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Venardi Zurada

Do California Dog Bite Laws Cover Mauling And Attacks?


Getting bitten by a dog is a harrowing, excruciatingly painful experience that could require extensive medical treatment, cosmetic surgery, and even psychiatric treatment for the anxiety and emotional turmoil victims sustain. You might be aware that California has a dog bite statute that covers these incidents and enables individuals to seek compensation for their devastating losses. However, bites are not the only way that canines can hurt a human being. Significant injuries are also possible when dogs, particularly larger breeds, jump up, maul, knock down, or cause victims to fall when they flee a dangerous situation. As with dog bites, children tend to be at the highest risk.

It is true that bites and attacks go hand-in-hand, but California laws apply to these situations differently. Your rights are limited by the statute, though other legal remedies might be available in certain situations. An Oakland animal attacks and dog bites lawyer can explain the specifics, while an overview is also useful. 

Strict Liability Under the Dog Bite Statute

The law on the books in California provides that an owner is responsible for all losses caused by a dog bite, regardless of whether he or she was aware of the animal’s vicious propensities. This is the opposite of the “one-bite rule” that applies in some jurisdictions, where you would need evidence that the owner knew about the danger because of prior aggression. Instead, you must prove that you were in a public place or legally present in a private place, and that you did not provoke the dog.

The strict liability statute is clear in that it only covers dog bites – not animal attacks. However, the injury does not have to break the skin for a victim to seek compensation. 

Negligence and Liability for Animal Attacks

While you might not be able to pursue the owner under a “strict liability” theory for a non-bite injury, there are other options after being mauled or attacked. The legal theory of negligence applies instead of strict liability, so you need to prove that the owner did not exercise reasonable care to prevent the harm. Examples include:

  • Mishandling the dog by not keeping it on leash while walking, having the dog hang out leash-free in an unfenced yard, or inattentively opening the door or gate at their house;
  • Failing to effectively control a dog that is jumping or lurching; and
  • Handling a dog in a situation where injury to others is foreseeable, including around crowds and children.

A variation on this theory is called negligence per se, which imposes liability on an owner if he or she violates a statute or regulation on handling dogs (e.g. a regulation or statute that requires dogs to be leashed in certain spaces or situations). With animal attack cases, the common scenario is failing to keep the dog on a leash while walking or restrained in a yard. 

You Can Rely on an Oakland Animal Attacks Attorney for Legal Advice 

As you can see, California’s dog bite statute is limited, though it is still possible to obtain compensation through other theories of liability. To learn more about how we can help, please contact Venardi Zurada, LLP to schedule a complimentary consultation with a lawyer. We can meet with you at our offices in Oakland, and Walnut Creek, CA to discuss details and next steps.



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