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Possible Defenses in Dog Bite Cases

Beware of Dog AdIf you are bitten by a dog in California, you can sue the owner of the dog for your injuries. California has a statute providing for strict liability in dog bite cases. This means that if a dog bites a person who is in a public place or is lawfully in a private place, the owner or keeper of the dog is liable to the injured person for damages resulting from the bite. However, there are some possible defenses that can limit this liability.

Provocation and Negligence

If the injured person provoked the dog to attack—either purposely or negligently—the owner may not be held liable for the resulting injuries. For example, kicking or teasing the dog, accidentally stepping on its tail, or other unreasonable and careless behavior can prevent recovery under the dog bite statute.

This defense is not an option, however, when the injured person was a child under the age of five. This is because children under five are incapable of acting with reasonable care. Normally, people must take precautions to prevent an attack by a dog, but young children who provoke attacks do not know any better and, therefore, may recover damages in spite of their actions.

Assumption of the Risk

The assumption of the risk is a complete defense to recovery in California. An injured person has assumed the risk of injury when he or she voluntarily consents to an activity despite knowing of an inherent specific known hazard. Assuming the risk of harm means forfeiting the right to sue if the harm does occur. For example, if veterinarians or veterinary assistants agree to treat dogs, they assume the risk of the dogs biting them. Dog bites are a known danger in these professions, and veterinarians are in the best position to take precautions to avoid the harm of a dog bite.

Trespassing and Recovery

In order to recover compensation under the dog bite statute if a dog bites someone on private property, the injured person must have been lawfully on the property. This means that if a person is trespassing at the time of the injury, the statute does not apply. However, an injured party who was trespassing may be able to sue under a different cause of action such as negligence but is likely to face challenges in proving his or her case.

Police and Military Dogs

The dog bite statute specifically provides for situations in which a dog was on duty for military or police work. An injured person may not sue the government or agency for injuries sustained in the course of the dog’s work.

Other Injuries

Finally, the statute requires that the injury must be caused by a bite from a dog. However, dogs may injure people in other ways, such as by scratching someone or knocking a person over. If the statute does not apply, the owner may be liable for negligence depending on the case.

If you have been bitten by a dog, you should consult with a lawyer regarding whether you can recover damages. Contact the dedicated Monterey County personal injury attorneys at Corsiglia McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. for a free consultation today. Call (408) 298-7200 and get the help you need.

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