When Is a Dog Owner Liable for a Dog Bite?

Posted By Law Offices of Joel Parker || 9-Jun-2015

In millions of American households, dogs serve two purposes – the faithful companion and the protector. It has been this way for countless generations and the animals have earned the title of "man's best friend" for good reason. But it is important to remember that underneath the fur and collar, even the tamest dogs are still animals and have the potential to act wild or unpredictable. When an owner loses control or the dog has an outburst of aggression, someone could be left with a serious dog bite injury.

Who is responsible when a dog bites?

While some states have a forgiving "one-bite" rule, California does not. This means that the moment a dog bites someone, regardless of its past history of viciousness or submissiveness, the victim has the right to seek some sort of restitution through financial recovery or otherwise. But who is ultimately responsible?

If you have been bitten by a stray dog or one that has no identifiable owner, you are pretty much out of luck. You can report the incident and move to have the animal euthanized but you will be hard-pressed to find someone you can sue. Hopefully you can make a good case with your insurance provider and receive medical treatment without emptying your pocketbook.

In most other situations, though, the dog's owner is liable. California State uses a "strict liability" law regarding dog bites that states a dog's owner is always responsible for their animal and what their animal does, even if they aren't present when an attack occurs. Furthermore, if an owner takes care to prevent their dog from biting someone, such as putting up fences or restraining it whenever it gets near another individual, it does not necessarily help their case – they are still going to be held accountable for any dog bite injuries.

If a courtroom finds the owner negligent for not preventing their dog from biting someone, they are likely to have to pay any medical costs related to the incident, as well as paying a large nominal sum to the victim for their trauma. Depending on the ferocity of the attack and the victim's outlook, the dog could be impounded and put down, even if it was completely tame before the bite.

Is the victim ever at fault for a dog attack?

Even though California utilizes strict liability laws, there are four distinctions that put the liability on the victim. The dog and its owner might not face any punishment if the dog bit:

  • A trespasser on its owner's property
  • A veterinarian who was currently treating it
  • Someone who intentionally wounded or provoked it
  • Someone while in the line of duty – such as police dogs

If you have been wounded by a serious dog bite, you need to contact a San Fernando Valley personal injury attorney from the Law Offices of Joel Parker immediately. You could be entitled to financial compensation for your needless pain and suffering but only if you can prove that you were not responsible for the incident.

Categories: Dog Bites

"It has always been my philosophy that the client's only job is to get better and my job is to handle everything else."

- Attorney Joel Parker

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