Four FAQs about dog bites in California

This publication will provide information on some of the most common questions asked by victims of dog attacks.

A dog attack can happen to anyone. A victim could be a guest in a dog owner's home or a mail worker delivering a package. Victims can be young or old, friend or stranger. Regardless, those who are victims of dog attack in California likely have a number of questions. The information provided in this publication will help answer some of the most common questions.

Who is liable when a dog attacks?

The rules will vary with each state. In California, state law holds dog owners strictly liable for the injuries that result from a dog bite. The law also requires any dog owner that knows their dog has bitten another to contact the victim and provide their name, address and telephone number as well as the dog's information within 48 hours of the attack.

What if I or my child is bit while in the dog owner's home?

Lawmakers included language within the law to hold the dog owner liable in these situations. It specifically states that as long as you are within the home at the dog owner's invitation, the owner is liable. It also extends to include postal workers and those performing similar duties.

What if the dog has no history of aggression?

The dog owner is still liable – this is true regardless of the animal's history. Even owners' that claim their dog has never exhibited signs of aggression in the past are liable if the animal bites. Although a lack of aggression does not remove liability, the presence of a history of attacks or bites can result in additional charges. In these cases, a dog owner could also face criminal charges.

If there is a history of aggression, the dog is generally classified as either potentially dangerous or vicious. One distinction between the two classifications: a potentially dangerous dog is one that has bitten a person and caused a less severe injury while a vicious dog has attacked and caused serious injury or death. For the purposes of this law, a serious injury is defined as one that results in the ripping of muscle tissue or disfiguring lacerations that require multiple stitches.

What legal remedies are available?

In many cases, monetary awards are available for victims, whether bitten by a dangerous or otherwise friendly dog. It is often wise to contact an attorney if you or a loved one is the victim of an attack. Your lawyer can review the details of the attached and discuss your options for legal recourse.