How to Establish Fault in a California Dog Bite Case
Because of California's strict liability law, the first defendant to pursue is the owner of the dog. A San Diego dog bite lawyer can help.
This concept is encoded in California Civil Code Section 3342(a): "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."
Testifying For Your Dog Bite Case
Even with this rule, there are some critical facts you need to learn about your specific injury case. You need to confirm whose dog bit you. Oftentimes, a dog bite occurs when a person is trying to break up a dog fight, attempting to save their small dog from being attacked by a larger dog.
If you don’t know for sure which dog bit you, and you testify in your deposition this way, then you just testified your way out of strict liability. The only way to salvage your strict liability claim would be to hire a puncture wound expert and compare your wounds to the size of the teeth to see if you can match up which dog it was that injured you. This is not without risks in terms of both costs and whether a theory can be asserted on said medical evidence.
If you were not bitten, you will not be able to sue under strict liability as the statute only applies to dog bites. Other injuries—such as fending off a dog from biting you, causing you to fall and roll an ankle, sprain a wrist, break a bone, get a concussion, or similar injuries—can only be sued under negligence theory against the at-fault dog owner.
This means you have to prove the at-fault dog owner was not careful enough to safeguard your safety. A common assertion to prove this is the at-fault dog owner had his or her dog off leash when you were attacked, and fended off the attacking dog. You can use this assertion if the dog attack occurred off of the owner’s private property. Local leash laws can help you with this assertion for your injury claim. Get in touch with a San Diego dog bite attorney for help with your claim.