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California Dog Bite Law

Updated: Dec 26, 2022

This post discusses California's dog bite laws, so you know what to do if you or your dog bites someone.


As much as we like to think that well-trained dogs will never hurt other people, there can be moments of fear and anxiety that would push a loving put to bite someone. Gentle dogs have been known to be hostile to people they think are attacking their owners in a fit of defensiveness.


That said, if you were bit by someone's dog in California, the owner might be liable to pay for your medical and recovery expenses under California Personal Injury Laws.



California Dog Bite Lawyer

Recognizing the dangers that even the most tamed dogs might pose in certain settings, California has established legislation holding dog owners "strictly liable" for the injuries suffered by bite victims. With very few exceptions, this means that dog owners should compensate bite victims even if they were not responsible for the attack. This does not, however, imply that seeking compensation is going to be easy.

Owners (or, more commonly, their insurance companies) regularly fight back, and you'll almost always need the help of a California Dog Bite Lawyer to secure the compensation you deserve.

When Can You Sue For Dog Bite Injuries In California?

Many people believe that there is no such thing as a vicious dog and that many aggressive canines result from neglect and poor living conditions. While the human impact on most dogs' temperament is significant, no one can ever predict how a dog would behave in every situation.

Military and law enforcement agencies both benefit from dogs. For example, if a police dog bites and restrains a fleeing suspect, the suspect may not be entitled to sue because the bite happened while the dog performed its duties. In addition, those who provoke dogs to attack or abuse them are also banned from alleging that a dog attacked in self-defense or retaliation.

If you've been seriously injured in a dog attack in California, who can help you receive the compensation and fair results you deserve? Who can guarantee that if a dog bite results in medical bills, scarring, or other injuries, your rights would be protected?

Contact experienced, prescreened, and Top Rated Personal Injury Attorneys In Los Angeles to ensure you get the compensation you deserve.

Defining "Dog Bite"


If a dog grabs a person with its teeth but doesn't break the skin, it may still be considered a bite. After a worker fell from his ladder after a dog clenched its jaws on his pants, the court determined that the animal's owner was responsible for the injuries.

Reasons Why Dogs Bite People

When dogs are frightened or intimidated, they'll try to fight back and defend themselves. However, dogs bite people for a variety of causes that are beyond their control.


The most common causes of dog bites are as follows:

  1. Illness and injuries. Even if a dog has never been violent before, it can become aggressive when sick or in pain from an injury. This is because they're always on the defensive, and anyone who touches a painful body part may be bitten.

  2. Fear. When a dog is terrified, it is more likely to attack. You could be approaching them too closely or in a way that makes them feel threatened. Your acts could be taken as a threat even though you weren't trying to provoke them.

  3. Playing and roughhousing. Playing is something that dogs like doing. However, an apparently harmless playtime could result in a dog bite injury if things get too rough or the dog becomes overly excited.

  4. Startling. Even if you didn't do anything to startle the dog, if you're standing or sitting close by, they might take out their fright on you.

  5. Protective instincts. Dogs can be irritating regarding their toys, food, and other personal belongings. For example, an innocent attempt to attract the dog to play fetch with the toy you're holding could end in a dog bite injury.

  6. Maternal instincts. Female dogs, in particular, are known to be passionate protectors of their puppies. So when the puppies are unsupervised or nursing, a mother dog may see your approach as a threat to their protection.

If you've done nothing to provoke the dog to bite, you should be able to seek compensation for your losses. A California Dog Bite Lawyer will be able to help you gather evidence that you did not do anything to prompt the injury.


What Should You Do After A Dog Bite?


The aftermath of a dog bite can be perplexing and terrifying. Still, it's also crucial for gathering the proof you'll need to seek compensation for your injuries. So if a dog has recently bitten you, take these steps to avoid further injury and infections, as well as to preserve evidence for your future lawsuit:

  1. Get to safety as quickly as possible. Go inside, jump in a car, or knock on someone's door to get away from the dog. As soon as you are secure from the threatening animal, you can seek aid.

