How Does Strict Liability Impact Dog Bite Claims in California?

The state of California recognizes that all dogs have the propensity to bite. Even the most docile family pet has a breaking point and will act on instinct, which may include aggression, when circumstances demand.

As such, owners and handlers are responsible for any injuries their animals cause. Even if a dog has never so much as nipped someone, the owner would likely be found at fault if the animal were to ever attack, even if it was totally unprecedented.

Called “strict liability,” this legal doctrine eliminates the need for personal injury claimants to prove negligence on the part of the opposing party. Instead, dog bite victims must prove the following three elements:

  • The defendant owned the dog (or was responsible for handling it at the time of the attack);
  • The attack occurred when the victim was on public property or was lawfully visiting private property; and
  • The victim was bitten by the dog, resulting in bruises, lacerations, and/or other physical injuries.

California’s strict liability approach is in contrast to the “one-bite” rule, which governs animal attack claims in many other states. Pursuant to the one-bite rule, victims must prove that the owner knew or should have known the animal had a propensity to be vicious because it had a history of attacking people.

What Kind of Evidence Will I Need to Gather to Put Together a Strong Dog Bite Claim?

Don’t let California’s strict liability doctrine fool you; recovering compensation for the damages stemming from a dog bite is far from easy. In addition to presenting sufficient evidence of the elements mentioned above, you’re going to have to find a way to demonstrate the extent of your losses, so you can pursue the maximum payout possible.

Evidence that may help you prove liability includes:

  • Eyewitness testimony;
  • Surveillance footage;
  • The incident report;
  • Adoption logs;
  • Veterinary records;
  • Pet care contracts; and
  • Testimony from canine behavioral experts.

As for demonstrating damages, you’ll likely need:

  • Photographs of any visible wounds (and any subsequent scarring or disfigurement);
  • Medical records;
  • Statements from your treating providers;
  • Statements from experts who specialize in the kinds of injuries you sustained;
  • Hospital bills;
  • Health insurance statements;
  • Paystubs logging any missed shifts;
  • Receipts and invoices for any injury-related expenses;
  • Bills for reasonably necessary replacement services, like housekeeping and meal preparation;
  • Journal entries detailing the hurdles you face over the course of your recovery;
  • Psychological evaluations; and
  • Statements from friends, loved ones, and colleagues.

Discuss Your Case with a Dog Bite Attorney in California

At Harris Personal Injury Attorneys, we know just how traumatizing animal attacks can be. If you or someone in your family was bitten by a dog, we’ll help you gather the evidence needed to hold the owner or handler accountable.

Our compassionate team boasts the resources of a powerhouse practice, but we remain committed to providing the personalized care and attention of a small, local firm. Call 1-800-GO-HARRIS or complete our Online Contact Form to schedule a free case review with a dog bite lawyer in California.

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