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Does California Follow the One-Bite Rule or Strict Liability for Dog Bites?


Dogs are one of America’s favorite pets, and you probably know numerous family, friends, and neighbors who have a dog even if you do not. However, as loyal and loving as they seem, canines are still animals that can be unpredictable. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that around 316,400 dog bite victims seek medical treatment at the emergency room every year. Due to their size and inquisitive nature, children often suffer the most serious injuries.

Like all other US states, California has dog bite laws that protect victims. You may qualify to recover compensation for your losses, including medical costs, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. There are two theories of liability for animal attacks that are common, including the so-called “one bite” rule and strict liability. Your Oakland dog bite lawyer will explain how the laws work in California, which is a strict liability state.

 California’s Dog Bite Law: As a general concept, strict liability refers to cases where a plaintiff does not have to prove the defendant was negligent. Most personal injury matters fall under negligence principles, so the statute creates an exception for dog bites. You must have evidence showing that you suffered bite injuries, the owner’s dog was the animal that caused them, and you sustained losses. You do NOT need to prove that:

  • The dog has bitten someone in the past; or,
  • The owner did not know or have reason to know that the dog was aggressive or vicious.

The One Bite Rule in Other US States: Many other states rely on common law concepts for dog bite claims, which are developed through decisions handed down by courts. The one bite rule is an example of common law, and it is very different from strict liability.

In jurisdictions that follow the one bite rule, the victim must prove that the owner DID know that the dog was dangerous. Typically, this fact is established by showing that the dog bit someone in the past, but some states allow evidence of prior aggression.

 Limitations with Dog Bite Cases: Even though you do not need to prove fault under California’s statute on strict liability for dog bites, there are two points that could affect your rights:

  1. If you were trespassing when the dog bit you, state law bars you from recovering any compensation for your losses.
  2. You may not obtain monetary damages if you provoked the dog into aggression, biting, and attacking. This rule applies to older children as well, though not to younger kids and babies.

 Consult with an Oakland Dog Bite Attorney About Legal Options

If you or your child suffered injuries because of a dog bite, it is important to retain legal representation right away. Our team at Venardi Zurada, LLP is ready to take action, whether we are negotiating settlement or fighting for your rights in court. To learn more about the process, please contact us to schedule a free consultation at our offices in Oakland or Walnut Creek, CA.


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