• What are your rights in a dog bite case?
  • November 16, 2010
  • Law Firm: The Mason Law Firm - Santa Clarita Office
  • You are taking a walk one evening when a dog runs out of a residence and attacks you.  What should you do?  Dogs come in different breeds, sizes, and temperaments. So, try to remember the dog’s description, including breed, color and size.  If the owner is identifiable, obtain all necessary information about him or her, including name, address and contact information. 

    A dog bite can be very serious even when the bite comes from a small dog. The victim can suffer serious physical injuries, such as lacerations, scarring and even nerve damage.  So, if bitten, you should clean the wound immediately, using soap and warm water.  If a dog bite is not properly cleaned, it can even lead to an infection resulting in even more severe injuries. You should also take pictures of the bite wound(s) as soon as possible.  Aside from physical injuries, the victim can suffer serious emotional injuries from the dog attack, resulting in anxiety, depression and even nightmares. 

    You also need to find out if the dog is up to date on its shots.  If the dog is a stray, you will need to undergo rabies treatment.

    What are your legal rights?  California law on dog bites is “strict liability.”  Under Civil Code Section 3342, “the owner of a dog is liable to anyone bitten by their dog who is in a public place, or lawfully in a private place, including the dog owner's property regardless of whether the dog has ever bit anyone before and regardless of whether the owner knew the dog had bitten anyone before.”  So, for liability purposes, it makes no difference if the dog was a pitbull or a chihuahua, or if the dog was bred to be in dog fights or a simple household pet who, before the attack, never hurt a fly.

    However, Section 3342 only applies to dog owners.  If someone is keeping the dog, but does not own it, then the keeper may be responsible under a negligence theory, meaning that they may be responsible if they knew the dog had a propensity to be dangerous but failed to take appropriate action(s), under the circumstances, to keep the dog from attacking you.  

    What about landlords?  A landlord may be responsible for a dog owned by his/her tenant if the landlord knew of the dog, and knew that the dog had dangerous propensities.

    It is important to consult with an attorney, especially before speaking with the adverse party’s insurance company or giving a statement.  Do not fill out documents provided by the insurance company.  This article strictly talks about California law.  Laws in other states may differ.  This article is for educational purposes only and is not meant to serve as legal advice.

    This article is provided by Mason Rashtian, partner of The Mason Law Firm, a firm specializing in personal injury matters, including, but not limited to accidents, slip and falls, dog bites, electrocutions, food poisoning, and defective products.  We represent clients throughout the State of California.  If you have a legal question, Mr. Rashtian will provide you with an honest and complete assessment and educate you as to your options. There is never a fee unless there is recovery. Please contact him at (661) 362-0805 or (818) 700-8422 or visit his website at http://www.mrscvlaw.com or http://www.scvinjuryline.com