Dogs have proven to be very helpful companions for humans. Some dogs function as service dogs for disabled people, trained canines that can help security sniff out bombs, or they can be helpful life companions for ordinary people like you and me.
But, it’s important to remember that dogs still have this innate wild instinct in them despite hundreds of years of domestication that can be dangerous and hard to control if you have no experience in handling them. Although dogs can serve as loyal and helpful companions, they can also hurt and even kill people with their bite.
Each state may have different laws regarding dog bites, but if a dog in California bit you, here are some important things you need to know.
What Does a “Bite” Mean Under California’s Dog Bite Law?
It’s possible that if a dog grabs someone with its teeth but doesn’t break the skin, it’s still considered a bite. (Johnson v. McMahan, 80 Cal.Rptr.2d 173 (Cal. App. 2d Dist. 1998)).
California Statutory Law
California has strict liability for dog owners. According to the state’s dog bite statute (Section 3342 of California’s Civil Code), a dog owner is liable for the dog to bite if the victim was bitten in public or on private property.
Even if the owner attempted to restrain the dog beforehand, they would still be held liable for the victim’s injuries.
Is a Dog’s History of Biting Relevant in the Case?
If a dog bites you and the owner attempts to argue that their dog has never had these aggressive tendencies before, their defense will not be accepted.
According to the California Civil Code, the dog owner is still liable for their pet’s actions regardless of the past.
California’s Common Law of Negligence for Pet Owners
Common law is created by judges, which means that it may be different from statutory law. California’s common law regarding dog bites requires all pet owners to exercise reasonable care in protecting other people from their dogs. If the owner cannot do the minimum standard of care, they are expected to be legally liable for the victim’s injuries.
The negligence of the owner depends on the circumstances surrounding the incident. If an owner did not follow certain regulations regarding restraining dogs in public places, for example, an owner did not use a leash while walking his/her dog, and the dog ends up biting an innocent bystander. It will be used as proof of their negligence. This can be applied if the city has a “leash law” and the owner failed to follow it.
But why would some people still sue under common law even though California already has a dog bite statute?
Well, to make it simple, the dog bite statute only covers dog bites. If a dog injures you in another way (such as scratching), then it will not be covered. However, if you sue under the common law, then there is a chance that you will be able to get compensation for the owner’s negligence.
California and Their Laws Regarding Dangerous Dogs
Although a dog bite stature may seem enough already, California has another law that requires dog owners to take responsibility for keeping their dogs “human-friendly to prevent any future attacks regardless of their dog’s history.
A civil lawsuit can be filed against the owner if the victim has been bitten twice in separate accidents. The court may require the owner to take extra steps in preventing their dog from attacking other people in the future again.
These legal proceedings cannot be predicated on a dog’s history of biting trespassers or bites by police or military dogs in the field. (California Civil Code Section 3342.5 (2020).)
If law enforcement officers of animal control suspect that a certain dog may be potentially dangerous if left around other people, then they can file a petition for a hearing. If the court rules that the dog is indeed dangerous, then the owner will be required to keep the dog indoors, be in a fenced yard, and be away from children and controlled by a responsible adult.
A dog is usually considered potentially dangerous if:
- It has forced people to defend themselves from unprovoked, aggressive behavior (while away from the owners’ property) in at least two separate incidents during the past three years
- bitten someone without being provoked, resulting in an injury that isn’t severe; or
- killed or injured a domestic animal without provocation twice in the last three years.
The law considers a dog vicious if:
- the animal aggressively injured or killed someone without being provoked, or a court already determined that it was potentially dangerous and the dog repeated the dangerous behavior or the animal’s owner or keeper didn’t meet the legal conditions.
If you have been injured due to a dog owner’s negligence, don’t hesitate to file for a claim with the help of an experienced California dog bite lawyers.