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Who is Responsible for a Dog Attack?

Dog attacks leave victims with puncture wounds, infections, and other serious injuries. Under California law, victims have the right to seek compensation. But who is responsible for the attack? Generally, the owner is liable in most cases, but you might sue other parties for not handling the dog properly. Our dog bite lawyer explains this in greater depth.

When Owners Are to Blame

The dog’s owner is usually responsible for an attack. This is certainly true if you are bitten on the owner’s property. For example, you might visit your neighbor, whereupon their dog bites you in the arm. The owner is liable under California’s dog bite statute for this injury, so long as you weren’t trespassing.

The owner is also responsible if you are bitten in public. A dog might wander away from home and bite people in the park or on the sidewalk. Under the state’s dog bite statute, Civil Code § 3342, you can sue the owner if you are bitten in a public place, regardless of whether the dog had a history of attacking people.

Owners are also responsible for non-bite injuries when they are negligent in how they have handled or restrained their dogs. An owner must use reasonable care when restraining their animals. What’s reasonable will depend on the circumstances. But failing to follow a dog safety law, like a leash law, would certainly qualify. That means you could sue if a big dog rushed up to you in a park and jumped on your chest, knocking you backward.

When Other People Are Responsible for an Attack

In some situations, a non-owner is responsible for a dog attack. Because the dog bite statute only applies to owners, you would need to use negligence to hold non-owners responsible, for either bite or non-bite injuries.

Here are some examples:

  • A kennel could allow a dog to escape because they were careless in watching it, or their kennel was falling into disrepair, allowing the animal to escape. The dog then attacks or bites someone.
  • A dog walker could be responsible for failing to restrain the dog properly while out on a walk, which allows the dog to lunge at someone.
  • A landlord could be responsible if they voluntarily agreed to harbor the dog and feed it, or if they failed to restrain the animal because they let a fence fall down.

Generally, it’s much harder to sue a non-owner. Still, it’s possible when they fail to exercise reasonable care to protect foreseeable victims.

A Victims’ Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence applies in dog bite cases, even those under the strict liability dog bite statute. A victim’s own negligent or intentional behavior can limit the amount of compensation they receive. In some cases—where the victim is 100% at fault—they will receive nothing at all.

Examples of negligence include:

  • Throwing objects at a dog
  • Pulling its tail
  • Bumping into it
  • Teasing the animal
  • Failing to restrain your own dog, which causes a fight or attack

Reach out to Our Law Firm

Contact the Law Office of Brian P. Azemika today to discuss your injuries. We have secured compensation for many clients injured by dogs.