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Nationwide, the rate of dog bite injuries is on the rise. The cost of treating these injuries is rising even faster. According to the Insurance Information Institute, dog bites account for over one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims, costing nearly $500 million.

Types of Injuries Inflicted by Dogs

Injuries inflicted by dogs can be devastating, especially to young children. The small height of a child almost always results in facial injuries. Injuries range from psychological impairment, disfigurement and disability to death.

Repairing these injuries may require immediate reconstructive surgery with additional surgical procedures over time. Techniques such as skin grafting and microsurgical repair also may require multiple procedures, as do scar diminishment treatments, such as: dermabrasion (sanding of the skin) laser treatment and pressure scar modification.

Psychological Damage

Nearly all dog bite victims suffer some degree of psychological injury, including Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Even with treatment, fear of another attack may never fade. Each time a victim walks down a sidewalk, strolls through a park or visits a dog owner’s home, the trauma often return.

California’s Dog Bite Statute (Civ. Code § 3342, CACI 463)

In California, the handling of a dog attack case depends on whether the victim was bitten or knocked over – because the law imposes strict liability on dog owners for dog bites but uses the traditional negligence standard for injuries that occur when a person is not bitten, but knocked over.

Under California law, in a dog bite case, dog owners can be held responsible for the harm caused by their dog no matter how carefully they acted to restrain their dogs.

To prove liability in a dog bite case in California, the plaintiff need only prove:
  • That the defendant owned the dog
  • That the dog bit the plaintiff while the plaintiff was in a public place or lawfully on private property
  • That the plaintiff was harmed
  • And that the dog was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s harm.
  • [California Dog Bite Statute – Civ. Code § 3342, CACI 463]
In other words, if a dog bites someone in California it is not a defense that the dog had never bitten before, shown prior viciousness, or was restrained on a leash. The plaintiff does not need to prove that the defendant was negligent because the law imposes strict liability for the harm of a dog bite.

You Can also Recover When a Dog Attacks But Does Not Bite

Dog injuries can also occur when the victim is not actually bitten. These cases include trauma to the head and/or orthopedic injuries when a person is knocked down by a dog, or when a person falls while running away or avoiding a dog. Strict liability does not apply in these circumstances, and the plaintiff does carry the burden of proof to demonstrate that the dog owner was negligent, and that the negligence was a substantial factor in causing harm. [Note that if the city or town where the incident occurred had a “leash law” in effect and the injury occurred because the dog was not leashed, as required, the dog owner’s negligence may be presumed.]

Typical Defenses to Overcome in Dog Bite and Dog Attack Cases:
  • Dog did not bite the plaintiff (Note that case law does not require the skin to break)
  • Assumption of the risk
  • Contributory negligence
  • Plaintiff was trespassing and not “in a public place or lawfully on private property”
  • Defendant was not the dog’s owner


If you or someone you know has suffered a serious injury as a result of a dog bite or attack, or a family member has suffered an accidental death, please call us today at (619) 564-8877. We will provide a free in-person consultation, listen to all of your questions and concerns, assist in obtaining needed medical treatment and care, and develop a winning strategy to maximize recovery and compensation. There are no up-front fees or costs. We do not charge until we win your case. We look forward to earning your trust and the honor of being your attorneys.

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