Can You Sue for a Minor Dog Bite in California?

No matter how minor or severe your injuries are, you are entitled to compensation for your incurred expenses after a dog bite in California. You can be compensated for medical expenses, rehabilitation and continued treatment, pain and suffering, and psychological trauma sustained, and even minor dog bites can cause victims to suffer PTSD or other stress disorders.

Strict Liability | California Dog Bites

Under California Civil Code § 3342, dog owners are held liable for any damages a person suffers after being bitten by their dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place (including the dog owner’s home or other property). Unlike with other personal injury claims, you do not need to prove the owner acted negligently. You only need to prove that you were bitten and that it occurred in a public place or lawfully in a private place, and whether the dog is known for being violent or aggressive has no bearing on the owner’s liability.

Being lawfully on the dog owner’s private property means that:

  • A person is invited onto the property by the owner. This invitation can be explicit or implied.
  • A person is performing duties required of them by state laws or U.S. postal regulations or laws.

You cannot file a dog bite lawsuit against government agencies using dogs for military or police work if the dog bit you to defend itself or a government agent during or following the:

  • Arrest of a suspect believed to be involved in criminal activity
  • Investigation of a crime or possible crime
  • Execution of warrant
  • Defense of an officer or another person

However, if you are not a suspect, party to a crime, or a participant in the criminal activity that prompted the use of the police or military dog, you can pursue action if you are bitten.

What Happens If I’m Injured by a Dog, but Not by a Dog Bite?

The aforementioned statute only applies to injuries caused by a dog bite. If you are injured after a dog jumps on you, scratches you, or injuries you in some other way, the dog bite statute does not apply. You can still file a personal injury suit if the owner was negligent in some way (i.e. not securing the dog, not getting the dog’s nails groomed, etc.). However, you will need to prove the elements of negligence (i.e. duty of care, breach of duty of care, sustained damages, etc.) to pursue a claim.

When Are Owners Not Liable for Dog Bites in California?

Under certain circumstances, an owner may not be liable for your injuries if:

  • You provoked the dog. If you hurt the dog or incite the dog to violence, you will likely be unable to receive compensation (unless the victim is a child who cannot be held responsible for their actions).
  • You are injured at work. If you are bitten by your employer’s dog while on duty, you can pursue compensation. However, you will be required to file a worker’s compensation claim if your employer has this insurance coverage.
  • You are performing a paid service. If you are hired to perform a service and voluntarily work with a dog, you are automatically taking on the risk of being bitten. Unless the owner lied or mislead you concerning the dog’s aggressive behavior or history, the owner cannot automatically be held liable. This rule (sometimes referred to as the veterinarian’s rule) applies to a range of people, including but not limited to: groomers, pet shop workers, obedience trainers, dog walkers, house and/or dog sitters, and handlers.
  • You are trespassing when bitten. If you are not legally on someone’s private property, you are not protected by California’s dog bite laws.

Important Steps to Take After Being Bitten (or Attacked) by a Dog

Most victims are caught off guard by a dog attack or bite. One minute, they’re enjoying a run in the park or hanging out at their neighbor’s backyard barbecue, and the next, they are fending off a dog attack. While being bitten can be a surprise, you can prepare to take the following steps in the event of an attack.

  • Assess your injuries. Determining the severity of your injuries is important as you may need to call 911. Even for minor injuries, you should consider seeking medical treatment as your wound can get infected.
  • Gather information and photographs. Take pictures of your injuries and/or the scene. This information can be used to prove you were bitten and where you were bitten. It is also helpful to get the names, contact information, and addresses of any witnesses and the dog’s owner.
  • Contact Eliot Reiner, APLC. Our experienced animal attack attorneys have experience helping victims seek compensation for dog bite injuries. Retaining our firm can help ensure you understand your legal options, who can be held liable, and what damages you may be owed. The sooner you contact us the better, especially since the statute of limitations for claims is two years from the date of injury.

If you were bitten or attacked by a dog, contact Eliot Reiner, APLC online today. Or call (916) 778-3228. Known for being results-driven, passionate legal advocates, our firm is equipped to walk you through the entire claim process.

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