Dog bites occur so frequently in California that the state has one of the highest number of cases of deadly attacks by canines in the nation. While most dog owners argue that their dogs were provoked, this is not always the case. In fact, statistics show that approximately 94% of dog bites are unprovoked. That means that 94% of victims never instigate the attack.
Statistics also show that approximately 70% of dog attack victims are children under the age of 12. Senior citizens form the second largest group of victims in California. Third in line are meter readers and postal workers.
If you have been attacked and injured by a dog, you may be entitled to seek compensation for damages from the dog owner.
Frequently Asked Questions
California’s Dog Bite Law | California Civil Code 3342
Unlike other states, California does not follow the “one-bite” rule. This means that dog owners can be held liable regardless of whether their dog displayed a history of aggression or violent behavior in the past. Under California Civil Code 3342, dog owners are strictly liable for damages related to injuries caused by their dogs even if it is the dog’s first attack.
However, a dog owner is strictly liable only when the victim was on the dog owner’s property legally, or on public property. This means that trespassers cannot hold a dog owner strictly liable for their injuries under California Civil Code 3342.
There are also a few additional exceptions to California Civil Code 3342. A victim cannot hold government agencies that use dogs for military or police work in compliance with a written police policy strictly liable if the bite occurs while the dog is acting within the scope of its training or employment.
Additionally, if the victim voluntarily assumed the risk of being bitten, such as a veterinarian, dog walker, dog groomer, or other professional, they cannot hold the defendant strictly liable for their injuries under California Civil Code 3342.
If the victim was partially at fault for the accident, such as by provoking, harassing, or annoying the dog, this may also impact their ability to recover damages under California Civil Code 3342. However, because California is a pure comparative negligence state, the victim’s recovery will be reduced by their percentage of fault.
Even if an exception to California Civil Code 3342 applies, you may still be able to file a negligence claim against the dog owner for your injuries.
Negligence Claims in Dog Bite Cases
Even if California’s strict liability rule does not apply, you can still recover damages for your injuries by asserting a negligence claim against the dog owner. However, in this case, you will bear the burden of proving that the owner of the dog failed to exercise reasonable care and that their lack of care caused your injuries.
Dog Bite Cases Involving Children
Since adults are required to understand the difference between right and wrong when it comes to handling and acting around dogs, do the same laws apply to kids? Well, California courts have ruled that children under the age of 5 are not capable of negligence.
This means that children within that age group are incapable of acting with reasonable care around dogs. Therefore, dog owners cannot use the child’s failure to act with due care, or provocation, as a defense and may still be held liable regardless of whether the child was at fault for the attack. In other words, California’s pure comparative negligence rule does not apply and does not impact the amount of damages a child under the age of 5 can recover.
Compensation for Dog Bites in California
Dog bite victims are entitled to compensation for injuries and losses arising from the attack. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your case, you can recover either compensatory damages, punitive damages, or both.
Common types of compensatory damages in a dog bite case include:
- Medical expenses
- Physical or vocational therapy
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional Distress
Moreover, if the dog attack resulted in a fatality, the deceased’s family has a right to claim wrongful death damages as well as damages for loss of consortium.
Under California law, you can also recover punitive damages depending on the circumstances of your case. Punitive damages are meant to punish the liable party for engaging in bad behavior. This type of damages is awarded by the court if you are able to prove, with compelling evidence, that the dog owner’s actions were malicious or oppressive.
Injured By a Dog Bite? Contact a California Personal Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one was injured due to a dog bite, it is imperative that you seek legal representation immediately. The attorneys at Golden Gate Legal are ready to fight on your behalf and have the experience necessary to get you the compensation you deserve.