Understanding Liability for Dog Attack Injuries in California

To show liability for injuries sustained during a dog attack, you must prove four elements:

  1. The person owns the dog that was involved in the dog attack.
  2. The dog needs to have bitten the person while they were lawfully on either private property or public property. To be lawfully on private property means that you were invited onto the property. Trespassers are not going to be able to prove liability if they are attacked while unlawfully on the private property.
  3. The victim needs to have suffered injuries.
  4. The owner’s dog needs to have been a substantial factor in causing harm to the injured party.

The second element is the most critical to prove in a dog bite attack. Basically the element consists of two aspects. First the dog needs to bite someone. Second the person that was bitten needs to be on public grounds or lawfully on private premises.

Public grounds are property that is held by the government like public parks, public beaches, sidewalks, and government buildings.

Lawfully on private premises means property that you own or property that you were invited into. You can be invited into property both expressly or impliedly. An express invitation can be a neighbor or friend inviting you into their house. An impliedly invitation is when you go to the local mall to shop.

If you were on public property or have any of these types of invitation then this important sub-element is fulfilled.

Defenses

Since the California dog bite statute is strictly liable, all you have to do to prove liability is meet all of the elements. You do not have to prove any sort of fault or negligence on the dog owner.

This means that warnings, leashes, and the provocation of dogs do not matter.

    – You could be invited to someone’s home, the dog bites you, and even though there’s a warning that says beware of dog, the owner of the dog could be strictly held liable.

    – If the dog is being held on a leash and the dog bites you, the dog owner is still held liable.

    – Even if the dog is trained and the dog bites, the dog owner is still held liable.

    – Finally, even if you are provoking the dog and you were lawfully on the premises and the dog bites you, the dog owner is still held liable.

The only defense that a dog owner has against someone that was attack is that the person was not lawfully on the premises. The most classic example is a trespasser. The law does not allow trespasser to recover damages in a dog bite.

Please contact us directly if you are the victim of a dog attack.