In California, as in other states, there are specific statutes that address liability when you are injured in an attack by someone’s dog. Here’s what Section 3342 of the California Civil Code says about the dog owner’s responsibility for your injuries.
As a general rule, there are two requirements for liability for a dog bite in California:
- You must have suffered an injury when someone else’s dog bit you
- The injury must have occurred in a public place or you must lawfully have been in a private place when the attack took place
California’s dog bite law is what is known as a “strict liability” statute. In most personal injury claims, you must show that the defendant was negligent—i.e., failed to act as a reasonable person would. With a strict liability claim, there’s no need to show negligence or breach of a duty of care. All you need to show is that you were hurt, the defendant caused your injury and there is no exception that applies.
With respect to dog bite injuries, the owner of a dog can be liable without regard to any former proclivity or aggressive behavior by the dog, or of any knowledge of such behavior. Essentially, it doesn’t matter if the owner had no evidence or knowledge that the dog would be aggressive. There’s still legal responsibility.
The primary defense to a dog bite claim is trespassing. Because you can only recover if you are lawfully on private property, you will typically be prevented from obtaining compensation if you were on private property without permission.
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