  2. Make a 911 call if you're in danger. After making the call, police officers and medical staff will arrive at the site. After speaking with a police officer, you will receive a police report, which will be useful evidence in your case. In addition, if you don't know the dog's owner, the police can help you locate and identify them.

  3. Get medical care as soon as possible. Dogs' mouths can harbor various dangerous bacteria, which they can transfer to humans via bites. Dog bites can lead to dangerous infections such as tetanus, rabies, and sepsis. The sooner you get treatment, the more likely you will avoid these issues. Additionally, your medical records will be critical evidence in your case.

  4. Take photos, videos, and other evidence. Take pictures of the scene, your injury, and anything else to help you with your claim. Take note of everything you remember about the attack, including the pain you're in from the injuries and any loss of mobility or function, along with the images. Having detailed information about what happened is necessary, and writing it down will help you remember important details.

  5. It's best to stay away from both the dog owners and their insurance providers. You are not required to speak with the dog owners or their insurance companies. Frequently, you will make an innocent statement that is later used against you.

If the insurance company tries to make you a settlement offer, don't agree to anything or sign any paperwork until you've consulted with an experienced California Dog Bite Lawyer.


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When Dog Owners Do Not Look After Their Animals?

Victims who were not directly injured by dogs, such as when the dogs attacked their bicycle wheel or chased them on a motorcycle, resulting in an accident, will not be helped by California's strict liability laws. However, that doesn't imply they aren't open to alternative possibilities. For example, injured victims may be compensated if they prove that the dog owner's negligence caused their injuries.


Consider what happens if a dog jumps on a kid who is playing on the sidewalk and scratches their eye. If the parents of the victim file a case, they must establish that the dog's owner failed to employ or exercise reasonable care in controlling the animal, such as keeping it on a leash or in a fenced-in yard.

The Laws Concerning Dangerous Dogs in California


While California's strict liability dog-bite statutes apply regardless of the dog's past, another state law holds owners liable for making "necessary efforts" to "avoid any threat" of future attacks if their dogs have bitten someone before.


A claim can be filed against the owner of a dog that has bitten a human twice (in separate incidents) or a trained attack dog that has seriously injured someone with even a single bite. The dog's owner could be compelled to take steps to prevent future attacks. However, a dog's history of biting trespassers or bites by police or military dogs in the field cannot be used to justify legal action.

California has a one-of-a-kind legal framework for dealing with dangerous dogs. When animal control or law enforcement officers believe a dog poses a threat, they must request a hearing.

If the court decides after the hearing that the dog is potentially dangerous, it must be kept indoors, in a gated yard that keeps the animal in and the children out, or on a secure leash under the supervision of a responsible adult. A dangerous dog may be exterminated if a judge determines that it poses a serious threat to the public.

The court may further prohibit the owner from owning any dog for up to three years. If a vicious dog is not removed from the area, the court must impose control limits on the animal to protect the public. Owners or keepers of dangerous or violent dogs who violate these rules will be fined.


If a dog exhibits the following characteristics, it is considered potentially dangerous:

  • People have previously been forced to defend themselves against unprovoked hostile behavior (while off the owners' property) in at least two instances in the last three years.

  • There's a history of the dog biting someone unprovoked, resulting in a slight injury.

  • Have killed or injured another domestic animal twice in the last three years without provocation.

The law considers a dog to be dangerous if it:

  • The animal attacked and killed someone without being provoked.

  • A court had already determined that it was potentially harmful. Yet, the dog continued to act dangerously, or the animal's owner or carer failed to follow the law.

Do Dog Bites Have Criminal and Civil Consequences?

Anyone who owns or has power over a dog that injures someone while roaming free may face criminal prosecution, but only if the owner or keeper knew the dog was prone to "mischievous" behavior and did not keep it under control.


As such, here's how the crime is categorized:

  1. The offense would be a "felony" if the victim was killed

  2. The crime would be a "wobbler" if the victim was only wounded (either a misdemeanor or a felony)

Even if criminal charges are filed due to a dog bite, the victim may still seek compensation from the dog's owner.

What Are The Statute Of Limitations for Dog Bite Lawsuits?


