Dog Bite Case

Proving Liability in a Dog Bite Case

Dog bites can be extremely serious and even fatal, which means if you’ve been bitten by a dog, the medical expenses alone can be astronomical. Then, there are also things like lost wages, potential disability, and pain and suffering. You may deserve compensation for the expenses related to a dog bite, but first, you’ll have to prove that the dog’s owner is liable for your injuries. It’s always best to consult a Los Angeles dog bite lawyer to clarify the rules in California, but here are the basics for proving liability.

Research the Dog Bite Statute

There are basically two types of dog bite statutes and it’s up to each jurisdiction to decide which one it follows. The first is known as a “one bite” rule, which may shield a dog owner from liability if their pet hasn’t bitten anyone prior to biting you. This rule is less favorable to victims and while it was once the prevailing law in the U.S. with regard to dog bites, it is no longer the standard

The second type of dog bite statute that has become the prevalent law in the country is called “strict liability.” This means that a dog’s owner is responsible for their dog’s actions regardless of the dog’s biting history. You are more likely to win a liability case if you’re bitten in a state that abides by strict liability.

Determine Owner Negligence

In a one bite rule state, you’ll have a harder time proving liability, but if you can show that the owner was negligent in protecting you from their dog, the owner can be held liable even if it’s the first time their dog has bitten someone. For instance, if your city has a leash law and the owner was allowing the dog to run off-leash when it bit you, it’s possible the owner was negligent.

You might also be able to prove the dog is known to be dangerous even if it’s never bitten anyone. Neighbors might have complained about the dog’s aggressiveness as they walked by the fence, or the dog has been known to lunge at strangers while on a leash or chain. Building a case around negligence is difficult, but it is one way to prove liability in states with one-bite laws.

Understand Exceptions to Strict Liability

While it is easier to prove owner liability in a state with strict liability laws, there are some exceptions to the rule. If you were trespassing on private property when you were bitten by the dog, you are a veterinarian, or you were provoking, harassing, or hurting the dog when it bit you, the owner may not be held liable in your case.

In an instance such as this, the owner will have to prove that you were trespassing on their property or provoking the animal to negate the strict liability law. Since these cases aren’t always open and shut, you should still take steps to gather evidence that the owner was negligent so you can prove the strict liability statute.


In many states, dog bite liability is a given unless the victim did something to instigate the bite. But, it’s still recommended that you consult an attorney to make sure you follow all the steps to receive the compensation you deserve.

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