Defenses that Could Come up in Your California Dog Bite Case

Defenses That Could Come Up in Your California Dog Bite Case

In California, victims of dog bites can file a personal injury claim or file a lawsuit against the owner of the dog to recover compensation for their injuries. In fact, California has the strictest dog bite case law compared to other states. 

Where these cases in California are concerned, the law states that the owner of the dog is liable for the injuries suffered by someone who is bitten by the dog in a public place or lawfully in a private residence. Even if the dog previously showed no signs of aggression or viciousness, the owner can still be held liable. 

However, despite California’s strict dog bite liability laws, the dog owner’s insurance company could deny a settlement or offer a reduced settlement amount using certain defenses. There is no average settlement for these cases, which is why victims have to provide as much evidence as possible to prove the extent of their pain and suffering to win the amount they deserve. 

This is why it’s essential to work with a California dog bite defense attorney. You will need to have professional representation to ensure you get the compensation you need and deserve in case one of the defenses below is raised by the insurance company. 


Provocation and negligence are common defenses used against injured dog bite victims. The owner of the dog or their insurance could claim that you provoked or harassed the dog, causing it to attack. They could also say that your negligent actions resulted in the dog attacking and biting you, even if done by accident, such as stepping on the dog’s tail. 

There is, however, an exception to this defense. If a child under the age of five is the one who was attacked, the dog owner cannot blame them for being negligent or provoking the dog. 

Assumption of Risk

When a person enters into certain situations voluntarily, they are assuming that a risk of injury is possible despite knowing of potential hazards. This assumption of risk can therefore prevent a person from suing and recovering compensation for their damages. 

Assumption of risk can be used as a defense in a dog bite case. Pet sitters, dog walkers, groomers, and veterinarians, for example, all are viewed as assuming the risk of injury from a dog. So if any of these individuals were to try to file a dog bite claim or a lawsuit, the owner of the dog could claim that they knew there was a risk when they agreed to work with the dog. 

This applies to firefighters and police officers as well. There is an inherent assumption of risk for firefighters and police officers when they enter a person’s home or property to do their job. So if a dog attacks and bites them while they are on the job, they might not have grounds for filing a claim against the dog’s owner. 


California dog bite law only applies if a person who was bitten by a dog was allowed to be on the property where they were attacked. This means they were either on public property or they were lawfully on private property. If they are illegally on someone’s property when bitten, such as when trespassing, the owner could use this as a defense. 

Lack of Ownership

Dog bite liability laws in California primarily apply to the owner of the dog. So if you try to file a claim against someone who is not the owner, it is possible that they could not be held liable, even if they were in control of the dog at the time of the attack. A dog walker, for example, is not an insurer of the good behavior of the dog and thus would possibly have a defense based on the fact that they are not the owner. 

There is an exception, however. If the person handling the dog has what is called scienter, or knowledge, of the dog having vicious or aggressive behavior, then they could potentially be held liable. 

Injury Other Than Dog Bite

California’s dog bite statute specifically mentions “dog bites”—meaning the victim must have actually been bitten by the dog to file a claim or lawsuit. If the victim was injured because the dog jumped on them or frightened them and they tripped, for example, it can be more challenging to pursue to a claim. However, under California dog bite law even though an injury must be caused by the action of a dog bite, the skin does not have to be broken. A dog owner can still liable if the victim is bruised or suffered nerve damage even without puncture wounds. If a non-bite injury occurs the dog owner isn’t responsible under strict liability but may be responsible by other dog bite law theories of recovery, such as negligence.

Even if you the dog does not puncture the skin and you are attacked it is important to reach out to a California dog bite accident lawyer to get advice and see if you are able to pursue a claim.

Police and Military Dogs

If a victim is bitten by a police or military dog that is on duty, they might also not have probable cause to file a lawsuit. Government and municipal agencies can typically not be held liable for injuries that are sustained from a dog that is on duty. If the officer or military personnel that was responsible for the dog was acting negligently or in poor conduct, however, they can be held liable for the dog bite. 

We Handle Your Accident Claim So You Can Focus On Your Life

Defending these cases can be challenging, but it is not impossible. Our Sally Morin dog bite defense attorneys in Los Angeles and San Francisco have years of experience handling these difficult cases. We are dedicated to defending the rights of injured victims to ensure they get the settlement they deserve. 

We truly care about the people of California. Call us at 877-380-8852 or contact us online today for a free case evaluation.

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It is essential to know your rights after a traffic accident so you can protect yourself and the value of your claim.
This guide will help you:

  • 1Know what to do when dealing with insurance claims, police reports and lawyers.
  • 2Avoid making mistakes that undermine the value of your claim
  • 3Put yourself in a position to get the best settlement possible