Approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur each year in the United States according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For those who have fallen victim to dog bites, you will be glad to know California is a strict liability state, which is also known as “ the dog bite statute.” Under strict liability the owner of a dog is 100 percent liable for any injuries the dog may inflict on the victim. This applies so long as the victim was not provoking the dog, trespassing, attacked by an employer’s dog, or rendering paid services that involve a dog. Strict liability does not require the injured party to prove the owner’s negligence in failing to properly supervise its dog. This means that in California there is no such thing as a “free bite.” As outlined by California Civil Code Section 3342:
“The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness. A person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner within the meaning of this section when he is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner.”
Keep in mind, strict liability applies only to the owner of the dog. If you were attacked by a dog that at the time was under the care of a “keeper” or “handler” they also may be liable for your injuries. If there is proof suggesting the “keeper” or “handler” had knowledge of prior dog bites or of the dog’s vicious propensities then liability can be placed on the “keeper” or “handler” for lack of vigilant care of such dog.