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How does California law handle liability in a dog bite case?

On Behalf of | Oct 18, 2022 | dog bites |

A dog bite accident can result in severe physical and emotional injuries.

In California, a dog owner is almost always liable if their dog bites someone.

Strict liability

California follows the strict liability statute when determining fault in a dog bite case. Under strict liability, the dog owner is responsible for the dog’s actions regardless of any reasonable steps taken to prevent an attack. It also does not matter if the dog has no history of viciousness.

Criminal liability

Under certain circumstances, the dog owner may face criminal charges as well. Examples include:

  • The dog owner knew the dog had a history of behaving aggressively or mischievously but took no steps to keep others safe.
  • The dog owner provoked the dog to bite the person.
  • The dog owner committed an assault at the time of the dog bite incident.

If the injured person dies as a result of the dog attack, the owner could face a felony charge. If they suffered an injury without death, it could be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the details of the case.

Dangerous dog restrictions

California has specific rules for controlling dogs labeled dangerous. If animal control receives a report about a dog that could be a potential threat, they have a responsibility to file a petition. Should the court decide the dog is dangerous, the owner must keep it in a fenced yard, inside the home, or on a secure leash with an accompanying adult.

Victims of dog bites can file a civil lawsuit for damages, even if the dog owner already faces criminal charges.