California Dog Bite Law Overview

California Dog Bite Lawsuits

Nearly 5 million people are bitten each year by dogs. Many of these dog bites occur right here in Southern California and many require expensive medical procedures. Dog bite injuries often require victims to sue insurance companies that insure the dog owner. The personal injury attorneys of Lederer & Nojima are extremely experienced in this area of the law. If you or a loved one has been bitten or suffered in any way as the result of a dog attack, contact an experienced dog bite attorney without delay. We have the resources and the experience to help you pursue maximum compensation after a dog bite injury.

For a free consultation, call 310-312-1860. You will owe us nothing unless we win your case. 

Californias Strict Liability Statute

Under California law, liability in dog bite lawsuits is based upon ownership and the dog’s past behavior is irrelevant. In California, a victim of a dog bite only needs to show that:

  • the dog was owned by the defendant;

  • the bite took place on public property or while the victim was lawfully on private property;

  • the victim was actually bitten by the dog; and

  • the victim was injured by the dog.

A dog owner is not always liable under the statute if he or she can prove one of these defenses to a claim for injuries in a dog bite case:

  • Trespass: The dog owner may not be liable if the victim trespassed upon property where the attack occurred (however the victim might be able to sue for negligence).

  • The injury was not a bite: The statute’s strict liability provisions only apply to injuries caused by an actual bite. If the victim was injured by being jumped on or knocked down, for example, any recovery would be under a negligence theory. Compensation may still be available in such cases. 

  • Assumption of the risk: If the victim provoked the dog to attack and therefore assumed a risk of injury, the owner might not be liable.

Other Possible Responsible Parties

The California statute applies to the “owner of any dog,” but what happens when the dog is under the control of another person when the victim is bitten? A keeper or handler may be liable for a victim’s injuries, but not under the strict liability statute. In contrast to an owner, a keeper or handler must have some prior knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensities, such as a prior bite, before he or she can be held liable. Liability can also be shown if the keeper or handler was negligent in their handling or control of the dog at the time of the injury. Negligence is established by showing that the owner or handler was not reasonably careful in controlling the dog under the circumstances and the victim was injured as a result. Landlord’s may also be liable for a victim’s injuries, depending upon their knowledge of the dog’s vicious tendencies.

A dog bite can cause very serious injuries as well as emotional trauma that can last long after the incident. If you or a loved one has been injured by a dog bite, you may be able to recover your past and future medical expenses, compensation for pain and suffering, lost wages and possibly punitive damages as well. Contact our California dog bite law attorneys to talk with an experienced ally who will aggressively fight to protect your rights.


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Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyers


David Lederer and John Nojima used to defend the insurance companies. Now they are on your side.

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