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According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, over four and a half million people get bitten by dogs every year in the U.S., with over 800,000 requiring medical treatment. About half of all dog bite victims are children, although people of any age suffer from dog bites. Data from other sources show that California consistently leads the nation in experiencing the highest number of dog bites, with over 2,000 people every year suffering a dog bite serious enough to file an insurance claim.

Dog bites are painful, traumatic, and costly. They can cause serious and lasting injury, and dozens of people lose their lives every year in a fatal dog attack. The Allen Law Firm is a full-service, comprehensive personal injury law firm helping people who have been injured in all types of accidents and injuries, including dog bites and animal attacks on California’s Central Coast. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury in Monterey, Salinas, Santa Cruz or surrounding areas, the Allen Law Firm is here to help. Contact our experienced lawyer today.

Strict Liability for Dog Bites Under California’s Dog Bite Statute

Under California’s dog bite law, found in section 3342 of the California Civil Code, dog owners are strictly liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by their dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including on the dog owner’s property. Being lawfully on the dog owner’s property includes being there by express invitation, such as a social guest, or by implied invitation, such as delivering food items or packages ordered by the owner. Persons who are on the property to fulfill a legal duty such as delivering mail or reading the meter are also protected under California’s dog bite law as persons lawfully on the property.

Civil Code section 3342 says that dog owners are liable for injuries caused by their animals “regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.” This is known as “strict liability” under the law because it doesn’t matter if the animal displayed any vicious tendencies or if the owner had any reason to expect the dog might bite. The victim does not have to prove the owner was somehow negligent in keeping the animal, such as allowing it to roam free in public or in an unfenced yard. Some states only impose liability on dog owners who are negligent or who knew their dog might bite, such as if it had bitten before. California doesn’t give dogs “one free bite,” however. Dog owners are strictly liable for the damages caused by their animals, including medical bills and pain and suffering.

Dog Bites Can Cause Serious, Painful, Permanent or Fatal Injuries

Dog bite injuries vary depending on the size of the dog, the size of the victim, and the viciousness of the attack. It’s important to know that any dog can bite and does not have to belong to a so-called “dangerous breed” in order for the owner to be liable for the attack. Dog bites can result in the following serious injuries, among others:

  • Deep puncture wounds, introducing serious and drug-resistant bacterial infections
  • Facial lacerations requiring multiple stitches
  • Broken bones, fractures, dislocations, and bone crushes
  • Permanent scarring and disfigurement
  • Psychological injuries, including anxiety, PTSD, a fear of dogs or a fear of the outdoors
  • Nerve damage
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss in the ability to enjoy life
  • Death

Holding Dog Owners Liable Requires Skill and Determination

Even with California’s strong dog bite law imposing strict liability on dog owners, owners and their insurance companies will still find ways to avoid or limit their liability if they can. For instance, they might claim the victim was trespassing on private property or voluntarily ignored a “beware of dog” sign and therefore “assumed the risk” of getting attacked. Owners and their insurers might also claim the dog was provoked into biting after being teased or even just approached too closely or quickly. These defenses can make the case more complicated, especially with young victims who might not appreciate the danger an animal can present. California’s comparative fault law allows injury victims to recover compensation even if they were partly to blame, although their recovery is reduced by any amount of negligence attributable to them. It’s essential to get help from a skilled attorney who knows the law and can present a strong case proving the dog owner’s liability while defending the victim against unfounded allegations of comparative negligence.

Contact the Allen Law Firm Today

At the Allen Law Firm, you’ll find a skilled and compassionate attorney who understands that you are suffering and knows the steps to take under the law to hold the other party accountable to you for the injuries you are suffering. We are committed to getting the best result for you so you can recover to the fullest extent possible. If you or a loved one was injured by an animal attack in Monterey, Santa Cruz, Salinas or surrounding areas, call our experienced Monterey dog bite injury lawyer for a free consultation.

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