Dog bites happen everyday and when you least expect it; just imagine you are taking a walk one evening when a dog runs out of a residence and attacks you. What should you do? If bitten, you should clean the wound immediately, using soap and warm water. Try to remember the dog’s description, including breed, color and size. If the owner is identifiable, obtain all necessary information about him or her, including name, address and contact information. Further, take pictures of the bite wound(s) as soon as possible. You also need to find out if the dog is up to date on its shots. If the dog is a stray, you will need to undergo rabies treatment.
What are your legal rights? California law on dog bites is ‘strict liability.’ Under Civil Code Section 3342, ‘the owner of a dog is liable to anyone bitten by their dog who is in a public place, or lawfully in a private place, including the dog owner’s property regardless of whether the dog has ever bit anyone before and regardless of whether the owner knew the dog had bitten anyone before.’ This means that dog owners are liable for their dog’s actions even for first time bites and even if the dog is restrained.
However, Section 3342 only applies to owners. If someone is keeping the dog, but does not own it, then the keeper may be responsible under a negligence theory, meaning that they may be responsible if they knew the dog had a propensity to be dangerous but failed to take appropriate action(s), under the circumstances, to keep the dog from attacking you.
What about landlords? In some cases, a landlord may be responsible for dogs owned by their tenants. If the landlord knows of the dog, and knows that the dog has dangerous propensities, then the landlord may be liable.
It is important to consult with an attorney, especially before speaking with the adverse party’s insurance company or giving a statement. Do not fill out documents provided by the insurance company.
This article strictly talks about California law. Laws in other states may differ. This article is for educational purposes only and is not meant to serve as legal advice.
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