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Strict Liability Rule for Dog Bites in California

Don’t Be Caught Unaware: Understanding the Los Angeles Dog Bite Rule

Are you aware of the legal complexities surrounding dog bites in Los Angeles? The Los Angeles dog bite rule, a subject often overlooked, plays a vital role in safeguarding the rights of both pet owners and those who have been bitten. This rule pertains to the legal responsibilities associated with dog bites that occur within the city limits of Los Angeles. 

In essence, it governs the liability of dog owners for injuries inflicted by their pets. Understanding the Los Angeles dog bite rule is crucial, as it can determine who is held responsible for medical bills and other damages resulting from a dog bite incident. 

Quick Summary

Below is an overview of the key points of this blog post article.

  • The “one bite rule” means that if a dog has previously shown aggressive behavior, the owner can be held responsible for future injuries caused by the dog, even if it’s the first time it has bitten someone.
  • California’s strict liability law, California Civil Code 3342, makes dog owners responsible for bites, but exceptions apply, such as when the victim was trespassing or the dog was a working law enforcement animal.
  • Various regulations in Los Angeles are detailed, covering topics like backyard breeding, excessive barking, inhumane treatment, leash laws, and dog licenses.
  • The one bite rule may apply when the victim is a trespasser, and it’s challenging to prove negligence.
  • Leaving the scene of a dog bite can result in fines, and the responsible party must provide information to the victim.
  • The one bite rule can be used in certain cases where strict liability doesn’t apply, such as trespassing situations or when the dog owner isn’t the actual owner.
  • There’s a two-year statute of limitations for dog bite claims in California, with potential extensions in certain cases.
  • Strict liability applies in civil cases against dog owners, while criminal charges are decided by the district attorney’s office, with a higher burden of proof.
  • Victims can seek compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, property damage, scarring, and punitive damages in cases of extreme negligence or malice.

What is the One Bite Rule?

The “one bite rule” when it comes to dog bites means that if someone’s dog has shown aggressive behavior before, the owner can be held responsible for any injuries the dog causes, even if it’s the first time it has bitten someone. This rule gets its name from the fact that the first bite is like a warning sign. 

If a dog has bitten someone in the past, it tells the owner that the dog might be dangerous. Once the owner knows this, they have a legal obligation to take steps to prevent future bites. If they don’t, they can be held accountable for any future incidents involving their dog.

What is the Los Angeles Dog Bite Rule?

Back in 1931, California introduced a law that made dog owners strictly responsible for any dog bites. This law, known as California Civil Code 3342, replaced the one bite rule not only in Los Angeles but throughout the entire state of California. 

However, it’s important to note that the one bite rule might still come into play in dog bite cases that don’t directly fall under the scope of this statute. California’s primary dog bite law is California Civil Code 3342, and under this law, dog owners are held strictly liable for bites that occur in either of these two situations:

  • In public
  • Where the victim had a lawful right to be

This creates specific situations where the strict liability rule for dog owners doesn’t apply. These exceptions encompass:

  • The lawsuit targets someone other than the owner.
  • The injured person entered the owner’s property without permission.
  • The dog was a working police or law enforcement animal at the time.
  • The injured person shares some responsibility for their injuries.
  • The injured person knowingly accepted the risk of a dog bite.

If any of these exceptions come into play, dog bite victims cannot hold the owner accountable under strict liability. Nevertheless, they still have the option to seek compensation for their injuries by asserting that the owner acted negligently.

What Are the Different Laws Regarding Dog Bites in Los Angeles?

Here are some of the regulations and rules established in Los Angeles to safeguard individuals from dog bites.

Backyard Breeder

As per the regulations in the City of Los Angeles, individuals intending to breed a litter of puppies with their dog must secure a breeding permit. This permit remains valid for one year from the date of issuance and can be renewed on an annual basis. The permit entails a total fee ranging from $335 to $235, which includes the permit cost and a $100 license fee

Under these rules, only one litter of puppies is allowed to be bred each year. Furthermore, all puppies from the litter must be at least 8 weeks old before being permanently relocated. Additionally, proper immunization of the puppies is a requirement, and the parent dogs must be microchipped to comply with these regulations.

Excessive Barking Dogs

Dog owners are required to prevent their dogs from making too much noise, which is described as sounds that are excessively bothersome, disruptive, offensive, or unreasonably disrupt the peaceful living conditions of people in the community or neighborhood. 

In practical terms, this implies that dogs barking incessantly during the night or barking without any valid reason can lead to violations. Neighbors have the right to report such noise complaints, and the resulting fines can reach as high as $1,000.

Inhumane Treatment

Engaging in cruel treatment of animals is against the law. Such mistreatment encompasses actions like causing harm, mutilation, torture, injury, or killing of animals. 

Additionally, overworking, overloading, tormenting, starving, depriving them of shelter or sustenance, beating, or forcing them to work when they’re unable to do so is strictly prohibited.

Leash Law

Dog owners have a responsibility to ensure that their dogs are not wandering freely without supervision in public or private areas. When outside a secure space, such as a backyard, dogs should be on leashes that are no longer than 6 feet. Some leashes are retractable, allowing dogs to explore up to 20 feet. 

