Are Dog Owners Responsible for Injuries Not Caused by Bites?

A negligence standard is often applied in dog-related injury cases where the injury was not caused by a bite. In such cases, the injured person must prove that the dog owner’s negligence caused their injury.

Here’s an example: Imagine a large dog jumps on a visitor, knocking them down and causing them to break a bone. Since the injury did not result from a dog bite, the strict liability statute under California Civil Code Section 3342 would not apply. However, the injured person could potentially file a negligence claim against the dog owner.

In a negligence claim, the plaintiff must typically prove four key elements:

  1. Duty: The defendant (dog owner, in this case) had a legal duty to act in a certain way. For example, dog owners generally have a duty to control their dogs and prevent them from causing harm to others.
  2. Breach: The defendant breached that duty. For instance, the dog owner might have failed to secure a gate properly, allowing their dog to escape and cause harm.
  3. Causation: The defendant’s breach of duty directly resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries. For instance, the plaintiff fell and broke a bone because the dog jumped on them.
  4. Damage: The plaintiff suffered actual damages (like medical expenses, lost wages, etc.) as a result of the injury.

If the plaintiff can prove all of these elements, they may be able to recover damages under a negligence theory.

There’s also the concept of “negligence per se” in California law, which applies when a dog owner violates a statute or ordinance, such as a leash law. If a dog off its leash injures someone, the owner can be considered negligent “per se,” and this can make it easier for the plaintiff to prove their case.

However, proving negligence can be more challenging than a strict liability claim, as it requires establishing that the dog owner failed in their duty of care. This is why it’s important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney or a dog bite lawyer to navigate the complexities of such cases.

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