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In the Event of a Dog Bite

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur in the United States every year, and about 1 out of 5 of the resulting injuries become infected.

Dog bites most commonly occur with a person who is familiar with the dogs themselves, rather than with animals that are unknown to the injured party.  Acclaim Law Group recently settled a case in which our client, who suffered the dog bite injury, personally knew the owners of the dog. Despite being friendly with the animal, the dog attacked our client and caused permanent, disfiguring injuries to her face and arm.

While certain states still adhere to a dog bite law called the “one bite rule,” which assigns the burden of proof to victims of dog bites, legally obligating them to provide evidence that the owners or keepers of the animal were aware of their dog’s potential or propensity for violence, California does not. This means, that in most cases the owner of a dog will be strictly liable for injuries caused by their dog.

California has adopted several rules and laws to clear up accountability for injuries received from a dog bite, two of which are primarily called upon in dog bites cases: California Civil Code 3342 and the common law strict liability rule. While the common law strict liability rule is broad in its application, covering both a dog’s owner and anyone who has assumed custody of the dog, liability under California Civil Code section 3342 applies only to the dog’s owners.

California’s subscription to the strict liability rule as a way to determine liability in a dog bite case has completely withdrawn the state from the one bite rule by taking the burden of proof off of the injured party and shifting responsibility for any injuries incurred onto the owners or keepers of the dog.

In contrast, California Civil Code 3342 only absolves an owner or keeper from the strict liability rule if the incident meets certain standards and was reasonably necessary (i.e. the dog bite occurred in defense of a person). Specifically, the Civil Code states:

(a) The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness. A person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner within the meaning of this section when he is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner.

In the case of our client, she found a resolution in pursuit of seeking retribution for her permanent injuries, which can only be healed through cosmetic surgery. Due to the property owners being aware of the potential threat of harm by their dog, even when unprovoked, the property owner was responsible for putting safe guards in place to ensure their dog would in no way come in contact, and potentially harm, their guests.

Disclaimer: While we always seek to establish accuracy when publishing articles, this piece is not intended to provide legal advice, and should not be used as such. Each individual case will differ and should be discussed with an attorney or legal expert. If you would like to inquire about pursuing a claim, please contact us at (858) 252-0781 or email brett@acclaimlaw.com

Resources:

https://www.cdc.gov/features/dog-bite-prevention/index.html

https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=CIV&sectionNum=3342.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/one-bite_rule

 

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