Additionally, dogs need to be under the control of capable handlers. It is against the law for someone who cannot physically manage a dog to be in charge of the leash. For instance, if an elderly person with mobility issues attempts to leash their large, unruly Rottweiler, and the dog escapes and causes trouble, they can be held accountable for any disturbances, even if they are following other rules.

Dog Licenses

Every dog needs to be officially licensed and registered once they reach the age of four months. To obtain these licenses, you’ll need to provide evidence of spaying or neutering and proof of rabies vaccination. The fee for each license is $20 per year per dog

Attempting to license a not spayed or neutered dog can lead to fines of up to $100, which can increase to over $300 if you possess a breeding permit.

Failing to follow these rules can potentially give rise to a negligence claim against the dog’s owner if it results in harm to another person. When a law mandates that an animal be adequately controlled and kept away from the public to prevent potential dog attacks and injuries, the dog owner must comply. 

If they fail to do so, they may be held responsible for any subsequent injuries resulting from this failure. Los Angeles dog bite rule allows a victim of a dog attack to pursue legal action against the owner of a dangerous or aggressive dog if the dog bites the victim.

What is Considered a Dog Bite?

Even if a dog’s teeth don’t pierce the skin, it can still be considered a bite. For example, in a situation where a worker tumbled from a ladder when a dog clamped its jaws onto his pants, the court found the owner responsible for the resulting injuries.

What If the Dog’s Owner Flees the Scene?

Leaving the scene after a dog bite can result in a fine of up to $100. If someone who owns or is responsible for an animal is aware or has reason to believe that the animal has bitten someone, they must, as soon as possible but within 48 hours, share their name, address, phone number, and the name and license tag number of the biting animal with the injured person. 

If the responsible party is a minor, they should provide the contact details of an adult owner or guardian instead. If the animal is required to have rabies vaccination by law, the person in charge of the animal must also provide information about the animal’s vaccination status within 48 hours of the bite. Breaking this rule is considered an infraction and can result in a fine of up to $100.

When Can I Use the One Bite Rule?

The one bite rule can play a significant role in California dog bite cases that don’t fit within the boundaries of Civil Code 3342. For victims who have been bitten by a dog and can’t depend on strict liability, a previous bite can be used as evidence to establish the dog owner’s liability. 

This prior bite can demonstrate that the owner was aware of their dog’s dangerous tendencies. Such awareness places the owner under strict liability for any future bites. Typical scenarios where the one bite rule can aid an injured individual in seeking compensation in California personal injury cases include:

  • The injured person was a trespasser on someone’s private property at the time of the bite.
  • The victim’s occupation involves a higher risk of dog bites, such as working as a veterinarian.
  • The individual you’re taking legal action against wasn’t the actual owner of the dog.

What is California’s Statute of Limitations for Dog Bite Claims?

California lacks a dedicated statute of limitations for dog-bite lawsuits. Instead, these cases are governed by the state’s statutes of limitations for assault, battery, or personal injury. According to these laws, a plaintiff involved in a dog-bite civil suit must initiate the case within two years from the date of the injury. 

There are situations where this time frame may be extended. It’s essential to bear in mind that if the individual responsible for the dog is facing criminal charges, different deadlines might apply.

What is the Difference Between Civil Liability and Criminal Liability Under Los Angeles Dog Bite Rule?

Strict liability is relevant exclusively in civil cases against the dog owner. The authority to bring criminal charges against the dog owner rests entirely with the district attorney’s office. In civil claims, the burden of proof is less demanding than in criminal cases, where it is necessary to demonstrate the dog owner’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

What Compensation Can I Get as a Dog Bite Victim?

Dog owners bear financial responsibility for the damages endured by the victim as a result of the dog bite. In numerous instances, it’s the dog owner’s insurance provider that covers these costs on the owner’s behalf. The compensatory damages you may have the opportunity to receive include:

  • Medical Expenses
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Lost Wages and Future Earnings
  • Property Damage
  • Scarring and Disfigurement
  • Punitive Damages

Although money can’t erase the pain and suffering from a dog bite, obtaining a just settlement offer can assist you in covering the costs resulting from your injuries.

Contact Us for Trusted Legal Guidance in Los Angeles, California

The Los Angeles dog bite rule is a crucial aspect of the city’s legal framework, with far-reaching implications for dog owners and victims alike. It’s imperative to have a solid understanding of this rule to navigate the complexities surrounding dog bite cases effectively. 

At Haffner Law, we pride ourselves on our experience in personal injury law, including cases related to the Los Angeles dog bite rule. Our dedicated team of legal professionals is here to assist you in securing the compensation and justice you deserve if you or a loved one has been a victim of a dog bite incident in Los Angeles. 

Don’t hesitate to reach out to us today for the right legal guidance and support. Your rights matter, and we are here to protect them. We can also assist you with Home Accidents, Vehicle Defect Accidents, and Dangerous Roadways. Contact us now to schedule a case review and take the first step towards a brighter future.

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