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Dog Bite Liability in San Jose

Dog AttackIn California, if you are bitten by a dog, you can recover financial damages from its owner to compensate you for your harm. A state statute provides that a dog’s owner is liable for any harms suffered when the dog bites another person. The city of San Jose, however, has its own municipal code that discusses animal bites. It further provides for civil remedies when a person is bitten by another’s dog or other animal.

State Law

Under California state law, the owner of a dog is liable for any damages suffered when the dog bites a person who is in a public place or who is lawfully in a private place. This includes victims who are on the owner’s own property, as long as they are there lawfully.

Unlike some other states, California does not employ a one-bite rule, which states that an owner will not be liable for a dog’s attack unless it has bitten someone at least once before. This means that in California, the owner may be liable regardless of the dog’s former viciousness or lack thereof.

Municipal Law

San Jose’s municipal dog bite law covers all dangerous animals and not just dogs. It states that it is unlawful for an owner to allow a dangerous animal to bite any person or animal. Like the state law, it applies only when the victim is lawfully on public or private property. “Bite” is defined as any cut, laceration, tear, bruise, abrasion, or injury inflicted on the skin of the person or animal.

The municipal code further provides that human victims may initiate personal injury suits for damages. The damages recoverable under this law may include:

  • Actual damages;
  • Costs and attorney’s fees; and
  • A civil penalty of $5,000.

In some cases, the court may also award punitive damages. In determining whether to award punitive damages in a dog bite case, the court should consider whether the dog was or should have been formally identified as a dangerous or vicious dog.

This section of the code does not apply to dogs that are owned or maintained by the San Jose police department when the animals are being used for law enforcement purposes.

Quarantine and Examination

If a person has knowledge that an animal is known or believed to have bitten any person, the San Jose municipal code requires that he or she report the bite to the California Health Department. Then, an animal services officer may seize and quarantine the animal for 14 days or order the owner of the animal to quarantine it on his or her own premises. The owner must comply and must isolate the dog.

The animal is then observed for symptoms of rabies even if it has already been vaccinated against the disease. If the animal services officer quarantines the animal, the owner may have to pay a fee to cover the costs of quarantine and inspection.

If you have been bitten by a dog or other dangerous animal, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the dog’s owner. Contact the skilled San Jose personal injury attorneys at Corsiglia McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. today by calling (408) 289-1417 for a free initial consultation.

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