Are All Californian Dog Owners Liable for the Costs of a Bite Injury?

You didn’t want to make a big fuss about your boss’s dog biting your leg. It hurt, and you had to go to the hospital to make sure the damage wasn’t bad, but now you’re afraid that you’ll have to pay for your own hospital bills—and you are not sure your boss is going to let you have the time off work. Do you have a viable dog bite case, or was it your fault for being on his property?

Exceptions to California Dog Bite Liability

Under California law, the owner of a dog is automatically liable for any injuries the dog causes. However, there are certain exceptions where the dog’s owner is not expected to pay for the medical costs of a dog bite injury. For example, an owner would not be liable for a dog bite in San Bernardino if:

  • You provoked the dog. Victims who provoked a dog by inflicting pain or inciting the dog to defend itself will not be able to recover damages. However, if the victim was a child under five years old, the provocation defense may not be permitted since young children cannot be held responsible for their own actions.
  • You were injured by an employer's dog at work. While victims who are bitten by an employer’s dog on the job may still get compensation, they are required to get payment from their workers’ compensation rather than pursuing a dog bite case. If the employer does not have workers’ comp coverage, the employee is then free to sue the employer for negligence and damages.
  • You were performing a paid service involving the dog. Under a California Supreme Court ruling, any professional dog handlers who have been hired to perform a service automatically assume the risk of being bitten in the course of their duties. The commonly called “veterinarian's rule” applies to a wide range of victims, including dog walkers, groomers, pet shop employees, handlers and obedience trainers, house sitters, and service dog handlers. However, the court also rules that these victims can get payment if the owner mislead the canine worker about the dog's temperament or failed to warn of past aggression.
  • You were trespassing. California’s dog bite laws do not protect victims who are bitten while unlawfully entering the property of the owner of the dog.

As you can see, the issue of liability will often depend on the specifics of the case. While there are rules protecting the owners for paying for injuries that resulted from the victim’s actions, there are also laws that protect victims if the dog owner was negligent. The best way to discover who is at fault in your case is to have the incident investigated by an attorney as soon as possible. At Steinberg Injury Lawyers, our legal team will come to you to discuss your case free of charge, and we do not charge you anything until we have resolved your case. Call us today for your free case evaluation.

 

Peter Steinberg
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Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney Since 1982
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