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Five facts to know about California’s dog bite laws

| Mar 16, 2021 | Premises Liability |

Dogs are great companions, but not all dogs are suited to public exposure. When a San Jose dog inflicts harm upon a person and causes them damages, the dog’s owner may be liable to cover the costs of the victim’s incident-related expenses. Whether a dog inflicts harm on a person through biting or other means will influence how the dog injury case is handled.

The law concerning dog bites and dog-caused injuries is complicated and readers are asked to contact their trusted San Jose-based personal injury attorneys for advice and support when they suffer dog-related harm. This post introduces 5 important facts about dog bite laws in the state, but no part of this post should be read as legal advice.

Fact #1: Dog bites lead to strict liability for owners

In California, the law concerning dog bites is stringent. When a dog bites another person and causes damages, the dog’s owner is strictly liable for the losses of the victim. That means that the victim does not have to prove negligence on the part of the dog owner to recover. Strict liability means that the occurrence of the event is enough to show liability on the part of the dog’s owner.

Fact #2: Other forms of dog-caused harm are subject to proof of negligence

Dogs can cause harm and injuries without biting their victims. A dog may jump and knock down a person, causing them to suffer broken bones, a concussion, or other serious injuries. In such a situation, absent a bite, the victim in the dog-related injury case would have to prove that the dog’s owner was negligent when the incident occurred. Negligence requires proof of various legal elements and a showing of fault on the part of the dog’s owner.

Fact #3: Dog bites on private property may not be covered by strict liability

A dog who bites a victim on public land will subject its owner to strict liability for its actions. However, if a dog bites a person on private land, the law has some flexibility. If the victim was legally on the private land, then the strict liability rule applies to the incident. If, though, the victim was a trespasser or on the land of the dog’s owner without knowledge or permission, they may not be able to claim strict liability for the bite harm the dog inflicted upon them on private land.

Fact #4: Dog bite cases are subject to a 2-year statute of limitations

Dog bite claims are considered personal injury claims. As such, they are subject to the state’s 2-year statute of limitations. Victims must file their claims within 2 years to be able to seek the recovery of their damages through the courts.

Fact #5: Dog bite laws differ for government and police dogs

There are special rules about what a working government, military, or police dog may do while serving in their official capacity. For example, a police dog that inflicted bites on a criminal suspect may not subject its owner or handler to strict liability for the criminal suspect’s injuries since the dog was trained to work and stop individuals engaged in suspected criminal activity.

Dog bite and accident cases are complicated. A victim who has suffered harm due to the actions of another person’s pet should not be scared off from filing a claim because the do not understand the law. Their personal injury attorney can help them make smart choices about how to protect their rights and their future.