California law takes animal bites seriously. Depending on the circumstances, you can recover compensation for the damages caused by an animal bite.
You may wonder, Does the type of animal affect a bite injury claim? California law treats liability for animal bites differently, depending on the type of animal and the owner’s knowledge of the animal’s behavior. Below, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Silva Injury Law explain animal bite claims in California.
California’s Animal Bite Laws
Does the type of animal affect a bite injury claim in California? Yes. California law imposes different types of liability on owners of dogs, wild animals, and other domesticated animals. This means an injured person must prove different elements for each type of animal bite.
Dog Bite Laws
Dog bites are very common. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 4.5 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs every year.
California’s dog bite laws hold dog owners strictly liable for any damage their dog caused as a result of a bite. This means the injured party doesn’t have to prove the dog previously bit someone or had the propensity to bite to recover compensation. If the dog previously bit someone else, however, you’ll have a stronger case against the owner.
There are some exceptions to dog bite strict liability. For example, the injured party must have been on public land or lawfully on private property when they were bitten. That means an owner is not strictly liable when their dog bites a trespasser.
There are also different liability rules for law enforcement dogs. For example, law enforcement dog owners aren’t strictly liable to suspects who are bitten, but they are strictly liable to innocent bystanders who are bitten.
Horses and Other Domestic Animals
Unlike dogs, if you’re injured by a horse bite or another domestic animal bite, you must prove the owner was negligent. Negligence requires proof of the following:
- The owner owed you a duty of care;
- The owner breached that duty;
- The breach caused the domestic animal bite; and
- You suffered harm as a result.
To show a breach of duty, you’ll likely have to prove the owner knew or reasonably should have known the animal would bite unprovoked.
The owner of a domestic animal is strictly liable if their animal has “dangerous propensities.” For example, if you’re bitten in a horseback riding accident, and the horse that bit you previously bit someone else, the owner might be strictly liable for your damages.
Owners are also strictly liable for attacks by domestic animals if the animals trespass on your land. The owner’s liability also extends to any damage the trespassing animal causes.
Wild Animal Bites
Keeping a wild animal as a pet is considered to be an inherently dangerous activity. When an activity is inherently dangerous, the person doing that activity can be held strictly liable for injuries the activity causes. That means owners of wild animals are strictly liable for any damage caused by a species regarded as inherently dangerous. These owners are also strictly liable for attacks by wild animals kept as pets, even if they took steps to restrain the wild animal.
Veterinarians And Other Animal Professionals
California law recognizes that animal professionals voluntarily engage in the inherently risky activity of handling animals and assumed the risk of an animal bite by virtue of their profession. An injured professional must prove the owner failed to warn them of the animal’s dangerous tendencies to be able to bring a lawsuit.
What If I’m Partially At Fault For The Bite?
If you provoke or harass an animal causing a bite, California law considers you contributorily negligent. This means a court will reduce your compensation based on your percentage of fault. For example, if you’re found to be 20% at fault for your injury, you can still recover up to 80% of your damages.
Filing An Animal Bite Claim
You may wonder how to file a claim for an animal bite. First, you must file an animal bite claim within two years of the date of the injury.
An animal bite lawsuit requires strict compliance with California’s rules of civil procedure. It involves court appearances, the exchange of documents, depositions, and potentially a trial. We highly recommend hiring an experienced animal bite attorney before filing your case.
Hire Our Experienced Animal Bite Attorneys
An animal bite can result in significant emotional and physical damage. You need an advocate who knows California’s animal bite laws and understands that injured people need compassionate support. At Silva Injury Law, our attorneys will guide you every step of the way and protect your right to compensation. Contact us today to schedule a free in-person or remote consultation.
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At Silva Injury Law we promote healing through compassionate advocacy. With each case tailored to the individual, we look our for your best interests by evaluating your unique circumstances. Contact us today for a FREE in person or remote consultation.