| Read Time: 4 minutes | Personal Injury
what happens if a dog bites someone on your property

Can someone sue you if your dog bites them on your property? Yes, and you would typically sue the individuals renters or homeowners insurance. California operates under a strict liability rule, meaning that dog owners are typically held responsible for injuries caused by their dogs.

Owning a dog can provide joy and companionship for many individuals and families. However, it’s essential to understand that dog ownership also comes with responsibilities, particularly regarding the safety of others. One significant concern for dog owners is the potential for their pets to bite someone while on their property. 

California has specific laws and regulations to address these situations and determine what happens if a dog bites someone on your property.

Under California law, dog owners can be held liable if their dog bites someone on their property. These laws aim to protect both the victim and the dog owner while ensuring that incidents of dog bites are handled fairly and responsibly.

What Happens if a Dog Bites Someone on Your Property?

California’s laws require dog owners to take reasonable steps to prevent their dogs from injuring others. This includes keeping dogs properly restrained, such as using a leash, fence, or enclosure in public or around unfamiliar individuals. If your dog bites someone on your property, you may be liable for any resulting injuries. 

Can Someone Sue You If Your Dog Bites Them on Your Property? 

California operates under a strict liability rule, meaning that dog owners are typically held responsible for injuries caused by their dogs, whether the dog has a history of aggression. This liability extends to incidents on the owner’s property, in public places, or even when the victim is lawfully on private property.

Homeowners’ insurance policies often cover liability for dog bites, but coverage limitations can vary. It’s critical for dog owners to be aware of potential legal and financial consequences, including compensation for medical bills and possible legal action, if their dog injures someone. 

What Happens To My Dog If It Bites Someone?

Depending on the severity of the bite and any prior incidents involving your dog, authorities may deem your dog a “dangerous dog” or “vicious dog.” This classification could result in restrictions on your dog’s ownership, such as mandatory muzzling, containment requirements, or euthanasia if the dog is deemed a serious threat.

California does not have a specific statewide requirement mandating the automatic euthanasia of a dog after it bites someone. Instead, the fate of a dog involved in a biting incident is typically determined on a case-by-case basis, considering various factors. These factors may include the following:

  • The severity of the bite;
  • Dog’s history of aggression;
  • Provocation; and
  • Local ordinances.

In some cases, dog owners may need to take specific actions, such as muzzling the dog, keeping it securely confined, or attending behavior training as part of an effort to prevent future incidents.

While euthanasia may be considered in cases where a dog poses a severe threat to public safety, it is not an automatic requirement in California. The decision regarding the dog’s fate is typically made based on a combination of these factors and local laws or regulations. 

What Is the Average Dog Bite Settlement in California

It is difficult to quantify an average dog bite settlement case because many factors can influence how much a person can expect to receive. However, according to data from the Insurance Information Institute, California has the highest number of dog bite homeowners liability claims and the highest value of claims. In 2021, there were about 2,026 claims, with an average cost of $59,561 per claim. 

The amount you may owe if your dog bites someone in California can vary widely, depending on several factors. The extent and severity of the victim’s injuries are a leading factor in determining the settlement amount.

Victims who experience serious injuries, including deep lacerations, nerve damage, or disfigurement, are likely to secure a higher settlement. Further, medical expenses, such as the total cost of hospitalizations, rehabilitation, medication, and ongoing care, can impact a dog bite settlement.

Victims who cannot work because of their injuries may receive damages to account for lost wages and loss of future income. Subjective non-economic damages, such as physical pain, emotional distress, and mental anguish, also play a role in determining the settlement. 

Defenses to Dog Bite Claim in California 

If your dog bites someone on your property, you may raise various defenses to mitigate liability or avoid legal consequences. 

Provocation

California law recognizes that if the victim provoked the dog, the dog owner may have a valid defense. However, this defense relies on establishing that the victim’s actions directly led to the dog’s aggressive behavior. 

Trespassing

Those who are illegally on the dog owner’s property at the time of the dog bite may have a more challenging time collecting damages for their injuries. This defense can reduce the dog owner’s liability, although it may not completely absolve them.

Assumption of Risk 

In some situations, the dog owner may argue that the victim voluntarily assumed the risk of being bitten. The dog owner typically needs to show that the victim was aware of the dog’s aggressive tendencies or that there were clear warnings about the dog’s behavior.

Dog Attack, Not Bite

California’s strict liability rules apply to dog bite cases. Strict liability does not apply in non-bite dog attack cases; however, the owner may be responsible under other negligence theories. 

It’s essential to note that the effectiveness of these defenses can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case, the evidence available, and applicable local laws. If your dog bites someone on your property, you should consult with a knowledgeable attorney experienced in dog bite cases. 

Are You Interested in Learning More About Dog Bite Liability in California?

If someone was recently bitten by a dog on your property, it is important to understand whether you could be potentially liable for the bite victim’s medical expenses and other accident-related costs.

At the Weinberg Law Offices, P.C., our dedicated California dog bite lawyers have decades of experience investigating, negotiating and litigating dog bite claims and are immediately available to meet with you to discuss your situation.

To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation today, give the Weinberg Law Offices, P.C., a call. You can also connect with us through our online contact form

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As a personal injury attorney, my mantra is that there is no such thing as a “small case”. I will give 100% matter how big or small a case may be. I am fluent in English, Hebrew, and Spanish, languages which I use regularly in my practice.