If you or a loved one is the victim of a dog bite in the San Fernando Valley, you may be able to recover compensation for your damages. Consult an experienced and qualified personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the incident so that you can take the proper steps to handle your claim.
Dog Bite Law in California is Strict Liability
Under California law, a dog owner is legally responsible for the damage and loss caused by his dog, even if the owner was not negligent in his handling of the animal. This concept of strict liability places the burden of dog bites completely on those who own dogs in an effort to prevent dogs from being a hazard to the community. In other words, a dog's owner is fundamentally the insurer of the dog's conduct.
Under California Civil Code Section 3342, a dog owner is liable for any damages caused by the dog biting a person, regardless of biting history, tendency to bite, previous vicious behavior, or the owner's knowledge of such viciousness. If you are in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, and a dog bites you, the dog's owner is responsible for damages suffered because of the dog bite. You only need to prove that the defendant owned the dog and the dog bite occurred while you were on public property or lawfully on private property.
Defenses under the California Law
Even though there are no defenses spelled out in the law, California courts can deny recovery to victims who provoked the dog, negligently caused the attack, or assumed the risk of the attack. Other defenses include:
Lack of Ownership: The statute only applies to owners. The rules are different regarding liability of a keeper or handler. Either the keeper or handler had knowledge of the dog's previous vicious acts or the keeper or handler was negligent in controlling the dog and the victim was injured because of the lack of reasonable care.
Trespass: The statute only applies to those in a public place or lawfully in a private place. If the injury occurred after trespassing onto private property, the dog owner is not liable under strict liability, but may be liable under negligence.
Bites Only: The statute only applies to injuries caused by actual bites. If the injury was a result of being frightened, knocked down, or jumped on by a dog, the dog owner is not liable under strict liability, but may be liable under negligence.
What Compensation is Available for a Dog Bite Victim?
Financial damages from a dog bite can include past and future medical expenses, lost wages, lost future earnings, and monetary recovery for emotional distress, mental anguish, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and general inconvenience.