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May 8, 2023

7 Mistakes When Suing for a Dog Bite in California: Minor or Severe

Legally reviewed by: Jessica Anvar Stotz, JD, MBA

Short answer: Yes, you can sue for a minor or severe dog bite in California.

California follows a strict liability rule for dog bite cases, which means that dog owners are generally held responsible for injuries caused by their dogs, regardless of the dog’s previous behavior or the owner’s knowledge of it.

This rule applies as long as the person bitten was lawfully on the property where the incident occurred, or was in a public place.

However, if the injured person provoked the dog or was trespassing, the owner’s liability may be reduced. Overall, California law provides legal recourse for dog bite victims to seek compensation for their injuries.

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7 Common Mistakes in Dog Bite Cases

  1. Failing to seek immediate medical attention: Delaying or neglecting medical treatment after a dog bite can be detrimental to both your health and your legal case. Seeking prompt medical attention ensures proper documentation of the injuries and helps establish the link between the dog bite and your damages.
  2. No evaluation of dog’s behavior: There was no professional evaluation of the dog’s nature or behavior by an animal expert or veterinarian. Dogs generally cannot lie when being evaluated. Meaning an aggressive, vicious dog will not act friendly during an evaluation and a friendly dog will not act aggressive.
  3. Not reporting the incident: Failing to report the dog bite to the appropriate authorities, such as local animal control or law enforcement, can hinder the investigation and documentation process. Reporting the incident creates an official record and helps establish liability.
  4. Not gathering evidence: Neglecting to collect crucial evidence, such as photographs of the injuries, identifying witnesses, or obtaining the owner’s contact information, can weaken your case. Strong evidence is crucial to establishing liability and proving the extent of your damages.
  5. Failure to use an investigator: Investigators can gather and document additional evidence from the dog owner’s home in certain instances. There may be additional evidence they can gather like furniture with chew marks and significant scratches on doors.
  6. Settling too quickly: Accepting a quick settlement offer from the dog owner’s insurance company without consulting with a legal professional may result in undervaluing your claim. It’s essential to have a thorough understanding of your rights and the potential compensation you are entitled to before accepting any settlement.
  7. Not consulting with an attorney: Dog bite cases can be complex, involving various legal considerations and statutes. Failing to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney can lead to overlooking important legal options or accepting inadequate settlements. An attorney can provide guidance, protect your rights, and maximize your chances of receiving fair compensation.

Dog Bite Evaluator Quiz

Looking to evaluate how minor or severe your dog bite is. Take our short quiz below to find out if you need an attorney.



Level 1-6 Dog Bites in CA

In California, dog bites are typically categorized into different levels based on the severity of the injury and the circumstances surrounding the incident. Here’s a general description of the levels:

  1. Level 1: A level 1 dog bite refers to a situation where the dog’s behavior is considered non-aggressive. It may involve jumping, nipping, or briefly touching the person without breaking the skin or causing any injury.
  2. Level 2: A level 2 dog bite involves a dog biting and making contact with the person’s skin, resulting in minor abrasions or scratches. The injuries are typically superficial, and medical attention may or may not be required.
  3. Level 3: A level 3 dog bite indicates a moderate injury that requires medical treatment. It involves puncture wounds, deeper lacerations, or multiple bite marks that break the skin and may cause tissue damage. Stitches or sutures may be needed to close the wounds.
  4. Level 4: A level 4 dog bite refers to a more severe injury that requires immediate medical attention. It involves multiple deep puncture wounds or extensive tearing of the skin, resulting in significant tissue damage. Surgery or reconstructive procedures may be necessary.
  5. Level 5: A level 5 dog bite signifies a very severe injury that often leads to permanent impairment or disfigurement. It involves extensive tissue loss, multiple fractures, or damage to vital organs. Extensive medical treatment, surgeries, and long-term rehabilitation may be necessary.
  6. Level 6: Level 6 represents a dog bite incident resulting in the victim’s death.

It’s important to note that these descriptions are general and may vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case. In any dog bite situation, seeking immediate medical attention and consulting with a legal professional is advisable to understand your rights and legal options.

sue for dog bite

Can I Sue for a Dog Injury That Isn’t a Dog Bite?

