Under California law, generally, dog owners are strictly liable for any attacks by their pets. Though there are certain exceptions that may apply depending on the facts of the case, this means that dog owners are typically liable for attacks even if there is no indication of negligence on the part of the pet owner. There is also no need to prove that there was intentional harm.
While California law has strict liability in place for cases involving dog bites, the statute is specific to dogs. However, this does not prohibit you from bringing a claim for damages involving bites or attacks by other animals or attacks involving dogs that harmed you without actually biting you. You are still able to pursue a claim for damages in these situations under a negligence theory.
If you have been injured in a pet attack by another person’s pet, whether it is a dog or other animal, you should speak with an attorney experienced in the areas of negligence, strict liability, and pet attack cases. California attorney Johann Hall has years of experience with successfully handling pet attack cases. Call attorney Johann Hall right away to schedule your free consultation.
California’s Dog Bite Statute
The most common type of pet attack is a dog bite. California Civil Code Section 3342 provides that if a person suffered damages that were inflicted due to a dog bite, then the owner of that dog is liable for those damages if the person was bitten while lawfully within a private place or if the person was bitten in a public area.
Under California law, the owner of the dog is liable for all damages (assuming the above conditions are met) even if the owner had no knowledge of the dog’s propensity to act in an aggressive manner. The owner is also still liable even in cases where the dog had never bitten or attacked anyone before. As with many laws, there are exceptions, and here there is an exception for cases that involve damage claims by a person who was bitten by a dog while that dog was in the process of carrying out military or police work.
Defenses in Civil Lawsuits Involving Dog Bites
While there is strict liability in California for dog bite attacks, there are possible defenses available to dog owners. Whether you are the victim or the owner in a dog attack case, being aware of the potential defenses to these cases can be helpful for your own case. Some of the possible defenses to liability for damages in dog attack cases include:
- Demonstrating that the victim was actually trespassing at the time they were bitten by the animal
- Proving that the victim voluntarily subjected themselves to the risk of the injury
- Showing that the victim was actually at fault for the attack (in which case, any compensation received could be reduced according to the “comparative negligence rule” under California law)
Pet Attacks Involving Animals Other Than Dogs
While dog bites tend to be the most common animal attacks, it is certainly possible to be injured due to someone’s cat or other type of animal. In these cases, you will generally need to show negligence on the part of the pet owner. Pet owners do owe a certain duty of care with regard to their pet’s behavior.
To demonstrate that the pet owner was negligent for your injuries as a result of a pet attack, you will need to show that the pet owner owed you a duty of care and that they breached that duty. You will also need to prove that it was the owner’s action or inaction that caused your injury and that you suffered an injury as a result of this action (or inaction). While there is a general duty of care owed, it will depend on the particular facts of your case. For example, the owner may have a defense if the facts indicate that you were actually trespassing at the time of the animal attack.
Beyond civil liability, a pet owner may also be criminally liable if they own a dangerous animal that injures or kills another person. This is covered in California Penal Code Section 399. Under this section of the Code, a pet owner can be criminally liable if they own a dangerous animal (such as a wild animal) or a domesticated animal that has been characterized as dangerous due to past vicious behavior. Whether or not criminal charges will be brought varies depending on the facts specific to your case.
If you have suffered injuries as a result of a pet attack in California, call attorney Johann Hall today to schedule a free consultation. The law in this area can be complex, so it is important to have an experienced attorney on your side.