Everything You Need to Know About Dog Bite Liability in California
Dog bites have made the news again, this time after a young child was bit in the face by a pit bill. The victim was treated for his injuries, none of which were life-threatening, and the dog was relinquished to be euthanized. There’s no word if the dog had a history of violent behavior, but whether it did or not, it’s a good time to talk about liability in California dog bite cases.
It all comes down to California Civil Code section 3342
The portion of CA Civil Code that has to do with dog bites is section 3342. It makes it clear that the dog’s owner is always liable for damages if their dog bit someone in a public place or if the person was legally in a private place. For example, if a person was invited to a dog owner’s home, and while visiting the home was bitten, the dog owner would be responsible. However, if a person showed up announced and unwelcome, and was bitten by the dog in the yard, the dog owner would not be liable as the person was trespassing.
The dog’s past behavior is entirely irrelevant
California, unlike some other states, does not require that the dog owner had reason to believe that their dog was capable of biting someone. Even if the dog had been perfect its entire life and never bitten anyone, if its first bite caused injury then the owner is liable for that first bite. Note that a dog bite, as defined by the law, refers to a dog breaking the skin of a person with their teeth.
Whether it draws no blood or results in a wrongful death, a dog that bite a person can be removed from the home of the owner and be euthanized. A dog can be trained to attack and bite someone, or a dog can be entirely harmless – as far as their owner is concerned – and still end up euthanized after biting a person once.
Potentially dangerous dogs must be registered as such
There are other California laws and regulations that have to do with dog bites. The California Food and Agriculture Code deals not with liability in the event of a dog bite, but with keeping the public safe. If a dog is deemed potentially dangerous and / or vicious, then it must be licensed that way. A dog that’s potentially dangerous must stay indoors or behind a secure fence when it’s at home. If it’s out of the house, then it must always be on a leash.
Have you been bitten by a dog?
The reality is that, as long as you were legally in the same place as the dog that bit you, it’s likely you have a personal injury lawsuit against the owner of the dog. Reach out to Law Offices of Fernando D. Vargas at 909-982-0707 to learn more. We can offer a free legal consultation and are happy to help you understand your options for this case.