Dog Bites

California Dog Bite Law

Each and every state has enacted its own statues when it comes to dog bites and attacks. If you or a loved one were bitten or attacked by a dog in the state of California, then the state’s laws are in your favor. California is known as a strict liability state. This means that a dog owner is strictly liable for his or her dog’s vicious behavior, even if the animal has no prior history of biting.

Under California Civil Code §3342, the owner of a dog is liable for any damages suffered by anyone that has been bitten by the dog in a public place or lawfully in a private place, and this includes the dog owner’s private property. The dog’s owner is responsible regardless of the dog’s former viciousness, or the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s prior viciousness. If you have been bitten by a dog and suffered injuries, please contact a personal injury attorney at Harshbarger Law.

Over 4.5 Million People are Bitten By Dogs Each Year

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year and 880,000 of them require medical attention for their injuries. What’s more, thousands of men, women and children require reconstructive surgery to treat their dog bite wounds. Children between the ages of 5 and 9 are at the greatest risk of being bitten, and people living with dogs are 5 times more likely to be bitten a dog than someone who doesn’t live with dogs.

Dog bite injuries cost the insurance industry in excess of $1 billion dollars annually in homeowners’ claims, resulting in more than $100 million dollars in hospital expenses each year. This figure doesn’t take into account the costs of medical insurance claims, workers’ compensation claims (people who have been bitten during the course of their work) and loss of income.

Under California Civil Code §3342.5, any dog owner whose animal has bitten another human being should take the prudent and necessary steps to ensure that the dog doesn’t injure another person or animal in the future. What’s more, whenever a dog has been known to bite a person on two or more separate occasions, then any city attorney or district attorney can bring a legal action against the owner of the dog to ensure that the dog is prevented from injuring anyone else, and if necessary, this may include euthanizing the animal.

Understanding Insurance Coverage

Whether you’re a dog owner or a victim of a dog bite, it’s important to understand how dog bite claims get paid. In California, homeowners are not required to carry animal liability coverage under their homeowner’s insurance policies and some insurance policies won’t cover specific breeds of dogs. While the personal liability provision of a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy typically covers dog bite injuries that occur on or off the dog owner’s property, some policies will exclude certain breeds that have been identified as being particularly dangerous. The following breeds are known to be excluded from many policies: Pit Bulls and their mixes, Presa Canarios, German Shepherds, Chow Chows, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Akitas, Wolf Hybrids, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers.

Some dog owners may carry what is called a personal umbrella liability policy, this policy would provide additional coverage that extended beyond their homeowner’s insurance coverage, or it may provide coverage for dog bite injuries if their homeowner’s insurance policy didn’t cover dog bites.

In general, an auto liability insurance policy will cover a dog bite claim if it occurred in the vehicle. For example, if someone was bitten by their friend’s dog while they were inside the vehicle with the animal, the policy would typically cover the injuries. Another possibility is where the dog owner has taken out a separate policy that specifically covered dog bites and attacks. This is common where the homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy had limited coverage for dog bite injuries; however, these policies tend to have restrictions and strict coverage limits.

If someone else other than the dog owner was responsible for the dog at the time of the attack, then their insurance will generally cover your injuries. People who work with dogs such as breeders, veterinarians and animal trainers will often carry a professional insurance policy. If you are injured at a store or business, the landlord’s liability insurance policy would typically cover the injuries sustained while on their property.

Lastly, if the animal was provoked or abused by the victim, then no California insurance policy will cover such “intentional” actions. In situations where the liable party is uninsured, then he or she will be personally and financially responsible for paying for your damages.

Harshbarger Law recognizes the complexities involved when handling dog bite cases. It is important to have an attorney who understands that each case is different and special attention must be paid to the client to ensure that he or she is properly represented and fully compensated.

Contact us today for a free consultation.