When someone is bitten by a dog in California, it is common that the dog’s owners will be held strictly liable for any injuries which result from the bite. There are, however, a number of exceptions which exist that may decrease the liability of the owner.
If you have been involved in a dog bite accident, reach out to an attorney at Silva Injury Law who can help ensure you are fairly and adequately represented.
Understanding Strict Liability
In California, the statute relevant to dog bites makes clear that a dog owner can be held strictly liable when their dog causes any injury. This requires the owner to be responsible for compensation for injuries if the dog was owned by the defendant, the victim was on public property or on private property with permission or invitation, the victim was actually bitten by the defendant’s dog and the victim sustained an injury from the bite.
There is not a “one free bite” rule in California, so even if a dog has not bitten anyone before or shown any vicious tendencies, the owner cannot avoid liability. There are, however, a number of defenses which may reduce or rid the owner of liability.
The statute refers very specifically to dog bites, so it is necessary that the injury sustained was from an actual bite. If the victim was knocked over or jumped on by the dog, then the statute does not apply. Even if a dog’s action of jumping or knocking over a victim, and this causes an injury, the victim may not be able to recover under strict liability.
It is not necessary for the dog bite to break the skin to qualify under the statute. If, because of the bite, a victim experiences nerve damage or bruising rather than broken skin, this is sufficient to satisfy the statute.
In order to recover for the dog bite under strict liability, it is necessary that the victim was either on public property or lawfully on private property when the attack took place. If the victim was trespassing on private property at the time of the accident, the trespass will constitute a defense for a claim of strict liability.
Assuming the Risk
If the victim of the dog bite assumed the risk then this will bar their recovery under the strict liability statute. To assume the risk essentially means that the victim consented to participate in
an activity wherein they knew of the dangerous nature and potential outcome. As this relates to dog bites, if a victim interacts with a dog despite being informed by an owner of its potential to bite, or if the victim ignores a “beware of dog” sign, these will prevent a victim from recovering under strict liability. This defense is also applicable to those who work with an assume control of the dog, such as groomers, trainers, veterinarian, etc.
If the victim provokes the dog attack by teasing, hitting, abusing, tormenting, or chasing the animal, they may not sue under strict liability. Even when the provocation is unintentional, such as disturbing a dog’s food, invading its space, or stepping on it or its tail may be a sufficient defense.
This does not apply to children under the age of 5, however, as they are not old enough to know to avoid provoking an animal.
Contact An Attorney
If you have been injured in a dog bite accident, reach out today to the attorneys at Silva Injury Law, who can assess your case and help you receive the compensation you are entitled to.
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