Dogs are supposed to be a man’s best friend. However, dogs are animals and as such are capable of biting people when they feel threatened, are in pain or in a variety of other situations. When dogs bite people, the victims often suffer extensive damages. California residents should know about the legal responsibilities that dog owners have for dog bites.
Unlike other states that follow the common law rule of “scienter” (an owner must be aware a dog is prone to biting before the law will hold the owner liable for a dog bite), California is a strict liability state with respect to dog bites. California law places the risk that a dog might bite another person solely on the dog owner.
Even if a dog has never bitten anyone before and the owner was not negligent in controlling the animal in any way, the dog’s owner is legally responsible for the damages that result if the dog does bite someone who is legally on public or private property. After a dog has bitten someone, the owner has a duty to take “reasonable steps” to prevent further danger to others from the animal.
If a dog has bitten a person on two separate occasions, the city attorney of the dog owner’s residence may petition the court to order the removal of the dog from the city or to destroy the dog.
California maintains the traditional cause of action against a dog owner when his or her dog bites a person when he or she had knowledge of the dog’s propensity to bite. In such a case, the dog bite victim would have to show both that the dog had bitten a person in the past and that the owner knew of it.
Since California law imposes strict liability on dog owners, the only times that this cause of action arises is when the dog owner tries to raise a defense to a dog bite claim, such as claiming someone else was responsible for the bite.
Dog bites can have a devastating impact on victims, causing severe damage. Dog bite victims may seek to recover a variety of expenses from dog owners, including payment of bills for medical treatment, reimbursement for lost wages and payment for pain and suffering. Often the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance pays these claims.
If you or your child have been victims of a dog bite, do not hesitate to contact our experienced Encino dog bite lawyers who can help you get proper compensation for your injuries.