It’s National Dog Bite Prevention Week®️ (April 7 – 13, 2019)! We love our furry companions, but since any dog can bite, no matter their size or how friendly they are, we want to take the time this week to highlight dog bite facts and legal considerations.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, with 20% of victims requiring medical attention. In 2017, dog bites accounted for one-third of all homeowners’ liability insurance claims, costing in excess of $700 Million dollars. Children, postal service workers, and the elderly are the most frequent victims of dog bites.
California’s Strict Liability Dog Bite Laws
In California, dog owners are held “strictly liable” for the injuries caused when their dog bites someone. This means that the dog bite victim simply has to prove that the owner’s dog bit them, and that they were lawfully on the property (public or private) where the bite occurred.
Due to this strict liability law, dog owners will not be able to escape responsibility for damages by arguing that they had no idea their dog would bite or act aggressively, or that their dog had never bitten anyone before. California does not have a “one-bite” rule as in some other states, which can free the owner from liability if they did not have prior notice of the dog’s aggressive behavior.
In order for strict liability to be applicable, the injury must be caused by a dog bite, and not from other types of harm that can be caused by a dog’s actions. For example, if a dog jumps on someone, knocking them over and causing them to fall and break their wrist, negligence laws would apply. Then the victim would have to show that the dog owner failed to use reasonable measures to prevent the aggressive behavior and secure the dog, and/or that the dog owner knew the dog had aggressive tendencies and put the victim in harm’s way.
Who Pays Dog Bite Damages?
Many dog bite victims are bitten by a dog of someone they know – a friend or neighbor. While the dog owner is technically liable to pay dog bite damages, it is typically the insurance company that pays for dog bite injuries. Claims can be filed against the insurance company for coverage up to the limit of the liability insurance policy. The dog owner may still be personally liable for damages out of pocket when there is not enough insurance coverage, but it is up to the victim whether they want to try to collect against the dog owner personally.
There are also situations in which the insurance company acts in bad faith or unreasonably refuses to settle or pay the dog bite claim, in which case it can be possible for the insurance company to become liable for paying all of the dog bite injury damages, even above the insurance policy limits. If you are a dog bite victim seeking to recover compensation for your injuries, contact PARRIS dog bite attorneys for a free case consultation today by calling 661-485-2072.
Dog Bites Are Preventable
Most dog bites are preventable. To help maintain a healthy and loving relationship with our dogs and to keep our community and loved ones safe, please visit the AVMA page for their expert tips on dog bite prevention.