Dog bites on your property in California
Around 40% of households in California are pet owners, and among these companion animals, dogs make up a significant portion. While dogs are often considered man’s best friend, it’s important to acknowledge that they can also pose a risk, as evidenced by the occurrence of over 4.5 million dog bites annually throughout the United States.
Experiencing a dog bite or animal attack can be a traumatic event with long-lasting consequences for the victim. Regardless of where the incident occurs, such as on public or private property, California law provides avenues for holding dog owners accountable for the injuries and damages caused by their dogs.
In California, there is a strict liability statute specifically addressing dog bites, ensuring that the owners can be held responsible for the consequences of their dog’s actions. This law applies to dog bite attacks that occur on both public and private property. It is important to understand the implications of California’s strict liability statute and how it applies to victims of dog bite attacks, as it offers potential recourse for seeking compensation for injuries and other damages.
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California has a strict liability dog bite law under Civil Code Section 3342. It means that an individual will be financially responsible (liable) for injuries or damage caused by a dog even if the owner was not negligent. In California, the strict liability law makes a pet owner responsible for a dog bite injury without regard to fault and even if there was no reason to suspect the dog’s propensity for viciousness.
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Strict Liability for Dog Bites:
If the dog that bit someone wasn’t yours, you may still be held liable under California’s strict liability dog bite law if you were the owner, possessor, or harborer of the dog. Even if you were temporarily watching someone else’s dog, you could potentially be held responsible for the bite. Additionally, if the dog in question was a stray, you may be liable under premises liability laws, which hold property owners responsible for accidents and injuries that occur on their premises if they could have reasonably taken steps to prevent the incident.
In terms of insurance coverage, most standard homeowners insurance policies in California will typically cover dog bite injuries caused by the policyholder’s pet. Since homeowners insurance policies typically cover the policyholder’s property, which includes dogs, the insurance company should provide coverage for injuries and property damage caused by the policyholder’s dog, regardless of where the incident occurred.
If you don’t have homeowners insurance, renter’s insurance may also cover dog bite injuries. However, if you don’t have either type of insurance, you may be personally responsible for paying the dog bite victim’s medical expenses and other damages out of pocket. Depending on the circumstances, the victim or the courts may work with you to establish a payment plan if you’re unable to afford a lump sum payment.
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In California, the strict liability statute for dog bites holds dog owners accountable for their dog’s actions, regardless of whether it was the first incident or the dog’s past behavior. The law disregards claims that the dog is usually friendly and expects owners to take necessary precautions to prevent injuries caused by their dog. This statute eliminates the need for contentious legal disputes, as liability is automatically established once a dog bite attack is reported.
However, it’s important to understand that while the strict liability statute protects victims of dog bites, it may not provide complete protection for victims of other types of dog-related injuries or attacks. For instance, injuries caused by a dog jumping on someone and knocking them over may not fall under the strict liability statute’s coverage. Different legal considerations may apply in such cases.
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Regardless of where a dog bite attack occurs, victims in California are covered by the state’s strict liability statute for dog bites. This means that whether the attack happens on public or private property, victims have the right to seek compensation from the dog’s owner. For example, if someone is bitten while walking on a public sidewalk or lawfully visiting someone else’s property, they can pursue a legal claim for their injuries.
But, it’s important to be aware of certain exceptions to the strict liability statute. If the victim was trespassing on the dog owner’s property or engaged in provoking the dog, they may not be protected by the statute and may face limitations in seeking compensation for their injuries.
It’s essential to consider the specific circumstances of the incident and consult with a legal professional to understand how the law applies in individual cases.
If you or your child have suffered severe injuries in a dog bite attack, you should not be solely responsible for the financial consequences. In California, dog bite victims have the right to seek compensation for various damages, which may include:
- Medical expenses: This covers the current and future medical costs associated with the injuries sustained in the dog bite attack.
- Property damage: If any personal property was damaged during the attack, such as clothing or personal belongings, you may be entitled to reimbursement.
- Lost wages: If the attack or the subsequent recovery period resulted in you missing work and losing wages, you can seek compensation for the income you would have earned during that time.
- Loss of earning potential: If the injuries from the attack have left you with long-term or permanent disabilities that affect your ability to earn a living, you may be eligible for compensation for the loss of future earning potential.
- Pain and suffering: This encompasses the physical pain, emotional distress, and psychological impact caused by the dog bite attack and your resulting injuries.
It’s important to note that dog owners and their insurance companies may employ defense tactics to minimize liability or deny compensation. To navigate the legal complexities and ensure your rights are protected, it’s recommended to seek the representation of an experienced personal injury attorney who specializes in handling dog bite cases in California. They will have the knowledge and expertise to advocate for your best interests and help you pursue the appropriate compensation for your damages.