If you’ve been bitten by a dog, you know it can take a physical and emotional toll. Minor bites may result in just a small laceration or bruise, but more serious bites can cause significant injury, infection or even death if the animal had a dangerous disease.
In many cases, dog bite victims have grounds to take legal action and recover compensation for their pain, suffering and medical expenses. Whether you’re the person who has been bitten or the owner of the dog, it’s important to understand the California laws surrounding dog bites and related injuries.
Statues on Dog Bites in California
According to California Civil Code section 3342, the owner of a dog will be held liable for damages if their animal’s bite caused personal injury, and if the bite happened either in a public location or during a permitted visit to a private residence or business. Some other exceptions and specifications in the statute include:
- Victims can typically not sue for dog bites when the animal is working for the military or the police.
- The injury must have been caused specifically by a bite. To pursue compensation for injuries caused by other behaviors, such as scratching or jumping, the victim would have to file a negligence claim.
- If the victim was unlawfully trespassing when the bite occurred, he or she may not be able to file a claim for financial compensation.
There is another dog bite statute, California Civil Code section 3342.5, which puts dog owners on high alert if their animal has previously bit someone. The law requires the owner to take precautionary measures to prevent future bites.
How Long Do You Have to File a Civil Claim?
It’s important to remember that there is a statute of limitations for dog bites in the state of California. According to the California Code of Civil Procedure section 335.1, victims have two years to file “an action for…injury to, or for the death of, an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another.” That deadline applies to any injury caused by a dog, including bites, scratches or being knocked down.
What’s the Difference Between Liability and Negligence?
The California dog bite statute specifies that a dog owner is liable for any injury and damages caused by their animal biting someone, even if it’s the first time the dog has exhibited that behavior, and regardless of whether the owner has taken steps to prevent it. If someone was injured by the dog but was not bitten—for example, if the dog jumped on someone and scratched them or knocked them down—the victim would have to file a negligence claim against the owner for not taking reasonable measures to prevent the injury.
Civil vs. Criminal Liability for Orange County Dog Bites
If a dog was “dangerous” or “vicious” when the bite occurred, the owner may also face criminal charges in addition to the civil claim filed by the victim. It is possible for both criminal charges and a civil lawsuit to occur at the same time. What determines whether a dog is dangerous or vicious?
According to California law, a “dangerous” dog is one that has:
- acted hostile in such a way as to force someone to defend themselves from the animal at least twice in a 36-month time period
- bitten and someone with no provocation and caused a non-severe injury
- injured, bitten or killed another domestic animal at least twice in a 36-month time period
A dog is classified as “vicious” is the animal has:
- caused the severe injury or death of a person through an aggressive attack
- been officially registered as a “dangerous dog” but is not being kept in accordance with the laws governing the care of dangerous dogs
- an owner who has been convicted of engaging their animal(s) in illegal dog fighting
Don’t Wait to Contact an Orange County Dog Bite Lawyer
Are you a dog bite victim who’s not sure if you have a case against the animal’s owner? Or are you a dog owner whose pet has caused harm to someone else? Either way, it’s important to understand California dog bite laws and take measures to protect your best interests. Contact us today to discuss your situation and find out how to proceed.