- July 2, 2023
- In dog Bites
There’s an old saying that “dogs are a [person’s] best friend.” Considering how many family-and-single households own at least one dog, the saying must be true. Unfortunately, your deep affection for and attachment to your dog is why it’s so frightening when someone accuses your dog of biting them. You’re at risk of losing your dog if a person files a dog bite lawsuit against you. Thus, if your dog is being accused of biting someone, then you should consult with a California dog bite attorney immediately.
Am I Liable If My Dog Bites Someone?
In California, you may be held strictly liable if a civil court finds that your dog bites someone. According to California’s strict liability law for dog owners, those who own dogs are strictly liable for the injuries a victim sustains if:
- A bite happens while the alleged victim is in a public place, or
- A bite happens while the alleged victim has permission to be on private property that the dog owner owns or inhabits.
Therefore, if you and an alleged victim are at a city farmer’s market, your home, or a public sidewalk at the time of a bite, you may be responsible for paying that person’s:
- Ambulance transportation bill
- Medical bills
- Physical therapy
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Other applicable damages
How Is Negligence Proven In A Dog Bite Case?
California applies a “strict liability” standard to dog bite lawsuits, not negligence. Therefore, you do not have the usual defenses to personal injury cases at your disposal. It doesn’t matter whether you knew or reasonably should have known your dog would bite someone, and it doesn’t matter whether you took precautions to prevent your dog from biting the alleged victim either. A court can find you liable for damages if you are the owner and your dog bit another person, causing that person to suffer an injury, provided that the criteria outlined above have been met.
What Are My Defenses If Someone Accuses My Dog Of Biting Them?
Any defenses that may be available to you will depend on the facts of your case. However, there are a few general defenses that are commonly used in dog bite cases.
No Bite Occurred
Not every instance of an alleged victim’s encounter with a dog involves canine teeth. Sometimes, a dog merely knocks a person onto the ground or frightens them by barking. In either scenario, fear, alone, is not sufficient to file a dog bite claim. Lack of puncture wounds, marks, bleeding, or scarring are all evidence that a dog bite could not have occurred.
Alleged Victim’s Presence Was Not Lawful
Generally, California courts will not hold you strictly liable if the alleged victim is a trespasser. A trespasser is someone who’s unlawfully on private property. In other words, if someone trespassed into your backyard or home and your dog bit that person, it is unlikely a court will rule in that person’s favor. However, this defense will not apply if you invite a person into your home, whether that person is a guest or solicitor. It also will not apply to postal workers or anyone who has a legal right to be present.
Wrong Dog Or Owner
The alleged victim may have the wrong dog or owner in mind. Nearly 40% of households in California have a pet dog. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that people can easily mistake your dog for someone else’s dog. Moreover, a stray dog or dog that frequents your home can be confused as your pet as well. When this confusion occurs, it can be challenging to prove that you and your dog have been mistakenly accused. Also, it is unlikely that the actual dog owner will come forward without some intervention, so you will need a reputable and experienced dog bite defense lawyer to assist you in clearing your name.
Unfortunately, some people will lie to scam you out of your money or an insurance company out of its money. Others may lie to get revenge. In some dog bite accusation scenarios, the alleged victim is lying either in the hopes that a dog owner will readily admit fault and offer them money to avoid having their dog taken away, or the alleged victim is lying in hopes that they’ll lose their dog because, perhaps, they don’t like the dog owner as a neighbor and want to hurt them, etc.
What Should I Do If Someone Says That My Dog Bit Them?
If someone accuses your dog of biting them, you should ask to see the bite wound and take pictures. You should still ask to take pictures if you do not see any marks because the lack of bite marks could potentially serve as proof that a dog bite didn’t occur. Follow up by asking specific questions, such as where the alleged bite occurred and when it occurred. The details may not align with where your dog was at the supposed time (e.g., the alleged victim may say the bite happened at 5:08 pm but you had your dog inside until 6 pm.).
Whatever you do, you should neither accept fault nor admit responsibility for the bite. Also, take down that person’s name, number, and address for future communicative purposes. Then, call a dog bite defense lawyer to explore your rights and options.
How Can I Protect My Dog Against Dog Bite Claims?
There are notable steps you can take to protect your dog against the risk of being accused of biting someone.
Maintain Appropriate Distance
Let’s assume that your dog has had formal training and has never shown signs of aggression. These traits alone do not mean that your dog will never bite someone. Dogs are animals. They often react based on instinct, so you can’t be too careful in terms of keeping them a safe distance from strangers or people they don’t know too well. This may mean you’ll need to put your dog in its cage or a separate room whenever a guest or stranger comes over. Leaving your dog at home when you go to crowded events is also advisable.
Pay Attention To Your Dog’s Cues
If a dog is uncomfortable or afraid, then it will be more inclined to bite. Pay attention to the signals your dog gives that it may bite someone and remove yourself and your dog from that situation.
Obey The Leash Law
California has a leash law. By keeping your dog on a leash, it will become less likely that your dog might be able to evade your control and charge at someone. A leash can also help you if you notice that your dog is acting aggressively towards someone; you can pull your dog away and avoid the potential for a confrontation.
Consult A Dog Bite Injury Lawyer In California For More Information
Dogs are more than pets. They are members of many families. Therefore, when someone accuses your dog of biting them, the fear of losing your dog may feel like the grief of losing a loved one. Rest assured that there is hope, however. A seasoned California dog bite injury attorney from The Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates, PC can help you to better protect your dog from consequential legal action. If you have any questions, take advantage of our free initial consultation by calling 949-727-9300 now. We look forward to speaking with you.
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