When Dogs Bite: Legal Tip

man bitten by a dogKnown as “man’s best friend”, dogs hold a special place in many people’s hearts. They keep people company, offer unconditional love and guard homes. While most dogs would never hurt anyone, animals can sometimes be unpredictable.

California Dog Bite Law

California has some of the strictest laws on dog bites in the United States. These are designed to protect the public and provide adequate legal redress to victims of dog attacks. A law firm with expertise with personal injury can assist.

Civil code section 3342 says that a dog owner is liable if their dog bites someone in a public or private place, including the owner’s own home. This is true even if the owner did not know the dog was aggressive or if it was the first time the dog had ever bitten anyone. This excludes dogs who bite in the commission of a job (for example, police or military dogs), dogs who bite an intruder who was trespassing or to protect their owner or when the person bit was tormenting the dog (for example, by hitting the dog).

Potentially Dangerous Dogs vs. Vicious Dogs

If a dog has attacked another person or animal within three years of an attack on the litigant, it is classed as a ‘potentially dangerous’. This means the owner will be required to keep it indoors or in a secure yard away from children. A vicious dog is one who has attacked a person or animal twice in a three-year period or severely injured or killed someone once. A judge may order the dog destroyed and the owner will have to pay costs, including medical expenses incurred by the victim.

Dog attacks are frequent and land thousands of people in the hospital each year, but strict laws ensure pet owners are liable for any injuries caused.