Dog bite law throughout all states is typically very similar. However, where the legal rules for dog bites start to become a bit muddled is in the liability.
In California, the state follows strict liability laws. This means that liability for a dog bite case cannot be disputed. If a dog bites someone, it
is the owners fault and they are held liable except in some very small exceptions.
Strict Liability of Dog Bites
It used to be that California had a “first bite free” rule, as many called it. This rule basically stated that victims could not receive monetary compensation
from a dog owner unless the dog has a history documenting a vicious nature. This otherwise means, they could not get compensation unless the dog had
already bitten someone.
However, that rule has since been replaced by strict liability. Now, a victim of a dog bite who was bitten in a public place or a private residence where
they were lawfully permitted (such as being invited over) can receive compensation for a bite regardless of previous viciousness or lack thereof. Furthermore,
under strict liability, you do not have to prove any owner negligence as you may have to in other states outside of California.
This law was created in order to make sure that owners always abide by their duty of care to prevent a dog from biting. Since the victim has no need to
prove negligence, but rather liability will always automatically be placed on the owner, it provides compensation for injuries and encourages more
discretion to prevent bites on the part of the owner.
When Does Strict Liability Not Apply?
Section 3342 under the California Civil Code details the strict liability of dog bites. However, it also details the small exceptions in which strict liability
does not apply. This means that if the victim was in breach of these small exceptions, then strict liability is not applied to the owner. In the case
of these exceptions, the victim will be responsible for their own injuries.
Exceptions to Strict Liability include:
- Trespassing – If you invite someone over, you as the owner are liable for your dog. However, if someone is on your property without
your knowledge or invitation, then you are not responsible for the event of a dog attack as the owner. Of course, this does not apply to those
that have reason to be there, such as postal workers.
- Occupational Hazard – Also known as the veterinarian’s rule, veterinarians, groomers, and everyone that works in a profession where
they are around many dogs has a reasonable assumption of risk that they may get bitten. They are trained to take precautions against this, and
as such, the owner surrenders their responsibility to them. If a veterinarian or other dog professional gets bit, it is an occupational hazard
and not the owner’s responsibility. However, it is still the owner’s responsibility to warn the professional if the dog has been aggressive lately
or has bitten in the past. By informing them, they know to take appropriate preventive action.
Been Bit in California?
Have you been the victim of a dog bite in California? Then it is extremely likely that the owner can be held liable for your injuries that were the result
of their dog. However, while you have a strong case for compensation for your injury, you still need someone to represent you throughout the process.
If you have been bite by a dog and you need compensation for you injuries, contact us today.
Let the Law Office of Freeman & Freeman help walk you through the process so you can get compensation that your injuries require.