Dog Bites

Dog bites are a common cause of dog-related injuries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 368,245 people in the U.S. received treatment for dog bites in 2001.  Dog bites can create serious injuries that require long-term treatment, cause pain and suffering, and create substantial medical costs.   California dog bite attorneys that specialize in dog bite cases can help victims recover a monetary award for their injuries.

Dog Bite Liability Based on Statute

Statutory law governs the liability for dog bites that occur in California. California statutory law uses the doctrine of strict liability, or liability without fault, to govern the legal responsibility of dog owners for dog bites. In states governed by common law, it is necessary to show that the dog owner knew or had reason to know that the dog was vicious or a danger to people and that the dog was likely to bite someone.

Under California statute, a dog owner is nearly always responsible for injuries caused by his or her dog. According to California Civil Code § 3342(a), it is unnecessary for a person bitten by a dog to prove the dog owner’s fault, regardless of whether the dog owner knew the dog was vicious or that the dog had bitten someone before. Even if a dog owner attempts to keep the dog from causing injury or has no knowledge that the dog is dangerous, the owner will not escape liability. A dog bite attorney can help an injured person prove the elements required under California’s statute:

1. The defendant owned the dog;
2. The dog bit the plaintiff in a public place or while lawfully on private property; and
3. The dog bite caused injuries to the plaintiff.

This section is not applicable where the military and police use dogs for work and when a dog bites a trespasser.

Dog Bite Liability Based on Negligence

California statute only imposes liability for dog bites on dog owners. With assistance from a California dog bite attorney, an injured person may seek recovery from others under the theory of negligence. Every person owes a duty of care to others to act as a reasonably, prudent person would act in the same or similar circumstances. A court may determine a person is negligent when he or she is unreasonably careless in maintaining control over a dog. For example, a violation of a leash law may offer sufficient proof to establish negligence.

Liability for Dog Bites

A person injured by a dog bite may seek recover for the following:

  • Medical bills, including costs for physical therapy, emergency room visits, medication, and surgery
  • Loss of earnings
  • Pain and suffering
  • Property damage

Defenses to Dog Bites

A dog owner may raise assumption of the risk as a defense. This defense allows a defendant to assert that the plaintiff voluntarily and knowingly assumed the risk of injury. A determination that the injured person assumed the risk relieves the dog owner of the legal duty to protect the plaintiff from injury. Possible situations where assumption of the risk is applicable include knowingly taking the risk of being injured and provocation. Knowingly taking the risk is applicable in situations where the injured person regularly works with dogs, such as a dog trainer or a veterinarian. Acts of provocation may include purposely hitting a dog or entering a fenced yard when a dog’s hostile barking sufficiently indicates the risk.

Because a finding that the plaintiff assumed the risk may bar recovery, it is important to consult with an experienced California dog bite attorney to prevent this result. The experienced attorneys at Kurniadi & Kurniadi can provide you with a free evaluation of your dog bite case.

If you or a loved one is injured by a dog bite or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the attorneys at Kurniadi & Kurniadi by calling (858) 755-0455 for a free consultation.