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Are dog owners responsible for injuries their pets cause?

On Behalf of | Jan 25, 2021

If a dog attacks you, you may believe the owner is at fault rather than the animal. Legally, even if the owner is responsible and cares for the dog, he or she may still be liable for your damages.

Because the effects of dog attacks are often serious, California has imposed certain laws on dog owners in the event their pets bite a person. California Legislative Information explains these laws, so you can take the proper steps if you are the victim of a dog bite.

Liability in dog bite cases

Some states only consider dog owners liable for bites if the animal has exhibited signs of aggressiveness in the past. California does not require this legal standard. A dog owner is strictly liable if the dog bites you, regardless of the previous behavior and temperament of the animal.

However, the dog owner is only liable if the animal bites you while you are in a public place or else on private property where you have permission to be. As an example, if you are visiting a friend and his or her dog bites you, the friend would be liable for subsequent medical bills and other damages. If you were trespassing on another person’s property and a dog bites you, the owner is not liable.

Exemptions to dog bite laws

Some government agencies that use dogs, such as police forces, are not liable if a dog attacks someone while on duty. This includes situations where the animal is assisting an officer in investigating criminal wrongdoing, executing a warrant or apprehending the suspect of a crime. These dogs may also defend the law enforcement officers they are assisting without the officer or the agency being subject to a civil suit.

If the dog’s owner or the insurance company refuses to cover your damages, you may need to take your case to court.