A claim for dog and animal bite injuries in California has a two-year statute of limitations. Therefore, the deadline for settling or launching a case in court is this date.


The time limit is reduced to six months if the state or a city is to blame. The time period may be extended in specific situations.

What Are the Criteria for Establishing Negligence?


The injured party must show the following to win a negligence case:

  1. The owner was responsible for controlling the dog's behavior with reasonable caution.

  2. The owner was negligent in failing to meet that responsibility.

  3. That the defendant's negligence caused the injured person to be damaged directly (or "proximally")

In addition to all of these, the courts may look into whether the injury was "reasonably foreseeable," which means the dog owner should have expected it to happen given the circumstances.

It's uncommon for dog-bite victims to file a claim based only on negligence. Most states have "strict liability" laws that hold dog owners liable for most dog bite injuries without needing proof of carelessness or knowledge of the dog's dangerousness.

Victims frequently pursue negligence suits in states without strict liability dog-bite legislation or in situations where the law doesn't apply—for example, if the statute solely covers bite injuries. Still, the damage occurred when a dog leaped on someone.


Victims who cannot prove such knowledge may claim negligence in states that follow the "one-bite rule," which holds dog owners liable for injuries only if they knew or should have known their dogs were dangerous.


That said, proving all of the aspects of negligence may be difficult. The circumstances of the case and how other courts have interpreted the law in the state decide the outcome of any claim.

Contact a California Dog Bite Lawyer to help you argue for your case and find evidence for negligence.

What Is "Reasonable Care" and What Does It Mean?

A court's determination on whether a dog owner acted lawfully is influenced by several factors, including:

  • Warning signs, chains, and fences. Courts are likely to rule that if a dog is contained on the owner's property and a "Beware of Dog" sign is up, the owner has taken adequate safeguards. A warning, on the other hand, may not always be necessary.

  1. For example, the dog owners were not held accountable for the injuries caused by a house guest who fell downstairs after being frightened by the hosts' dog growling from another room. The owners had taken sufficient measures by keeping the dog behind a locked gate and did not need to tell the guest.

  • Dogs have a history of biting or dangerous behavior. Unfortunately, owners can be found negligent in most areas, even if their dogs have no record of being aggressive or troublesome. Nonetheless, a dog's previous behavior will frequently impact appropriate control.

  1. For example, if a dog has a history of becoming anxious and growling when people approach it, the owner should have called a dog sitter or confined the dog.

  2. When dogs have account dangerously following humans or cars, their owners may be negligent in allowing them to run free.

If you're confused about how the dog owner is liable because they were negligent, you should set up an appointment with an attorney to help you.


When Does A Dog Owner Violate Reasonable Care?

If a dog attacks someone due to its owner's negligence, it's clear that the bite is to blame for the injuries. However, the concept of "proximate cause" becomes more complex when the dog hasn't really bitten or even touched the injured person.

The most obvious example is when a person is hurt while fleeing or attempting to flee from a dangerous dog. However, courts have found that the careless owners were culpable in countless cases involving dogs following bicycles and ultimately falling.

However, the conclusion may differ if the terrified person behaves wildly, such as darting into the street and being hit by a car. In that case, the court may determine that the driver of the car, not the dog, was to blame for the injuries.

When unique circumstances like these happen, a California Dog Bite Lawyer will know the legal specifics of the case.

Strict Liability on California Dog Bite Laws


Even if the owner was not negligent or didn't realize the dog was dangerous, most states in the United States hold dog owners financially accountable if their canines bite someone. However, there may be certain limitations and exclusions.


When someone else's dog bites a person, the victim will likely sue the dog's owner for medical fees and other damages. These claims could be based on rules in more than half of the states that render the owner automatically liable for most dog-bite injuries.


The laws in place are known as "strict liability" statutes because the injured person does not have to prove that the dog's owner knew the dog was dangerous (often referred to as the "one-bite rule") or that the dog owner was negligent.


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Strict-liability laws are predicated on the premise that everyone who owns a dog is responsible for any damage it causes, no matter how minor. However, a few jurisdictions have less stringent dog-bite regulations because they only apply when the owner has no control, such as when the dog is walking "at large."

