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Understanding California’s Dog Bite Laws

Individuals can typically recover compensation if they are bitten by a dog owned or controlled by another individual. However, recovering this compensation can be challenging, and it requires an understanding of California’s dog bite laws.

Is California a Strict Liability Dog Bite State?

Yes, California does follow a “strict liability” system when it comes to dog bite laws. When we examine Civil Code Section 3342, we can see that a dog owner will be held liable for any injuries caused by their dog biting another person, regardless of how minor the injury may be. It is not necessary for a dog bite victim to prove that the dog has previously bitten somebody before or that the dog has shown a propensity for aggression in the past. The dog biting someone is enough for a claim to be valid, so long as the victim was lawfully in the location where the bite occurred. 

This is different from how other states handle dog bites. Some other locations operate under a “one bite” rule. Under this type of system, a dog owner will only be held liable if the pet has previously bitten somebody before or shown a prior propensity for aggression.

How Long do You Have to File a Dog Bite Claim in California? 

Dog bite victims in California need to be aware that there is a limited amount of time for them to file these claims in court. These incidents fall under the personal injury statute of limitations, which means that a claim has to be filed within two years from the date the incident occurs. If a dog bite injury victim fails to file a lawsuit within this two-year timeframe, it is very likely that they will be unable to recover compensation for their losses.

Who Usually Pays for These Losses?

The law in California says that the dog owner will be held liable for these incidents. Typically, these claims will be resolved through a settlement with an insurance carrier, usually the dog owner’s homeowners insurance carrier. It is not uncommon for a dog owner to not have homeowners insurance, so it may be necessary to pursue compensation another route. In some cases, individuals may have renter’s insurance, but this is not required under California law. 

In the event the dog owner does not have an insurance policy with which to pursue compensation for dog bite injuries, it may be necessary to file a civil personal injury lawsuit directly against the dog’s owner to seek compensation from their personal assets.

Does the Law Specify the Types of Compensation You Can Recover?

The dog bite statute in California says that the dog owner will be liable for “the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.” 

You will notice that the law only says that the owner is responsible for damages, but it does not spell out what types of damages. Typically, dog bite injury victims are able to recover compensation for:

  • All medical bills arising due to the injury
  • Lost income if they cannot work while they recover
  • Various out-of-pocket expenses
  • Emotional and psychological trauma caused by the incident 
  • Loss of enjoyment of life damages

It is important to work with a skilled Irvine, CA dog bite injury lawyer who has experience handling these claims. An attorney can investigate the incident and handle all negotiations with the insurance carriers involved.