Dog bite laws in California are strict for any dog owner whose dog bites someone. Dog bite victims have a right to pursue compensation for their medical treatment from a dog owner. Filing a dog bite claim requires several steps, including seeking appropriate medical treatment, reporting the incident to the correct authorities, and filing within the statute of limitations.
Liability in a California Dog Bite Case
California follows strict liability for dog owners, which makes owners responsible for their dog’s actions as soon as they take ownership of the dog. However, owners are only liable for injuries their dog causes if the attack occurred in a public place or a “lawfully private place.”
This means that if the dog attacks the mailperson on the owner’s property while delivering mail, the owner is strictly liable because the mailperson was lawfully on the property performing their job. This also means that if the dog escapes their yard and attacks a mailperson in a neighbor’s yard while the mailperson is working, the owner is still liable.
If the dog bite occurs in a public space, like on the street, at a park, or at the beach, the owner is still liable for the damages.
Exceptions for Owner Liability
Is there a situation when the dog owner is not liable for a person’s dog bite injuries? There are some exceptions to California’s strict liability dog bite laws, including:
- Being bitten while trespassing or committing a crime
- Being bitten by a police or military dog as a suspect of a crime
- Being bitten while working as a veterinarian or vet assistant during treatment
- Being bitten while antagonizing or otherwise provoking the dog
In these situations, an owner often isn’t responsible for their dog biting someone according to California dog bite laws, unless a victim can prove the bite occurred due to the owner’s negligence.
Do You Need to Report a Dog Bite?
You should report a dog bite to your local animal control department. You should also file a police report for documentation of the attack for your insurance claim or dog bite lawsuit.
California also requires that both the victim and the dog owner report the attack to the local health department. If the owner fails to notify the health department of the incident or doesn’t comply with regulations to quarantine the dog, they may face criminal charges for a misdemeanor offense.
Owners must quarantine a dog that bites someone for at least 10 days to watch for signs of rabies infection. The owner may choose to quarantine their dog at a county animal care facility or at home under strict requirements.
When you report the dog bite, your county agency will investigate the incident. The investigation will include:
- Verifying the events of the incident
- Assessing the consequences of the attack, such as the potential for disease transmission of rabies and other infectious diseases
- Identifying future risks and control methods for the dog
- Determining if the dog is a dangerous dog
Dangerous Dog Designations in California
In California, there are two designations for dangerous dogs. A dog is either “potentially dangerous” or “vicious,” depending on certain circumstances.
A dog is potentially dangerous if:
- People had to defend themselves from unprovoked aggressive behavior in two separate incidents in the past three years (off the owner’s property)
- It bit someone without provocation, causing a minor injury
- It injured or killed a domestic animal twice without provocation in the past three years
A dog is vicious if:
- The court labeled the dog as potentially dangerous, and it continued the same behavioral patterns
- The court labeled the dog as potentially dangerous, and the owner failed to uphold the standards of keeping imposed by the court
- It aggressively attacked someone without provocation, leading to a serious injury or death
The Statute of Limitations to File a Dog Bite Claim
The statute of limitations is the amount of time you have to file a claim in court where the court will hear your case. If you miss the deadline for filing a dog bite claim, you have given up your right to have your case heard, and the court will likely not hear your case.
In California, dog bites fall under personal injury law. The statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years from the date of injury in most cases. There are exceptions if the victim is a minor or if the dog’s owner leaves the state before a victim can file a lawsuit against the owner.
In these instances, the court will “toll” (pause) the statute of limitations. In cases involving minor victims, the statute of limitations doesn’t begin until the victim’s 18th birthday, giving them until their 20th birthday to file a claim against the dog’s owner. When the dog’s owner leaves the state before a victim can file their dog bite lawsuit, the statute of limitations pauses until the owner returns to California.
Compensation You Can Seek in a Dog Bite Lawsuit
You may be able to seek economic, noneconomic, and punitive damages in a dog bite lawsuit. Economic compensation includes losses for your injury that include a bill, invoice, or receipt. Noneconomic damages are awarded for intangible emotional losses.
Punitive damages are often a multiplier applied to your total compensation award meant to punish the dog owner for reckless or intentional behavior. This often includes training their dogs to fight and otherwise abusing dogs to make them more aggressive.
You can seek compensation for:
- Medical bills
- Transportation costs to appointments
- Physical therapy or rehabilitation
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Contact an Experienced Dog Bite Attorney in Orange County
When filing a dog bite claim, you need an experienced attorney on your side. At Khalil Law Group, we give each case the individual attention it needs because every case is different. Call us today at (714) 617-7870 or contact us online to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation with a dog bite personal injury attorney at our office in Newport Beach, CA.