In the U.S., the laws pertaining to dog bites vary from state to state. In California, the liability statute makes owners of dogs liable to anyone who is bitten by that owner’s dog, even if the dog never showed signs of being vicious in the past. Whereas in several other states, where it must be proven that the negligence of the dog’s owner led to the injury, in California, simply owning the dog is enough to make its owner responsible for its viciousness. The only recourse for dog owners is being able to prove that the victim of the dog bite provoked the dog, trespassed onto its owners property, or otherwise assumed the risk of being bitten.
Here are 5 important facts about dog bite law that all California dog owners or victims of dog bites should know:
1. Certain dog breeds receive special scrutiny in homeowner’s insurance policies
If you’re a lover of big dogs, you may be out of luck when purchasing a homeowner’s insurance policy for your home. There are several breeds that underwriters have specifically deemed as potentially dangerous, such as: Dobermans, Bull Terriers, Rottweilers, Huskies, Akitas, German Shepards, and more. For a comprehensive list of dangerous breeds check out this article.
2. The owner is responsible for a bite that takes place in a public or private place
A California dog owner is liable to the victim of its dog bite not only in public spaces, but also in private places as well – even in the owner’s own home. The definition of being lawfully upon the owner’s private property means that the victim was either permitted by law to be in that place (such as a mailman delivering mail), or if the victim was invited by the owner.
3. If you are bitten, preserve any and all information that you can
To help strengthen your case, it is important to gather as much relevant information as possible related to the incident and, if applicable, your prior encounters with the dog. For example, if you have any past correspondence with the dog’s owner in which you claimed to have felt threatened by the dog, this will greatly work in your favor when your case is tried. It is also crucial to retain as much information as possible surrounding the incident, such as any pictures, clothing samples, any hospital records, etc.
4. Dogs are defined as “potentially dangerous” or “vicious”
It is important to note that the law differentiates “potentially dangerous” dogs from “vicious dogs,” because while “potentially dangerous” dogs are still allowed to leave their owner’s property and enter the public space, “vicious” dogs may either be prohibited from exiting their confined enclosure or forbidden from inhabiting certain cities altogether.
5. You don’t have to be the dog’s owner to be legally deemed its owner
Dog-walkers and dog-sitters should be especially aware of this portion of the law: you do not need to technically be the dog’s owner to be made liable for a dog bite that happens under your watch. However, in order for the victim to press charges against someone who is not the established owner of the dog, the victim must be able to prove that the dog’s handler had prior knowledge of the dog’s dangerous behavior.
If you or someone you know was bitten by a dog and needs legal assistance, please contact us today for a free consultation.