Every year, over 4.5 million peoplesuffer from dog bites, and in many cases, bites or attacks can lead to serious injuries or even death. If a dog in California has bitten you or a loved one, you may want to know more about your rights. Check out these five facts.
1. California Has Strict Liability Laws for Dog Bites
In regards to dog bites, California is a strict liability state. That simply means that you don’t have to prove that the owner was negligent as you do with most other personal injury cases. Instead, just by having dogs, owners are automatically liable if their dog bites someone.
2. California’s Strict Liability Only Applies to Bites
In some states, strict liability applies to both dog bites and other injuries caused by dogs, but in California, however, the strict liability only applies to bites. If a dog knocks you over or scratches you, you can still bring a civil suit forward against the dog’s owner, but in this situation, your lawyer has to argue that the owner didn’t use reasonable care in preventing the incident from happening.
3. Defendants Can Use Trespassing as a Defense
If a dog bites you while you are in public or lawfully on the dog owner’s property, the dog owner has no defense. However, if you trespassed when the attack occurred, the dog owner can use that as a defense. In cases involving police or military dogs, the dog handler can argue that the victim provoked the dog, but that defense usually doesn’t apply with civilian dogs.
4. California Imposes Restrictions on Dangerous or Vicious Dogs
When you take a dog owner to court for a bite or attack, you don’t just protect your own rights. You also help to protect other people who may meet the dog in the future. Under California state law, dogs can be labeled as dangerous or vicious. To be considered dangerous, a dog must have done one of the following:
- Attacked, bit, or engaged in other behavior that required a victim to defend themselves in the last 36 months, while unprovoked and off the owner’s property
- While unprovoked, caused an injury that is not severe enough to have the dog labeled as vicious
- Killed, bitten, or inflicted serious injury on at least two domestic animals when unprovoked and off the owner’s property
To garner the vicious label, a dog must inflict serious injury on a victim, which includes muscle tears, disfiguring lacerations, or other injuries requiring stitches or cosmetic surgery. Additionally, if a dangerous dog’s owner can’t keep the dog under control, the dog may move from dangerous to vicious.
With dangerous dogs, owners must meet very strict licensing and behavior criteria. They also have to notify the state if they sell the dog or it dies. Vicious dogs might be put to death, but in some cases, owners are allowed to keep these dogs if they follow certain safety protocols.
5. The Statute of Limitations on Dog Bites Is Two Years
If a dog has bitten, attacked, or hurt you or a family member in any way, you should contact the authorities, but you should also consider bringing forward a civil lawsuit. Depending on your situation, you may be able to claim a settlement that covers all your damages including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
However, you only have two years to bring forward a claim, and in most cases, the sooner you reach out to an attorney, the easier it is to build a case. With minors, the statute of limitations is postponed until you are an adult, and then, you have two years after your eighteenth birthday to bring forward a lawsuit.
If you need help, contact ustoday. At Hernandez Law Offices, we help clients with personal injury, medical malpractice, and criminal law.