Dog Related Injuries and “negligence per se”

The concept of “negligence per se” is often used in California dog injury cases where the owner violated a specific statute, ordinance, or regulation that subsequently led to the injury.

For example, let’s consider a situation where a city has an ordinance requiring all dogs to be on a leash while in public parks. If a dog owner violates this ordinance by allowing their dog to run free, and the dog knocks over and injures another person, the owner could be held liable for the injuries under the doctrine of negligence per se. In this case, the leash law was designed to protect the public from harm caused by unrestrained dogs, and the violation led to the exact type of injury the law was intended to prevent.

Another example might involve a statute that requires owners to muzzle certain breeds of dogs in public. If an owner of a specified breed fails to muzzle their dog, and the dog bites someone, the owner could be held negligent per se.

However, there are exceptions and nuances to applying negligence per se in dog injury cases:

  1. Violation of the Law: Negligence per se only applies if the dog owner violated a specific law or ordinance that was designed to prevent the type of injury that occurred. If the dog owner was in compliance with all applicable laws and an injury still occurred, negligence per se would not apply.
  2. Causation and Damages: Even if the dog owner violated a law, and negligence per se applies, the plaintiff still must prove that the violation directly caused their injuries and resulted in actual damages.
  3. Reasonable Excuse: California law also recognizes that there might be a ‘reasonable excuse’ for the violation of the statute or ordinance. If a defendant can demonstrate that they had a reasonable cause for violating the law, negligence per se may not apply.
  4. Inherent Risk and Assumption of Risk: If the injured party was engaged in an activity where there was an inherent risk of being injured by a dog (such as a dog trainer or veterinarian), or if they knowingly assumed the risk of injury, the dog owner might not be held liable under negligence per se.

Given the complexities involved in applying negligence per se in dog injury cases, it’s important to consult with a dog bite attorney who can help navigate the specific circumstances of the case.

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