How Long Do I Have to File a Dog Bite Lawsuit in California?

How Long Do I Have to File a Dog Bite Lawsuit in California?

California is a strict liability state for dog bites. The dog owner is liable for damages suffered by any person bitten by a dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the dog owner’s property. An individual is lawfully on the owner’s property when working for or under regulations issued by the government or the U.S. postal service or when in the capacity of an invitee on the owner’s property.

How Long Do You Have to Sue?

As is the case with most personal injury claims, the California Statute of Limitations for a dog bite is two years from the date of the injury. It’s important, however, not to delay since it may be difficult to discover the dog’s owner, find witnesses, and check the animal’s history with animal control. It is wise to consult a qualified Orange County dog bite attorney as soon as possible after your bite.

Are There Any Defenses to Strict Liability for a Dog Bite?

Yes, there are some defenses to bringing an action for a dog bite. These defenses state that you cannot bring a suit when:

  • An agency of the government was using the dog in military or police work
  • The dog was defending itself against annoying, harassing, or provoking conduct.
  • The dog was assisting a governmental agent in
    • The apprehension or holding of a suspect if the agent has a reasonable suspicion that the suspect was involved in criminal activity
    • The investigation of a crime or possible crime
    • The execution of a warrant
    • The defense of a peace officer or another person
  • There is no proof that the alleged owner owns the animal.
  • The dog bite victim was trespassing.
  • The dog injured the victim in a manner other than a bite.

Dog Handling Professionals

Those who regularly work with dogs as part of their profession, including veterinarians, pet sitters, dog trainers, dog walkers, and dog groomers, can generally not obtain compensation for dog bite injuries since that risk is an inherent part of their professional duties. However, there are four exceptions to this rule:

  1. The victim was bitten before or after performing the professional duties, but not during them.
  2. The victim was an employee of the dog owner.
  3. The owner knew that the dog had bitten before but did not disclose that information to the person handling the dog.
  4. The owner signed a contract making the owner liable for any injuries caused by the dog.

Liability for Dog Bites

The dog owner is liable for civil damages for two years from the bite date. If the victim has not sued by that time, the case is no longer eligible to be filed.

A dog owner may also face criminal charges for the attack. If the owner’s dog is vicious or dangerous, the owner could be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony for the attack. When a dangerous or vicious dog causes an injury, the owner can be charged with a misdemeanor. If a death results from the attack, the owner may be charged with a felony. Cases where a death results can bring charges of manslaughter or even murder, resulting in heavy penalties and potentially long-term prison sentences.

A dog is dangerous if it has acted aggressively in two separate incidents in 36 months. The incidents must have included a bite of a person or the injuring or killing of a domestic pet and must not have occurred on the owner’s property.

A dog is vicious if it has been used in dogfighting or has severely injured or killed a person.