What to Do If You're a Victim of Dog Bite


Dog bites , in most cases, result in serious injuries to their victims. Not only does it result in actual physical injuries but also causes emotional, psychological, and loss of earnings. Usually, it is the dog owner that is responsible for footing the bill for damages because they have a legal responsibility to prevent their pets from injuring people or damaging property. If the owner of the dog have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy, the insurance would usually cover this type of injury.

Dog owners are financially liable for any personal injury or property damage their pets cause. California Code of Civil Procedures §3342(a) provides that the owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness. A person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner within the meaning of the civil code section when he or she is on the property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him or her by the laws of California or by the laws or postal regulations of the US, or when the person is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner. This is also called strict liability. In other words, all you have to prove is that the defendant is the owner of the dog and that the dog bit you. However, liability as against property owners that do not own the dog requires notice of the dog’s vicious propensity. There is a 2 year statute of limitations that apply to dog bite claims under CCP §335.1. This means, you must file a lawsuit within 2 years from the date of the injury or your claim will be barred forever.

Dog owners, or their insurance companies, might try to argue that the victim assumed the risk of being bitten by the dog. This often arises in situations where a dog was being assisted by a good Samaritan after it had been struck by a car. In those situations, the assumption of risk defense is only secondary to the obligation imposed by statute such as the CCP §3342(a) and Health and Safety Code S121690(b) requiring vaccination of dogs against rabies. Although the victim volunteered assistance, the victim’s assumption of the risk was “secondary” in view of the duties imposed by statute above. The victim’s own fault would have to be assessed on a comparative negligence basis with that of the owner of the dog.

There is however an occupational assumption of risk that applies to veterinarians. Veterinarians are barred from recovery for dog bite injuries sustained while treating the dog because the risk that a dog might bite treating veterinarians is a known risk inherent in the occupation and hence serves as a complete defense to an action against the dog’s owner. This applies to the Veterinarian’s assistants as well. However this bar does not apply to dog owners who purposefully or negligently conceal from a veterinarian their dog’s known particular vicious propensities because this exposes the veterinarian to unknown risk. Veterinarian’s are also not barred from making a claim where the dog bit injury occurred outside the employment relationship.

It is important to obtain witnesses to your case and to seek medical treatment as soon as possible in order to preserve and document your injuries. This will increase the likelihood of success in your case. Most importantly, seek the help of an experienced Attorney to represent you.

Please note that this article is not legal advice and is not intended as legal advice. The article is intended to provide only general, non-specific legal information. This article is not intended to cover all the issues related to the topic discussed. The specific facts that apply to your matter may make the outcome different than would be anticipated by you. This article does not create any attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Offices of Kenneth U. Reyes, P.C. This article is not a solicitation.

Attorney Kenneth Ursua Reyes was President of the Philippine American Bar Association for 2005. He is a member of both the Family law section and Immigration law section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Mr. Reyes is a Certified Family Law Specialist. He is a graduate of Southwestern University Law School in Los Angeles and California State University, San Bernardino School of Business Administration. He has extensive former CPA experience prior to law practice. LAW OFFICES OF KENNETH REYES, P.C. is located at 3699 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA, 90010. Tel. (213) 388-1611 or e-mail kureyeslaw@gmail.com; visit at www.kenreyeslaw.com

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