Furthermore, dog owners may be able to invoke legal defenses to avoid liability for dog bites. Most dog-bite laws have exceptions, usually when the injured human was trespassing or provoked the dog. Many of the regulations are also irrelevant if the dog acted as they were taught to be a police dog at the time of the bite.

Specific strict-liability statutes only apply to injuries caused by a dog bite. Most of them, however, also cover damages caused by a dog chasing a motorcycle or bicycle. Those restrictions, however, may not apply if someone is injured when a dog is playing or going about its business, depending on the circumstances.

In almost many jurisdictions, dog-bite regulations do not change the existing rules for suing someone responsible for dog-related injuries. Thus, depending on the circumstances, an injured person may file a lawsuit based on a strict liability statute, the owner's negligence, or the one-bite rule. Even if a judge finds that one of these does not apply, the lawsuit may still be allowed to proceed on another legal ground.


Consult with lawyer to help you prove that all your injuries—even those not directly caused by a dog bite—qualify for Personal Injury Damages.


Compensation for Dog Bites Lawsuits in California

The dog's owner may be held accountable for the victim's medical expenditures, pain and suffering, and past and future income losses when a dog bites someone. Other injuries, such as when a dog pushes someone down or causes an accident by chasing a motorcycle, are not included in this.

However, depending on the circumstances and current regulations, dog owners may be held liable if their dogs injure someone.


This means that the owners (or their insurance companies) could be held accountable for the victims' losses (or "damages"). The following are some examples of potential losses:

  • Health-care costs

  • Recovery expense

  • Pain and suffering

  • Income loss

  • any property damage caused by the incident, such as cracked spectacles or a wrecked motorcycle

  • If the owner's actions were particularly egregious, the court might award treble or punitive damages.

Victims' overall compensation may be reduced if they are proven to share some of the blame for the incident. This depends on the state, the legal theory supporting the case, and the individual circumstances.

To better calculate the damages for your dog bite injury, contact your California Personal Injury Attorney to help you sort your claim.


A. Compensating For Medical Costs


The most apparent expenditures linked with dog-related injuries are medical costs, such as doctors and hospital services, medicine, physical therapy, and any necessary psychiatric care.


If the incident aggravates a victim's pre-existing medical condition, the final bill may be far more than you expect. If you injure someone, the basic legal rule is that you are responsible for all injuries that come from your acts, even if the victim's pre-existing condition exacerbates those injuries.


Consider the example of a senior citizen who has a bad back and is pushed over by a dog. The fall may not be risky for someone younger and healthier, but it could result in surgery in this situation because it aggravated the victim's back problem. The dog's owner will be responsible for the actual medical costs, not what they cost if the victim were healthy.


B. Pain and Suffering


A dog bite or mauling injuries are often excruciating, producing both physical and mental or emotional discomfort. Emotional distress can be caused by physical pain and lengthy medical procedures.


It could also be a result of the trauma caused by the incident. For example, anxiety, shock, insomnia, melancholy, and other psychological symptoms may be experienced by victims as a terrible fear of dogs (which makes it difficult to walk outside).

In extreme cases, they may acquire post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When victims' discomfort and emotional troubles are expected to continue, they may be eligible for a future pain and suffering award (or a settlement payment).

What is a fair monetary value on misery and pain? It's challenging, but jurors must do it regularly. Lawyers and insurance firms do the same thing when negotiating a settlement. Nonetheless, the amount of money paid to victims for their pain and suffering varies substantially. If a jury's award is deemed unreasonable in the circumstances, judges may overturn it.

This is why you need a skilled and prescreened California Dog Bite Lawyer to help fight your case for you. How they convince the jury of your compensation claims will affect how much you will be awarded at the end of it.

Hire The Top Rated California Dog Bite Lawyer at 1000Attorneys

1000Attorneys.com is a California Bar Association-Certified Lawyer Referral Service that can refer you to a prescreened personal injury lawyer best fit to handle your dog bite cases. Contact us on our 24/7 lawyer referral hotline at 1-661-310-7999 or complete our inquiry submission form for a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION.

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