Although California is among the states wielding a strict liability law with clearly specified guidelines for dog bites, be aware of several exemptions a dog owner may have if embroiled in a dog-bite controversy. Understanding the state’s legal code and the way it works with other personal injury laws is important to know if you suffer an injury from someone else’s dog.
Advantages for Dog-Bite Victims
Since proving negligence is an important requirement in most personal injury cases, California Civil Code 3342 offers individuals who suffer harm and require medical care for dog bites a simpler way to recover their expenses. The law states the dog owner has to pay expenses resulting from any dog bite as long as the person was in a public space or lawfully on private property, including the owner’s property. This means the victim of the dog bite does not have to prove the dog owner was careless or negligent in handling the dog or that the owner knew the dog might bite.
Exemptions to the Dog-Bite Law
While California’s strict liability statute might seem to indicate the owner is responsible for the dog’s actions in every situation, the law provides some definite exceptions.
Harassment or Taunting
If the person seeking compensation for dog-bite injuries was hurting, annoying or inciting the dog right before it bit the victim, the owner is usually not responsible for the dog’s actions. This generally holds true even if the victim did not purposely hurt the dog, such as accidentally backing into the dog and squashing its paw. This rule typically does not apply, however, if the injured party was a child under five.
Trespassers on the Property
If the victim was not legally on the dog owner’s property at the time the dog bit the person, the owner is not responsible for injuries received. Remember, however, that trespassers do not include anyone with a legal right to enter the property, such as law enforcement officers or postal employees. Trespassing charges also do not apply to those persons delivering packages or products, lawn service employees or other contract workers.
Voluntary Assumption of Risk
Workers who agree to perform a service involving dogs, such as veterinarians, dog groomers or dog walkers, are assumed to understand and accept any risks involved. In general, people performing these occupations cannot recover damages for a dog bite. This rule may be set aside, however, if the owner knows their dog has aggressive tendencies but fails to warn the worker.
Dog Bites at Work
If an owner’s dog is brought into their place of business and it bites one of the employees, the owner may not be personally liable if they have workers’ compensation insurance in place. The employee may need to file a timely workers’ compensation claim to pay for the medical expenses and any lost wages.
Injuries by Police or Military Dogs
California’s dog-bite statute specifically exempts police and military dogs if they bite someone suspected of a crime while the dog is performing its duties. Any innocent bystander who is bit by a military or police canine can pursue compensation, however.
Although the victim’s injury does not need punctured skin to constitute a bite, the dog-bite law does not apply to injuries resulting from a dog pushing someone over or causing harm by chasing a pedestrian or bicyclist. Always remember, however, that even if the dog-bite law does not apply, the victim can pursue compensation under California’s personal injury laws by proving the owner’s negligence.
Failure To File on Time
If you sustain injuries caused by a dog bite, you must observe the statute of limitations under California’s personal injury laws. In general, the individual has two years from the time the bite occurred to file a claim. If this timeframe is not met, the court may be asked to dismiss your case.
If You are a Victim of a Dog Bite, Contact an Experienced Attorney Right Away
Given the tough, strict liability statute for dog bites in our state, you may decide to pursue compensation for your personal injuries. Contact our experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of Brent D. George to set up an individual consultation for your situation.