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A dog bite can be a serious, painful and frightening event.  Any dog, even normally friendly dogs, can become frightened or confused under the right circumstances and turn on the nearest person.  The result can be severe injuries.  Medical bills can pile up quickly and injuries can cause a dog bite victim to lose time and work, as well as the income they would have earned for that time.  Even after the injuries have healed, dog bite victims can be left with disfiguring scars and missing digits or even limbs if the incident is severe.The attorneys at Andres, Andres & Moore, LLP can help you obtain the maximum recovery for your injuries.  This includes compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, disfigurement and emotional distress. 

Below you will find a brief discussion of some of the basic issues related to California law regarding dog bites.  If you or someone close to you has been the victim of a dog bite, call us to receive a free telephone consultation.

A.     Liability for Dog Bites

        In California, the owner or keeper of a dog who bites another person may be liable for the damage caused by the bite under either a statutory "strict liability" theory or under general negligence principles. 

            1.         Strict Liability

       California Civil Code section 3342(a) imposes liability for a dog bite on the owner of the dog regardless of the owner's knowledge of the dog's vicious propensities as long as the bite occurred in a public place or if the victim was lawfully present on private property.  The remaining sections of the statute provide certain exemptions for military and police dogs.  The statute is reproduced below.  Although the statute imposes strict liability for bites occurring when the victim is lawfully present on private property or bites occurring in a public place, it does not make the dog owner liable in all circumstances.  All strict liability does is eliminate any requirement that the owner have prior knowledge of a dog's dangerous propensities.  The owner still has legal defenses available to him.  For example, if the victim entered the area where the dog was kept without the owner's knowledge or permission and/or was teasing or annoying the dog prior to the bite, the owner may be able to escape liability in whole or in part.  As well, if the bite victim is a veterinarian or veterinary assistant who voluntarily undertakes to care for or board the dog, the victim may be held to have voluntarily assumed the risk of being bitten and recovery may be denied.  (See Nelson v. Hall (1985) 165 Cal. App. 3d 709)  The assumption of risk defense may not apply if the dog owner conceals a known danger from the vet, though.

            2.         Negligence

        In cases where the strict liability statute does not apply, common law principles of negligence might still render the dog owner liable in whole or in part for injuries caused by the dog.  If the dog's owner has knowledge that the dog is dangerous or vicious and that other people may encounter the dog the owner must take reasonable precautions to ensure the dog does not attack or bite those it comes in contact with.  (See Bulow v. Dawn Patrol (1963) 216 Cal. App. 2d 721)  Defenses such as assumption of risk or contributory negligence are available to a dog owner in actions based upon negligence and can be used to reduce or eliminate the owner's liability to the victim.

B.     Statute of Limitations

         A lawsuit based upon a dog bite injury is considered a claim for personal injury, and is thus governed by the same statute of limitations.  (Pritchard v. Sharp (1974) 41 Cal. 3d 530)  For personal injury claims, the statute of limitations in California is two years from the date of the injury giving rise to the claim.  (California Code of Civil Procedure section 335.1)