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Posted in: Dog Bite

Do California Laws Work in My Favor When a Dog Bites Me?

Mar 28, 2022

If you’ve been bitten by a dog and are wondering what to do, you're not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 4.5 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs every year, with 885,000 victims requiring medical treatment.


The One-Bite Rule Does NOT Apply in California

Unlike many states that protect dog owners from lawsuits for first-time dog bites, California protects the victim every time. The California law makes the dog owner "strictly liable," in California Civil Code section 3342. In short, the "one-bite rule" does not apply in California. The owner of any dog that bites someone is responsible for that bite, even if the dog:

  • Has never bitten anyone
  • Was never considered dangerous
  • Has never shown violent behavior
  • Has not displayed aggressive tendencies

As a result of California's dog bite statute that protects the victim, dog bite injury lawsuits, such as the record-breaking case won by Dunnion Law, are filed in California more than in any other state. Owners are liable for dog bites that happen either in public or in a place where the victim had a right to be.

What to Do if a Dog Bites You

When a dog in California bites, you need to take steps immediately to ensure that you have the best chance to be fairly compensated for your trauma. Personal injury claims typically have a two-year statute of limitations in California, so you have two years to file a claim from the day of the bite. Depending on the circumstances, the dog owner can face civil and criminal charges. Owners of vicious or dangerous dogs can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony.

The steps you should take immediately to ensure you have what you need to file a claim later include:

  • Seek medical care right away, especially for more severe puncture wounds.
  • Document the dog bite. Take photos of the actual bite and record what you can't see, like pain, inability to perform certain functions, mobility limitations, and mental duress.
  • Exchange contact information with the dog owner or person at the scene, including their name, address, phone, email, and dog breed information.
  • Get contact information from any witnesses who saw what happened.
  • Contact animal control and file a report.
  • Document everything related to a dog bite such as correspondence and comments from witnesses, the other party and insurance agents.
  • Keep track of your medical bills and expenses related to the dog bite. Expenses may include travel costs, lost wages, and more. These records help to calculate potential compensation later.

No matter how minor your resulting injuries from a dog bite might be, the owner is still liable, and you may be able to pursue damages that resulted from the experience. For instance, some victims, especially children, experience psychological trauma due to dog bites.

Victims Should Not Be Responsible for Expenses

If your dog bite results in a trip to the emergency room, you should not be responsible for those expenses. You can recover those costs in a lawsuit.

Veterinarian and canine behaviorist Dr. Ian Dunbar created a scale to classify dog bites based on the number and severity of bites, ranging from aggression without contact all the way to death of the victim. However, victims are entitled to compensation no matter the severity of the dog bite.

Dunnion Law Sets a National Record, Winning a Victim $8 Million for a Dog Bite

Dunnion Law represented a toddler whose bottom lip and chin were bitten off in a vicious dog bite incident with a pitbull/boxer mix. In this case, the child underwent multiple reconstructive surgeries. The $8 million settlement was placed in an annuity, giving the child access to $35 million over her lifetime.

In another case, Dunnion Law represented two different victims who were each attacked by the same dog on separate occasions. This dog had been trained to attack on command by its owner. Dunnion Law successfully recovered more than a $1 million settlement for each victim.

Situations Where the California Dog Bite Statute Doesn't Apply 

There are situations where the victim may not be able to use the California statute to sue for a dog bite. Our dog bite attorneys know the exceptions to the regulation. It's important to know your rights.

If you are the victim of a dog bite, take action and contact Dunnion Law today.


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