California’s “Strict Liability” Dog Bite Rule

California is one of several U.S. states that has “strict liability” for dog bites. This rule can have a significant effect on how you and your skilled San Diego County dog bite injury attorney decide to approach your case after a dog bite occurs.

In “strict liability” dog bite states like California, an owner may be held liable for a dog bite even if the dog has never bitten before or the owner had no reason to believe the dog would act aggressively toward others.

Dog Bites

She just wanted to pet the doggy…
  • Your toddler is severely injured when she approaches a loose dog in a Chula Vista park. The dog bite leaves her with severe facial scarring and lost vision in one eye.
  • Your grandfather is hospitalized with a broken hip and cracked ribs after a dog on a leash lunges and knocks him down on an Escondido, California sidewalk.
  • You are delivering furniture to a house in San Marcos, CA. When the homeowner opens the door, her dog lunges at you, clamps down on your leg, and doesn’t leg go until the ligaments in your knee are severed.

When dogs are not properly trained or restrained, or if they are under stress, even dogs that know you can bite, injure, and possibly kill.

When a dog bites, the shock and trauma of being attacked can be as serious for the victim as the physical injury. When you are overwhelmed by medical procedures and numbed by shock, it can be hard to get things straight. You may need a lawyer to help you recover compensation for your losses, but you will also need a friend who can help you better understand your situation and lend the support you need.

Our attorneys can give your case the personal attention it deserves.

People often assume that Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and a few other breeds are the most dangerous dogs, but any dog can become dangerous depending on the situation.

  • Dogs that are not properly socialized…
  • Dogs that are frightened, injured, or ill…
  • Dogs that are overprotective, high-strung, or simply surprised…
  • Dogs whose aggressive behavior has been encouraged by the owner…

Any dog, of any breed, can bite or attack. According to California Civil Code Section 3342, in most dog bite cases the owner of the dog is liable for any damages, regardless of whether the dog has shown vicious behavior in the past.

Dog owners can be negligent or reckless in several ways, including:

  • Training the dog to attack, kill, or otherwise behave aggressively
  • Failing to socialize the dog or correct aggressive behavior
  • Failing to properly enclose or restrain the dog
  • Failing to react appropriately to circumstances that may lead to a dog bite.

For example: A dog owner allows a large dog to run loose in a San Diego park where many small children are playing. Small children are at eye level with a large dog, and may surprise a dog by trying to kiss or hug it. A responsible owner should keep the dog restrained and monitor its interaction with the children. Otherwise, a child may end up with serious facial injuries and permanent scarring.

Dog attack fatalities are extremely rare, but they do happen. Research compiled by the National Canine Research Council shows that an average of one or two fatal dog attacks occur every year in California. The same research strongly suggests that in most cases the owner of the dog has been reckless or negligent in training and/or securing the dog. In some cases dogs have been trained to kill. Since roughly 1970, at least ten California dog owners have been convicted of involuntary or voluntary manslaughter in the wake of a dog bite fatality.

In April 2009, a pack of dogs attacked two horses and killed two pet dogs in a series of attacks in North County. California Civil Code 3341 states that if a dog kills, worries, or wounds a livestock animal, the owner of the dog is liable for damages. If the dog is caught in the act, it is legal for the livestock owner to kill the dog.

Never tease a strange dog or act aggressively toward it. Dogs will bite when provoked, and when a dog has clearly been provoked into biting, the owner is not liable for damages. For more tips on how to avoid dog bites, see the County of San Diego’s pet care and behavior tips.

Dog bite victims aren’t just physically injured. An animal attack can cause lasting sensations of fear and panic, from general anxiety to a specific fear of dogs.

We can help you take control and start down the road to recovery. Our attorneys will fully explain every aspect of your dog bite case and will even help you find a medical doctor or a therapist if necessary. You will feel more confident and in control when you are fully educated about your case and able to make informed decisions.

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