What Are Your Rights If You Have Been Bitten By A Dog?

Family pets are a part of the American landscape. Unfortunately, these pets can sometimes cause devastating injuries if they attack. Dog bites can cause lifelong physical and emotional scarring.

In California, a dog owner is strictly liable for injuries caused by his dog if it bites someone who is in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including your home. The dog owner is liable regardless of the fact that the animal has never bitten anyone before. The owner is just as responsible for the bite of that docile dog who has never growled at a stranger as the owner of the more aggressive breeds. This means that a dog owner may be liable to all persons coming on to his premises for a legal purpose, e.g. a postal worker, meter reader, or even a stranger coming to the front door.

Dog bites can be devastating injuries, especially if small children are the victims. The owner of the dog will be responsible for all of the victim’s medical bills and lost earnings, if applicable. But more importantly, the owner is responsible for damages for pain and suffering and disfigurement caused by the attack. In the case of a bite to the face, where there is permanent scarring the damages can easily exceed $100,000.00.

If the owner of the dog knows of the vicious propensities of the animal (for example where the dog has been bred for fighting or where the dog has bitten several others), the owner may be held responsible for punitive damages. Punitive damages are damages that the jury awards to punish the owner of the dog. These damages can be up to ten times the amount of the damages for pain and suffering, depending on the egregiousness of the behavior of the dog owner.

A landlord, may be responsible for his tenant’s dog. Although the landlord is not strictly liable if his tenant’s dog bites another, he will only be held responsible if he knew the tenant owned a dangerous animal. Thus, if the landlord knows that a tenant’s dog has bitten another, he can be held accountable if he does not act reasonably and the dog bites another person on his rental premises.

Dog owners are not liable to certain persons who have assumed the risk of being around dogs. So, if you bring your dog to the veterinarian or to a groomer, these professionals have assumed the risk of being bitten by animals by the very nature of their profession. Normally, there would be no liability if your animal bites one of these classes of people.

Dogs can cause severe and permanent injuries. If you have been attacked by a dog and have questions about your legal rights, please feel free to call us for a no-cost, no obligation consultation. We can be reached at 800-856-7506 or email us at tlewellynlaw@sbcglobal.net.


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