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Injuries for dog bites are common in California to the point where the state enacted laws specific to dog bite injuries. Whether you are a dog owner facing a potential injury claim, or the victim of a dog bite considering the filing of a claim, those involved on either side of this issue need to know and understand their position and rights.


The team of legal professionals at LA City Law want the public to be educated on the responsibilities and the defenses of a dog owner when faced with an injury claim, and the rights of a victim of a dog bite under California’s dog bite laws. As Los Angeles injury attorneys handling many of these claims, we thought it prudent to explain both sides of this issue and to answer questions frequently asked.


When is a Dog Owner Strictly Liable?


In California, injury claims resulting from dog bites fall under strict liability laws. This means that a dog owner is responsible for most injuries regardless of the owner’s knowledge of previous bites or any care taken to prevent the dog from hurting someone.


However, from the owner’s position, every law has limits and there are mitigating circumstances within the strict liability laws. A dog owner will be strictly liable for an injury only if:


1.     the injured party was bitten;

2.     the occurrence happened in a public place or when “lawfully” on private property; and

3.     there was no provocation on the part of the injured party.


The statute further provides that those carrying out a legal duty on private property, like a utility service person or those delivering mail or packages, have a lawful place upon private property. These instances are not trespassing.


It is important to note that California’s dog bite laws apply only to bites and not to injuries caused by other aggressive behaviors of a dog, like jumping or chasing. A pet owner will not be liable for any injury resulting from a trespass, and owners are most often exempt from responsibility for an injury to a veterinarian or to an assistant during a treatment.


A pet owner’s responsibility will be further limited if the inured party is found to be partly at fault for the injury, or if the injured person voluntarily took a risk of injury. These mitigating factors do not apply in strict liability cases.


What if a Dog is Deemed Dangerous?


In addition to the strict liability law, there is another law that applies to an owner’s responsibility to remove conditions that could lead to a dangerous attack. A dog is considered dangerous after a second, separate bite incident, or if a trained attack dog seriously injures a person not involved in a crime. In these cases, a court may order the owner to remove the dog from a neighborhood or area or, in extreme cases, order the dog to be euthanized.


Again, these court orders cannot be based upon a dog biting a trespasser or ordered upon a trained police or military dog acting in the line of duty.


Can a Dog Owner Face Criminal Charges?


An owner can face criminal charges if the dog injures another when roaming unleashed and unattended. If there had been past incidents of biting or aggressive behavior, and the owner did not keep the dog under control, then criminal charges could be brought. A claim filed in civil court will not preclude a claim from being filed in criminal court.


What is the Statute of Limitation for Dog Bite Claims?


In California, a claim for a dog bite injury must be filed within two years from the date of the incident. If a claim is not filed within this time, then it is likely that the claim will be dismissed and the right of the injured person to seek damages will be forever barred.


There are exceptions to this statute, but they are narrow and limited.


Are you a victim of a dog bite, or are you a dog owner facing a potential injury claim? At LA City Law, we are committed to skillfully employing our wealth of experience in pursuit of your claim’s optimal outcome. Our team of solution-focused attorneys understand the hardships such a claim can cause. We are here to help. For further information or to schedule a free consultation, please contact our highly experienced Los Angeles dog bite lawyers at 866-522-4895 or visit to learn more. There is no financial risk to you.

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