California Dog Bite Injury: Defenses

California gives dog bite victims a strong position when pursuing a personal injury lawsuit.  In California, dog owners are strictly liable when their dog bites a person lawfully in a private place or in a public place.  This means that the dog bite victim does not have to prove that the dog had a history of vicious behavior, or that the owner was otherwise negligent in preventing the dog attack.  All that is required to hold the dog owner strictly liable for the attack is to prove that the injury resulted from the dog bite and that the victim was in a public place or lawfully in a private place.

With that said, dog owners do have some defenses.  First, for strict liability to apply the injury must be causally related to a dog bite.  Therefore, if a dog jumped on a person causing injury, California’s dog bite statute that imposes strict liability would not apply since the injury is not related to a dog bite.  Second, strict liability may not apply if the victim is a trespasser; that is, someone who was not lawfully in a private place.  If someone was invited into a home but told not go into the back yard, and the individual nevertheless went into the backyard and suffered a dog bite, the owner may not be liable since the guest exceeded the scope of their invitation and went into the backyard, making the dog bite victim a trespasser and one “not lawfully in a private place.”  Lastly, California’s dog bite statute may not apply if the dog bite victim assumed the risk of being bitten by the dog.  For instance, veterinarian’s and kennel workers are said to have assumed the risk of being bitten by a dog as an inherent risk of their profession.  Consequently, these professionals have been denied recovery under California’s dog bite statute.

Remember, strict liability under California’s dog bite statute is just one means by which dog bite victims can hold dog owners liable for their injuries.  Other causes of action such as negligence may still apply if the dog bite statute does not.  If you have been injured by a dog bite consult a dog bite attorney right away.  This article does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon to determine whether or not you have a claim against a dog owner.

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