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Is the Owner of a Dog That Bites You Always Liable for Your Injuries?

A dog bite can cause serious injuries, some of which have the potential to cause long-term or permanent consequences. In California, a dog’s owner may be liable for a victim’s damages in certain circumstances. However, your right to recover compensation for your medical bills and other costs can depend on a number of factors.

In general, California law provides for strict liability for dog bites. Unlike most injury cases that require proof of negligence, liability for a dog bite is established by showing:

  • The defendant owned the dog.
  • The dog bit a victim who was in a public place or lawfully on private property.
  • The dog bite caused injury to the victim.

“Private property” includes the dog owner’s property. To be lawfully on private property, the victim must have been there by invitation of the owner (express invitation) or to perform a legal duty, such as in the case of a postal worker, meter reader or delivery person (implied invitation).

Strict liability is a marked departure from the “one-bite rule” that applies in some states. Under that rule, a plaintiff has to show that the dog had bitten someone previously or that the dog’s owner knew or had reason to believe the dog was dangerous.

California’s strict liability statute may apply in instances where a dog does not actually bite the victim but instead the victim falls or is knocked down as a result of the dog’s actions.

Strict liability generally does not apply to bites inflicted by dogs used in law enforcement. It also does not apply if the victim was a trespasser, had assumed the risk of getting bitten or was partially at fault for the attack. In such instances, the dog owner could nonetheless be found liable for negligence in failing to restrain a dog known to be dangerous. However, the victim’s actions could work to reduce the amount of damages the owner would pay under California’s comparative fault law. The more complex the facts and circumstances of the case, the more imperative is the counsel of a knowledgeable dog bite attorney.

Located in Santa Barbara, the Patterson law firm fights tirelessly for the rights of injured victims of all types of accidents. We primarily serve clients in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties. Please contact us online or call {PHONE} for an initial consultation.