If you are bitten by a dog in San Bernardino County or Riverside County, you can suffer serious physical injuries and mental scars that last long after your wounds have healed. Although most people tend to discount the risk of suffering ahomeowner liability insurersn injury caused by the neighbor’s pooch, dog bites account for more than one in every three claims paid by . The risk is especially high in California, which is the location of the highest volume of dog bite injury claims in the United States according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). Our Ontario, California dog bite attorneys have provided answer to common question we receive about dog bite and mauling injuries from victims in the Inland Empire.
Does an owner need to know their dog has a history of biting to be liable for a dog bite?
No. California differs from many states in that there is no requirement that the owner have any knowledge that the dog bit or attacked anyone previously. The California statute specifically provides that there is no “scienter” requirement [knowledge that the dog has injured another person in a similar manner or exhibited prior aggressive tendencies].
Does the owner need to have been careless in supervising the dog to be liable for a dog bite?
No. California follows the rule of strict liability for dog bite injuries. This means that an owner can be liable for a dog bite even if the owner has not been negligent [careless] in supervising the animal. The mere act of the dog biting a person who is lawfully present on the premises can give rise to liability regardless of the conduct of the dog owner in supervising and controlling the animal.
Can I sue even if the dog bites me on someone else’s private property?
Yes. If you are lawfully on the premises, the dog owner can still be held liable for a dog bite even if the dog owner was not negligent [careless] and had no reason to know the dog would bite someone. An example of someone that would be protected by this statute would include a mail carrier, visiting friend/neighbor, or a pizza delivery man.
Is a dog owner liable even if the person bitten is a trespasser or burglar?
It depends. The California statute specifically protects people who have “any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States . . .” or anyone who is present with an express or implied invitation. This language would generally exclude someone who is present to commit a criminal act where no invitation can reasonably be implied. However, a Jehovah’s witness or door-to-door solicitor might be unwelcome in the eyes of a particular owner but still be viewed as having an implied invitation under California law. California courts have found that sometimes a child playing in the backyard can be a trespasser who is not protected. However, the issue of implied consent is a sophisticated legal issue, and it is imperative that an attorney be consulted for specific advice in such situations.
Is a resident liable for a dog bite from someone else’s dog present on the property even if the resident had no idea the dog might bite someone?
No. The California statute is specifically limited to dog “owners” in terms of not requiring any knowledge that the dog has a history of aggressive conduct (e.g. biting, lunging, etc.). However, a person can still be liable for a dog bite that occurs on his or her property. The injured party will need to show the resident had a reason to know the dog might bite (i.e. knowledge of similar past conduct by the dog) or establish another legal theory of liability.
Can I sue under the statute applying strict liability and no knowledge requirement if my injury was not a dog bite?
No. The California statute is expressly limited to dog bites. This does not mean that a person whose dog causes injury in another way, such as knocking over a bicyclist, is not subject to liability. In non-bite cases, proving a legal claim might be more difficult because evidence might be needed to establish knowledge that the dog might attack and negligence [carelessness] in supervising the dog before the dog owner is liable. However, ordinances that require dogs be kept on a leash and similar statutes might also provide a basis for imposing liability depending on the facts and circumstances.
Can a dog owner still be held liable for a dog bite if the dog is provoked?
It depends. Some courts have found that “provocation” (i.e. reaching through the fence and attacking a dog with a stick) is a defense to liability for a dog bite. However, this depends on the circumstances, such as the nature of the provocation and the severity of the bite/attack to determine whether the dog’s response was justified. However, a small child [i.e. 5 and under] generally will not be found to have provoked the dog regardless of the child’s conduct.
If you are injured by a dog in Upland, Ontario, CA, or surrounding areas of the Inland Empire, you might be entitled to financial compensation. Our experienced Inland Empire dog bite lawyers at Schwartzberg & Luther, APC are committed to providing effective legal representation, so you can pursue the fullest compensation for your injuries or other forms of loss. Contact Schwartzberg & Luther, APC at (909) 457-4270 to schedule your free consultation!