware of a dog’s tendency to be dangerous. If a dog has bitten someone or shown aggression before, the owner is put on notice of the dog’s dangerous predispositions. Once on notice, the owners will be held liable if the dog bites someone, claiming the owner should take precautions to assure people’s safety around the dog.

In 1931, California replaced the one bite rule by enacting the state civil code 3342, or the strict liability law for dog bites. This law makes dog owners strictly liable for bites that happen either:

  • In public, or
  • Where the victim had a lawful right to be

Some important exceptions to the strict liability rule, including:

  • Someone other than the dog owner issued
  • The victim was trespassing on the owner’s property
  • The victim was partially responsible or assumed the risk of being bitten
  • The dog was a law enforcement animal in the line of duty

If these exemptions apply, dog bite victims cannot hold the owner strictly liable, but they can still file for compensation if there is proof the owner was negligent.

What Types Of Injuries Occur With Dog Bites?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 800,000 people receive medical care for dog bite injuries each year, nationwide. These injuries may seem minor at the time and get worse over time, or they can be severe from the outset.

Some injuries most common with dog bites include:

  • Amputated fingers
  • Avulsions
  • Crushed or broken bones
  • Infections
  • Severe lacerations or puncture wounds
  • Severed arteries, veins, muscles, and tendons
  • Significant blood loss
  • Significant scarring or disfigurement
  • Even Death

Strict liability only covers bite injuries, but other injuries happen when dogs knock people down or trample them. Scratches, bruises, cuts, broken limbs, head trauma, and other injuries occurring when a dog overpowers a person are not applicable under strict liability law. In these cases, victims will need to file a personal injury claim, holding owners accountable for negligence.

When Should I Contact A Personal Injury Lawyer?

California law says the dog owner is liable if the victim was bitten in a public place or while lawfully in a private location, and if the victim did not provoke the dog, even if the dog had never shown aggressive tendencies.

If you or a loved one has suffered from a dog bite, contact the Santa Barbara dog bite attorneys at the Law Offices of John B. Richards for a free consultation of your case by clicking here or calling 805-683-2736.


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