Dog owners have a responsibility to handle their dogs and ensure that others are not injured by their dogs. In California, there are specific laws that pertain to dog bites. We will try to cover some of the basics for you. However, if you are in a situation where you have been injured by a dog bite or your dog has bitten someone else, you may need to seek further assistance from an experienced dog bite attorney.

California Statutes Pertaining to Dog Bites

Under section 3342 of the Civil Code, it explains that a dog owner is responsible if their dog bites and injures someone, if the bite occurred in a public place or if the injury occurred in a legal private place.

According to this statute, the injury must have been due to the dog actually biting the victim. If the person was injured because the dog knocked them down, or if the dog scratched them, this statute does not apply.  It is possible that the injured person could pursue a judgment under the California Negligence Rules. But, not under the dog bite rules.

Statute of Limitations for Dog Bites in California

The injured party has two years to seek damages under California laws. Dog bites are handled like any other personal injury case. After two years, it is likely the courts will dismiss the charges.

Negligence or Strict Liability?

States normally fall into one of two categories. They are either a negligence state or a strict liability state. California is a strict liability state. That means it does not matter if the owner did not know the dog would bite and it doesn’t matter if the dog never bit before. The owner is liable for the action of their dog that has hurt someone.

If a person is bitten by the dog, they need only prove that they were bitten and that they were (legally) in a private place or in a public place when the dog injured them. It makes no difference if the owner knew or did not know the dog would bite.

However, if the victim was bitten while they were trespassing on private property, they may be unable to collect damages. Also, other laws are called into play if the dog was a police or military dog who bit someone while they were doing the duty they are trained to do.

What If The Injury Was Not From A Bite?

If there was an injury caused by the dog, but not from a dog bite, the victim must pursue their case under the California negligence laws. In this case, they may have to demonstrate that the dog owner knew or should have known that their dog would act aggressively toward people in a public (or legal and private) place. It may be necessary to consult a dog bite attorney in a case like this.

If you own a dog in the state of California, you have a duty to make sure others are not injured by your animal. People have a right to walk on the sidewalk, go to the park or ride their bikes without fear that your animal will attack them. It is a good idea to train your dog and spend enough time with them to feel comfortable that they are a safe animal. Even then, maintaining control of the animal is required.