There are many misconceptions about what claims a person may bring on account of personal injuries from a dog bite or a dog attack. People often times believe that you have to show that the dog had dangerous propensities to recover. That used to be the law in what was termed the “one free bite” rule. The laws have changed. The bottom line is that there are various ways to hold the responsible parties accountable for your personal injuries and damages in such circumstances.
First, if there is an actual dog bite, the owner is strictly liable for the resulting personal injuries under California Civil Code section 3341. That section provides: “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.”
Separate and apart from the strict liability, one may also hold an owner or keeper of the dog liable where they knew or should have known of the dog’s dangerous propensities. Hillman v. Garcia-Ruby, 44 Cal.2d 625, 626 (1955). They must show the dog had dangerous propensities, and the owner or keeper knew or should have known about them. This is generally shown through prior dangerous behavior such as a vicious bite or behavior that clearly demonstrates the vicious propensity to bite. It may also be inferred by the dog’s general reputation, the size and breed of the dog or the fact that the dog is kept chained or muzzled.
Lastly, one can recover from a dog bite or attack on a general negliegnce theory. This can occur from mishandling a dog (Barnett v. La Mesa Post No. 282 (1940) 15 Cal.2d 191[horse in a parade]), ineffectively controlling or failing to control a dog (Drake v. Dean (1993) 15 Cal.App.4th 915 [leaping dog], putting a dog in a situation that foreseeably can cause injury (Baley v. J.F. Hink & Son (1955) 133 Cal.App.2d 102ã€€[small dog on a leash]), or violating an animal control law (Delfino v. Sloan (1994) 20 Cal.App.4th 1429 [violation of leash law]).