In our last post, we began speaking about California’s strict liability dog bite statute, particularly the elements a plaintiff must prove when pursuing a case under the law. As we pointed out, the elements which are necessary to prove under the law do not include any reference to negligence.
Because the strict liability statute does not involve the issue of negligence, it does not matter whether the dog owner had knowledge of the former viciousness of the dog. It is important to note, though, that dog attack victims may still pursue a dog owner for negligence, even while suing under the strict liability statute. That would be a separate cause of action, though.
Case law involving the strict liability statute has established a number of important points. A particularly important one is that defendants sued under the law may assert the defenses of contributory negligence and assumption of risk.
Assumption of risk can apply, for instance, in cases where a veterinary assistance or veterinarian is attack while providing medical treatment for a dog, since such individuals assume the risk of being attack by virtue of their occupation. Similarly, kennel workers may also assume the risk of being bitten or attacked. Case law has also established that a defendant may be found, under the statute, to have contributed to his or her own injuries, despite the fact that the law is based on strict liability. For an attack victim, knowing how to navigate this issue is particularly important when the defendant has an opening to make an argument that he or she would not have been attacked but for his or her own negligence.
Anybody seeking damages after a dog attack, of course, should always work with an experienced attorney to ensure their rights are protected and that they have the best shot at maximizing their recovery.