What is California One Bite Rule?

What is California One Bite Rule?

July 13, 2022

Ellis Law Corporation

Dog Bites

While dogs are considered man’s best friend, and most people would agree with this, they can also cause significant damage in some situations. This occurs through biting, scratching, and knocking people over. It’s crucial to understand the law surrounding dog bites in the event that you are bitten or your dog bites someone so you can take the proper steps. If you need help, contact us today to set up a free consultation.

Understanding The One Bite Rule

Some states adopt the one bite rule regarding dog bites. This essentially means that a dog gets a “free pass” of one bite before the owner can be held liable for injuries. If it’s the first bite, the owner is only liable if he knew or should have known that the dog had the propensity to act in a dangerous manner and might bite someone. After one bite occurs, the owner is on notice that their dog has this dangerous propensity, and they must take all necessary precautions to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Does California Use the One-Bite Rule?

The state of California does not use the “one bite rule” for most dog bite cases. Instead, dog bite situations are governed by strict liability. In California, a dog owner is strictly liable anytime their dog bites someone – there doesn’t need to be evidence that the dog was dangerous or that the owner was negligent. This is true whether it was the first time or the 50th time that the dog bit someone.

Exceptions To Strict Liability

There are some exceptions to strict liability in California, in which case the one-bite rule may be utilized. In the following circumstances, a dog owner may not be strictly liable:

  • The victim was injured by the dog but not bitten. If the victim was injured because the dog knocked them over, this doesn’t fall under strict liability because it was not a bite.
  • The victim was trespassing. If the victim was trespassing, the dog owner will not be strictly liable. For strict liability to apply, the victim must have been on public property or lawfully on private property at the time of the attack.
  • The dog was working with law enforcement and was in the line of duty at the time of the bite.
  • The victim was partially responsible for the bite and their injuries. If the victim was bitten because they were provoking the dog, the owner will not be held strictly liable.

When one of these exceptions exists, the injured party will not be successful in a civil claim using strict liability. Instead, they must prove that the dog owner was negligent, and their negligence was the cause of the injuries they suffered.

When strict liability is not applicable, the one-bite rule can be used as a way to help prove negligence. If the owner knows that the dog has bitten someone in the past, this would lend to the fact that the owner knew or should have known that the dog might bite someone again.

Veterinarians and Those Who Work With Dogs Professionally

Another exception to strict liability regarding dog bites in California applies to veterinarians and those who work with dogs professionally, such as dog walkers, dog groomers, veterinary technicians, dog kennel employees, and others who are paid to interact with dogs. These individuals, on the basis of their employment, are said to have assumed the risk of being bitten.

However, if the dog owner knew that their dog was aggressive and had bitten people in the past and failed to warn the veterinarian or other professional working with their dog, strict liability can apply.

If you were bitten by a dog and need assistance initiating a claim, contact our Los Angeles dog bite lawyers today to set up a free consultation.