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What Happens if a Dog Bites Someone on Your Property?

Posted on November 10, 2021 in Dog Bites

A dog attack can happen when you least expect it. Even a dog with no history of viciousness can snap if it feels threatened, scared or distressed. If a dog bites someone on your property in California, you could face legal consequences. Find out when you are and are not responsible for a dog bite injury on your property. For further assistance with a dog bite injury claim – as the plaintiff or defendant – contact a dog bite attorney in Los Angeles for a free consultation.

Who Is Responsible for a Dog Bite Injury in California?

California has a strict liability dog bite law under Civil Code Section 3342. This means that an individual will be financially responsible (liable) for injuries or damage caused by a dog even if the owner was not negligent. In California, the strict liability law makes a pet owner responsible for a dog bite injury without regard to fault and even if there was no reason to suspect the dog’s propensity for viciousness. However, there is an exception to the rule if:

  • The dog bite injury occurred while the victim was trespassing on private property. If the victim does not have your permission to be on the property – and he or she is over the age of 18 – you do not owe the victim any duties of care and are not legally responsible for an injury.
  • The victim harassed or provoked the dog. If the victim instigated the attack by harassing, provoking, bothering or injuring the dog, he or she may lose the right to hold you responsible for the injury and related medical bills.
  • The dog was performing job-related duties as a police or military canine. In this scenario, the dog (as well as its controller and a property owner) cannot be held responsible for the bite injury, as long as the victim was the suspect that the dog was meant to attack.

California’s strict liability dog bite law means that if your dog bites someone on your property, you will most likely have to pay for the victim’s related medical bills and property damage. This is the case even if you had a “Beware of Dog” sign on your property. Posting these signs does not protect you from liability for a dog bite injury, in most cases. You are still responsible for preventing dog bite injuries to invited or authorized guests.

What if the Dog Wasn’t Yours?

California’s strict liability dog bite law applies to the owner, possessor or harborer of any dog. Even if you were watching someone else’s dog, you could still be held liable. If the dog that bit the victim was a stray, you may be liable under the rules of premises liability. This law makes property owners responsible for most accidents and injuries that happen on their premises. If there is proof that a reasonable and prudent property owner or landlord would have taken steps to prevent the dog attack, you could be found liable for the injury.

Will Your Homeowners Insurance Pay?

Most standard homeowners insurance policies in California will pay for dog bite injuries caused by the policyholder’s pet. Homeowners insurance policies cover the policyholder’s property, which includes dogs by legal definition. This means that the homeowners insurance company will pay for injuries and property damage caused by the policyholder’s dog, whether the incident occurred on the person’s property or not.

If you do not have a homeowners insurance policy, renter’s insurance may also cover a dog bite injury. If you do not have either type of insurance, you may be responsible for paying for a dog bite injury victim’s injuries and medical bills out of pocket. The dog bite victim or the courts may work with you to create a payment plan if you cannot afford a lump sum, depending on the circumstances. 

If you are currently involved in a dog bite injury case in Los Angeles, call (213) 626-0571 for assistance from a knowledgeable attorney.