Strict Liability for Dog Bites in Orange County

In California, the law governing dog bites is a form of strict liability statute, specifically outlined in the California Civil Code Section 3342. This statute states, “The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.”

Under strict liability laws, the owner of a dog is held liable if their dog bites someone, irrespective of the dog’s prior behavior. This means that even if a dog has never shown aggression or bitten someone before, its owner can still be held responsible for injuries caused by the dog biting someone.

For instance, if a person is walking on a public sidewalk and is bitten by a dog that has escaped from its yard, the dog’s owner is typically liable for the injuries under California’s strict liability law. Similarly, if someone is legally present in a private property (like a guest in someone’s home or a delivery person) and gets bitten by a dog, the dog’s owner can be held liable for the damages.

However, there are exceptions to this rule:

  1. 1. Trespassers: The law pr otects people who are lawfully in a private place. This means that if a person is trespassing on private property and gets bitten by a dog, the owner may not be held liable.
  2. 2. Law Enforcement Dogs: If a police or military dog bites someone in the course of their duties, such as during the investigation of a crime, the handler or owner might not be held liable.
  3. 3. Assumption of Risk: If a person knowingly takes the risk of being bitten, like a veterinarian or a professional dog trainer, the dog owner may not be held liable if a bite occurs.
  4. 4. Provocation: If the dog was provoked into biting, either by rough treatment or taunting, the owner may not be held liable.

It’s important to note that the strict liability statute only applies to dog bite injuries. If a dog causes injury in another way, like knocking someone over, the case may be evaluated under a negligence standard instead.

Each dog bite case is unique, and determining liability can often involve complex legal analysis. Contact our dog bite lawyer to schedule a free consultation.