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What Does California Law Say About Dog Bites?

November 29, 2022 | Personal Injury

 A dog bite can be incredibly dangerous to a human being. Dogs’ mouths are known to have over 600 types of bacteria, many of which are distinct and separate from the bacteria humans carry. A dog bite that leaves an open wound gives those bacteria a direct route into your body. Additionally, dog bites may leave you with scarring, nerve damage, and other long-term health issues.

Dog bites fall under the umbrella of premises liability, so laws vary between states. If you’ve been bitten by a dog, learning about California-specific laws can help you figure out your next steps.

If you have been injured by a dog bite, don’t wait any longer to get the legal assistance you need. At Pisegna & Zimmerman, we make it as easy as possible for you to start your claim. We are ready to meet with you over Zoom and send over documents via DocuSign, so you can do everything from the comfort of your home. Set up a consultation now by calling us at 818-888-8888.

The One-Bite Rule: Does California Have One?

 Perhaps one of the most frequently repeated bits of legal lore is the idea that each dog gets one “free bite.” That is to say, an owner is only liable for injuries caused by a dog after they have already bitten someone. Although people talk about this law as if it’s applicable everywhere, that isn’t the case. Some states do not hold owners liable for a dog bite if they had no prior knowledge or way of knowing that the dog was dangerous.

California does not have such a law. Owners are liable for bodily harm caused to the victim of a dog bite, assuming that the bite occurred either in a public place or in a private place where the victim had the right to be. This includes, in addition to invited guests and visitors, delivery professionals and mail delivery personnel.

Liability for Injuries Caused by a Dog

 A dog owner can be held liable for the injuries caused by their dog. This may include compensation in a wide range of categories, including:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Disability
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental trauma

 The expenses associated with a dog bite add up quickly, especially if the victim must undergo rabies vaccination or other aggressive measures to prevent serious illness. Your personal injury attorney can provide further guidance.

Exceptions to State Law – There are some situations where an owner is not responsible for a dog bite. As noted earlier, they are liable if the victim is someone expressly or implicitly invited onto the property. This includes invited guests, mailmen, delivery workers, or people carrying out a legal duty. If someone is trespassing on the property, the dog may be protecting its family. The dog owner may also not be liable if the dog was protecting itself from annoying, harassing, or provoking behavior. Dogs are also allowed to bite if they are working with a law enforcement agency in the investigation of a crime, in the apprehension or holding of a suspect, in the execution of a warrant, or in the defense of a police officer or other person.

What Happens After a Dog Bite?

 California law is very clear about a dog owner’s responsibility after a bite and how the dog must be handled afterwards. The dog owner must take immediate steps to prevent any further harm to the victim or anyone else in the vicinity.

After a dog has bitten two people, it is considered a threat to the public. The district attorney, city attorney, or any other party can bring a suit against the dog owner to determine whether or not the danger has been eliminated. The court can decide that the dog must be removed or euthanized if necessary.

A suit may also be brought against a dog owner after one bite if the dog in question was trained to fight, attack, or kill. The court is then free to take any action it deems necessary to protect the public from future threats.

Please note that even though California law is very clear, it is not the only relevant authority in this area. Each city and county has the freedom to make its own laws regarding dog bites, and many have done so.

Fight for the Compensation You Deserve—Contact Pisegna & Zimmerman

 If you’ve been injured by an aggressive dog, it’s time to find out if you are entitled to compensation. The team at Pisegna & Zimmerman is ready to learn more about your case and guide you through the next steps. With our easy Zoom meetings and our ability to handle all document signings through DocuSign, you can rest easy. Schedule your consultation with our team now by calling us at 818-888-8888 or contacting us online.