Yes, in California, you can potentially sue for an injury caused by a dog that is not a bite. While dog bites are a common basis for legal action, California law extends liability to other types of injuries caused by dogs.

California Civil Code section 3342(a) states that a dog owner can be held responsible if their dog causes injury to someone, regardless of whether it resulted from a bite or another form of injury.

This means that if a dog knocks someone over, causes them to fall, or otherwise causes harm or injury, the injured party may have grounds to pursue a lawsuit against the dog owner for damages.

Can I Sue if Another Dog Bites and Injures My Dog?

In California, if another dog bites and injures your dog, you may have grounds to sue for damages. California law recognizes that dog owners have a duty to control their pets and prevent them from causing harm to others, including other dogs.

If the owner of the dog that caused the injury was negligent or in violation of local leash laws, resulting in harm to your dog, you may be able to pursue legal action to seek compensation for veterinary bills, medical expenses, and other damages.

What is Considered a Minor Dog Bite You Cannot Sue For?

In California, there is no specific threshold for what is considered a “minor” dog bite that cannot be sued for. The state follows a strict liability rule for dog bite cases, meaning that dog owners are generally held responsible for injuries caused by their dogs, regardless of the severity of the bite.

However, it’s worth noting that the owner’s liability may be reduced if the injured person provoked the dog or was trespassing at the time of the incident. Ultimately, whether a dog bite is considered minor or not, individuals who have been bitten by a dog in California have the right to pursue legal action and seek compensation for their injuries. If this scenario sounds like you, consult with a dog bite attorney to evaluate the specific circumstances of the case.

5 Reasons a Dog Owner May Not be Liable for a Dog Bite

  1. Provoking the dog: If the person who suffered the dog bite provoked the dog intentionally or engaged in behavior that reasonably provoked the dog, the owner may not be held liable for the resulting bite.
  2. Injury at work: If the person was bitten while performing their duties as part of their job, and their occupation involves a recognized risk of dog bites (e.g., a veterinarian, dog groomer, or postal worker), the owner may be exempt from liability due to the assumption of risk associated with the profession.
  3. Paid service: If the person who was bitten was performing a paid service for the dog owner, such as dog walking or pet sitting, and the inherent risks of working with dogs were known and accepted, the owner may not be held liable.
  4. Trespassing: If the person who was bitten was unlawfully on the owner’s property at the time of the incident, they may be considered a trespasser. In such cases, the owner’s liability may be reduced or eliminated, as they have a lesser duty of care towards trespassers.
  5. Consent and assumption of risk: If the injured person voluntarily assumed the risk associated with interacting with the dog and explicitly consented to the possibility of being bitten, the owner may have a defense against liability.

It’s important to note that legal outcomes can depend on the specific circumstances of each case and the interpretation of the law by the courts. Consulting with a legal professional is crucial for accurate advice based on the particular details of your situation.

What if a Family Member or Friend’s Dog Bit Me and I’m Uncomfortable Suing?

In many instances, homeowners’ insurance can cover injuries from dog attacks that happen on the dog owner’s property. This is just part of the many areas homeowners’ insurance is for. The average liability of coverage can be around $300,000.

Medical bills and lasting damages can add up after a dog bite. Depending on your case you may have the option to recover money from homeowners’ insurance as opposed to someone close to you.

dog bite sue

Consult with an Attorney

If you have questions about a recent dog bite incident we have answers. LawLinq is connected with some of the best dog bite attorneys in California who are ready to get to work on your potential case.

Call now to get connected with top rated dog bite attorneys in your area. Looking for a reputable attorney is time consuming. That’s why we did it for you.


About the Author

Jessica Anvar

California Consumer Litigation Attorney Jessica Anvar, Esq. is the Founder and Managing Partner of Lemon Law Experts California’s leading lemon law firm. She has multiple years’ worth of experience working with both state and federal lemon laws. Her practice focuses exclusively on consumer protection cases. Ms. Anvar received her J.D. from Loyola Law School. She also earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Loyola Marymount University. Jessica is very active in her local legal community and has helped thousands of clients across the state of California. She has an outstanding record as a true advocate for consumers.

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