It is April once again, and PARRIS is proud to raise awareness for National Dog Bite Prevention Week®️ this week of April 7 – 13. We love and cherish our furry companions, but the unfortunate reality is that regardless of size, shape, or demeanor, any dog can bite. This Dog Bite Prevention Week®️, we will take time to review key dog bite statistics and facts, as well as explore some of California’s laws regarding dog bites – and what that means for you.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, with 20% of these victims requiring medical attention. Children, postal service workers, and the elderly are the most frequent victims of dog bites. In 2017, dog bites accounted for one-third of all homeowner’s liability insurance claims, costing in excess of $700 million dollars.
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 they were bitten by the owner’s dog, 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 prior knowledge that their dog would bite or act aggressively. The argument that the bite was a one-time event is not valid in California, either: our state 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. If a dog bite occurs, the dog owner could be held liable in a court of law, regardless of prior occurrences.
There is a notable caveat to this, however. For strict liability to apply, 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, California’s strict liability dog bite laws would not apply. Rather, the victim would have to prove negligence: they 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 injured by a dog belonging to 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, or visit our article from last year’s Dog Bite Prevention Week®️ that includes basic dog attack prevention training tips.