| Read Time: 3 minutes | Dog Bite

Dog bites can occur unexpectedly and leave victims with both physical and emotional scars. Understanding your rights is crucial if you find yourself a victim of such an incident. Because dog bite claims can be complicated, hiring a California dog bite lawyer is essential. If you or someone you love sustained injuries from a dog bite, please contact Frederick Law Firm to discuss your case. 

Understanding California Dog Bite Laws

Unlike some states, which adhere to a “one-bite rule,” California enforces a strict liability statute. Under California law, a dog owner is automatically responsible for the damages their pet causes, regardless of the animal’s past behavior. That means that if a dog bites someone lawfully on private or public property, the owner is liable for any injuries resulting from the bite.

In California, a dog bite is defined by the dog’s teeth breaking the skin or any situation where the dog’s jaws close around a person. This broad definition covers a range of injuries that may not necessarily result in puncture wounds but can still cause significant harm, such as bruising and crushing injuries. 

When Dog Owners are Liable

Dog owners are liable for bites in public places and on private property as long as the victim was there lawfully. For example, if you are bitten in a public park or sidewalk, the dog owner could be responsible for your injuries.

The law protects specific individuals legally on private property—including postal workers, delivery persons, public service workers, or guests invited by the owner. The protection extends to any person performing a duty required by law or invited onto the property, whether explicitly or implicitly.

Legal Steps to Take After a Dog Bite

If you are a dog bite victim, immediately taking the proper legal steps following the incident can significantly affect the outcome of any potential claim for damages. Here’s what to do after a dog bite in California:

  • Seek medical attention, even if your injuries seem minor; 
  • Report the incident to local animal control and the police; 
  • Document your injuries and take photos of the scene if possible; 
  • Save clothing and any personal items that were damaged; and
  • Contact a California dog bite attorney. 

These steps can help ensure your health and safety and strengthen your potential legal claim. 

Compensation for Dog Bite Victims

In California, victims of dog bites can seek compensation for a range of damages. The most common include: 

  • Medical expenses, 
  • Lost wages, 
  • Pain and suffering,
  • Loss of quality of life, 
  • Emotional distress and
  • Permanent disfigurement or scarring. 

Damages can also include future expected losses, such as medical expenses and loss of earning capacity. 

Defenses to Dog Bite Claims 

In many cases, the dog owner’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy will cover damages resulting from a dog bite. However, you can expect the insurance company to do anything possible to reduce your potential payout for a dog bite claim. While California’s strict liability law simplifies the process for victims to receive compensation, there are several defenses a dog owner might argue. Potential defenses include: 

  • Provocation. If the owner can prove that the victim provoked the dog, intentionally or unintentionally, they may not be held liable for the dog’s actions. Provocation can include aggressive physical actions, threatening gestures, or invading the dog’s personal space.
  • Trespassing. Owners are not typically liable if the victim was unlawfully on their property during the bite. This defense applies to adults and children who enter property boundaries without permission.
  • Assumption of risk. In some situations, a person voluntarily interacts with a known dangerous dog or in roles such as a veterinarian or dog groomer. The assumption of risk defense might be applicable, arguing that the victim knew there was a risk of being bitten.
  • The dog was on the job. Another argument is a situation where the dog is performing police or military work under the guidance of a trained handler. In these cases, the handler and the organization they represent may not be liable if the dog bites someone during official duties and while reasonably managed.

These defenses can significantly impact the outcome of a dog bite claim. If successful, they might reduce or completely negate the owner’s responsibility. For this reason, victims should work closely with a skilled California dog bite lawyer who can help counter these defenses. 

Statute of Limitations for Filing a Claim

In California, the statute of limitations for filing a dog bite claim is typically two years from the date of the injury. Failing to file within this period will likely result in losing the right to claim compensation, regardless of the severity of the injury. 

Contact a California Dog Bite Lawyer at Frederick Law Firm

If you’re looking for skilled dog bite lawyers in California, contact Frederick Law Firm. With over four decades of personal injury experience, our legal team knows how to build a strong case for a dog bite injury. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation, and let us review your case.

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