California Civil Code Section 3342 states:
(a) 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
One very important tip is to take photos of the injury immediately. Of course, you should get
medical treatment as soon as possible, but if it is possible to take photos before the doctor
stitches up your wounds, you should do it. The teeth marks will be easier to see.
This law makes California a strict liability state. However, if the victim harassed, annoyed, or
provoked the dog, the owner is not held strictly liable. You can consult our law firm for an
evaluation if a dog bites you and you have sustained injuries. While most cases are settled
without litigation, if the injury is significant and a lot of money is at stake, insurance companies
are reluctant to pay out the true value unless litigation is initiated.
If you are in litigation, here are some tips for attorneys.
1) Voir dire is important. You don’t want dog lovers on your jury. You especially don’t want
owners of the same dog breed that bit your client. So, if a pit bull bit your client, you don’t want
an owner of a pit bull on your jury. There are approximately 85 million dogs in the United States
so you’ll probably get some dog owners on the jury but minimizing them is a good idea..
2) Subpoena the vet’s records and specifically ask for handwritten notes. Otherwise, they
might only give you the computerized printout, which could lack handwritten notes like “will
3) Secure animal-control records and professional training history.
4) Consider hiring an expert to evaluate the dog, which should be videotaped so the jury
can see it.