Is California a “One-Bite” State When It Comes to Dog Bite Lawsuits?
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year throughout the United States. About 800,000 people annually require medical attention for dog bite injuries, and many of those victims are young children. Indeed, a California Department of Public Health study found that children under the age of 10 were more likely than other age groups to require medical treatment for dog bites, and they were more than three times likely to be bitten in the head or face.
Strict Liability for Dog Owners in California
In California, a dog’s owner can be held civilly liable when their animal bites a person. Some states follow what is known as the “one-bite” rule, where the victim must prove that the owner knew their dog had a propensity to bite people. California is not a one-bite state. Instead, we follow a “strict liability” rule. This means the owner can be held responsible even if their dog had no prior history of biting or attacking people.
That said, a dog owner is only liable if the bite occurred on public property or private property where the victim was lawfully present. In other words, if a dog bites you in a public park, the owner is responsible. Similarly, if you are visiting someone’s home at their invitation and their dog bites you, they are also responsible. But if you are trespassing on private property and the owner’s dog bites you, then strict liability does not apply. In limited cases, the owner may still be responsible for negligence in the handling of their dog.
What About Other Kinds of Dog Attacks?
California’s strict liability rule only applies to dog bites–i.e., the dog uses their teeth or jaw to grab onto a person. The rule does not cover situations involving other kinds of dog attacks. For instance, if a dog chases you and you fall down and sustain injuries, that is not considered a “dog bite” for purposes of strict liability. But as previously noted, you may still be able to sue the owner and recover damages if you can prove negligence, such as the owner allowed their dog to run around in public without a leash.
Can the Dog Owner Try to Blame Me?
A dog owner can attempt to defend against a dog bite lawsuit by alleging the victim provoked the dog or was otherwise responsible for what happened. California follows a “pure comparative negligence” rule in personal injury cases. This requires the trier of fact in a lawsuit to determine the relative fault of all parties involved, including the plaintiff. Any compensation award is then reduced in proportion to the victim’s fault. However, if the dog bite victim was a child under the age of 5, then the defense cannot argue comparative fault, as such children cannot be found negligent as a matter of law.
Contact a Palmdale Dog Bite Attack Lawyer Today
A dog bite attack is not a minor inconvenience. Victims often require immediate and expensive medical care to avoid potentially life-threatening complications. So if you or someone in your family was attacked and you need legal advice from a qualified Palmdale dog bite attorney, contact the Trevino Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients in Palmdale, Lancaster, Littlerock, and Lake Los Angeles.