Like many of you, I am a dog owner and have been fortunate to own several wonderful dogs throughout my life. Dog ownership brings joy and an adventure to a person and/or family! (I still smile every night when I see our 100+lb Golden Retriever cuddle up in bed to go to sleep with my 11 year old son … “a dog and his boy”!)
In addition to the “good” side of dogs (they are “Man’s best friend”), and the “not so good” side (those “dog nuisances” that litter our walkways), there is a potentially “dangerous” side of dogs that can create significant legal liability for a dog owner.
California law holds a dog owner “strictly liable” (automatically responsible) for any injuries caused by their dog. While there are exceptions (it doesn’t protect trespassers and/or people who provoke a dog), those exceptions rarely apply. Meaning if someone is bitten or attacked by a dog, that injury victim has the legal right to make a claim against the dog owner for any and all injuries, including medical bills and “pain and suffering” (often involving permanent scarring at the bite location[s]).
Our firm has represented hundreds of dog bite victims. While most cases involve a dog that has actually bitten someone, several have involved situations where a dog makes a threatening move causing someone to fall down. In either situation, the injured person can make a claim against the dog’s owner, even if the owner is not with the dog at the time of the attack. Whether a dog is running alone, or being walked by someone other than the owner, the dog owner is “strictly liable” for the injuries caused by their dog. In almost any situation involving an injury caused by a dog, the injury victim has a right to make a legal claim against the dog owner.
If your dog injures someone and that person makes a claim against you, you can offer to pay for that person’s injuries “out of pocket”. If the injuries are serious, you should report the attack to your Homeowners insurance company immediately. Your policy should protect you against the claim. (It is important to note that there are some breeds that are often EXCLUDED from coverage under homeowner’s insurance including, but not limited to, Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Akitas, etc. ) If you have any question about whether or not your dog is covered under your liability policy, we strongly recommend that you contact your insurance carrier.
Even in “safe neighborhoods”, dog attacks do occur; and while they may not be the dog owner’s “fault,” the law does hold the owner responsible. If you or a loved one have been attacked and/or bitten by a dog, call the Tomalas Law Firm today for more information about your rights.