Everything You Need to Know About California Dog Bite Laws

Dogs are much beloved companions, but in rare cases, their aggressive side may injure someone. California dog bite laws provide some protection when those unfortunate incidents do occur.

If you were the unfortunate victim of a dog bite, know that there’s a good chance you’re entitled to receive compensation. Given how traumatic suffering that injury can be, that compensation will prove incredibly helpful. Do note as well that protections are in place for dog owners and that not all bites are considered equal under the law.

Learn more about those California dog bite laws, so you know how to act if an incident occurs. Without further ado, let’s now take the time to discuss those laws in greater detail.

Can You Sue a Dog Owner if Their Pet Bites You?

Let’s tackle the most important question right away. Can you hold a dog owner responsible if their pet bites you? The answer to that question will depend on numerous variables.


First, the courts must determine if the bitten party was provoking the dog. If the party in question was provoking the dog, they cannot sue for damages following the incident. In the eyes of the law, it was their actions that led to the bite.

So, how do you determine if an individual was provoking the dog? That can be a bit tricky. You’ll need to provide evidence indicating that you were not doing anything that they could construe as a form of provocation.

The law also states that you can sue a dog owner if their dog bit you while doing your job. For instance, if you were delivering the mail, you can sue the dog owner. Doing your job is not a form of provocation towards the dog.


Location matters a great deal when trying to determine if a dog owner can be held liable for their pet’s actions. In public places, laws protect bitten individuals. You can sue the dog owner in that scenario.

Things get more complex if the incident happens on the dog owner’s property. You will need to consider consent at that point.


Right away, it’s important to point out that you cannot sue a dog owner if it bit you while you were on their property without their consent. You are considered trespassing at that point, and the California dog bite laws are not going to look favorably upon your situation.

Now, if you were invited by the owner onto their property, and bitten by their pet, that is when you can file a lawsuit for compensation.


Another factor to consider is whether there was some conflict taking place between the dog owner and the other party.

You may have been minding your business and spending time with your dog when someone suddenly attacks. Perhaps they were trying to mug you.

The law can view your dog responding by attacking your assailant as self-defense. The assailant in that situation cannot press charges against you.

By the way, we address your pet jumping to protect another person from an attacker in California’s dog bite laws. You cannot be sued in that situation either.

Does the Dog’s History of Biting Matter?

A dog owner may argue that they should not be held responsible because their pet has shown no history of being aggressive before. They may argue that their pet has never bitten anyone before and had no reason to believe that such an incident could occur because of that.

According to the California Civil Code, that defense is not going to work. The dog owner is still liable for the actions of their pet regardless of the past.

It doesn’t matter if the incident in question represents the first time their pet bit someone. They will be ordered to take responsibility for what happened all the same.

What Kind of Compensation Can You Expect to Receive?

After determining that you were not in the wrong, you may now be thinking of moving forward with a lawsuit. This is the time when you should consider working with an experienced lawyer. Doing so will help ensure that you receive the amount of compensation you deserve.

Listed below are the factors that you need to weigh when requesting compensation from the defendant.

Medical Expenses

Treating a dog bite can get expensive in a hurry. The wound itself may need stitches and depending on where the bite is, it could tear ligaments and tendons. You may also lose the use of your appendages due to the injuries you sustained from the bite.

Broken bones and damaged muscles are also possibilities. You need to get those checked out by a doctor right away.

Rabies is yet another frightening aftereffect of a dog bite that can have a devastating impact on your central nervous system. You may also suffer from bacterial infections, according to Healthline.

Disfigurement is also an unfortunate consequence of being bitten by a dog. The scars resulting from the bites may never heal, and the only way to conceal them may be through surgery.

It’s also important to remember that not all the damaging effects of a dog bite will manifest themselves right away. Certain injuries or conditions may only make their presence felt after a while.

Monitor your condition closely following the incident and make a detailed account of all your injuries. You may find that it will be impossible for you to pay for all your medical expenses. Filing a lawsuit in that situation is a must.

Financial Losses

The injuries you sustained from the dog bite may have lingering effects that will change your daily life. To be more specific, they may affect your capacity to do your job.

Injuries to your hands can be difficult to overcome, and you may find yourself staring at limited job opportunities due to your current condition. Even traveling to and from work may prove to be an ordeal unto itself because of your injuries.

You shouldn’t discount how much the injuries affected your earning potential. Having to leave your field because of your injuries is a legitimate possibility.

Talk to your lawyer about your lost wages and lost earning potential and make sure those are accounted for when you file your lawsuit.

Pain and Suffering

The injuries you sustain from a dog bite are almost always not only physical. You may also experience mental trauma that stays with you for a long time.

Victims of dog bites may grow fearful of venturing outside or interacting with others. They may suffer from depression brought about by their current condition. Losing sleep because you’re still traumatized is also possible.

It can also affect your quality of life. The injuries may prevent you from participating in your favorite hobbies.

It’s hard to say that there’s any dollar amount that can compensate you for such important losses. The best you can do is to work with your lawyer and seek the compensation you feel you deserve.

Wrongful Death

In extreme cases, the attack may cause serious injuries that lead to the victim dying. The victim’s family can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the dog owner if that occurs.

Punitive Damages

The courts may add punitive damages to financial awards as a way of compensating the plaintiff and further punishing the defendant. However, proving that you should receive punitive damages is not easy.

You will need to prove the other party intentionally allowed their dog to attack you. Many turn out to be accidental, but if you can prove the other party wanted you to get hurt, you may receive a larger financial reward.

Should You File a Lawsuit if You Only Have Minor Injuries?

Picture this scenario: You were hanging out at a friend’s house when their dog bit you completely unprovoked. Because it’s your friend and you didn’t notice any big wounds, you decide not to sue.

It’s perfectly understandable why you would prefer not to proceed with a lawsuit but know that such a decision is risky. As we noted earlier, some injuries aren’t always obvious right away. It may take some time before you fully realize the severity of the attack.

At the least, don’t say that you won’t file a lawsuit. Go to your doctor first and then consult a lawyer before deciding on your next course of action.

How Much Time Are You Given to File a Lawsuit?

California law provides plaintiffs with a two-year period during which they can push forward with a lawsuit against the owner of the dog that bit them. Now, it is important to point out here that the clock is ticking as soon as the dog bites you. The clock doesn’t start after you leave the hospital.

The statute of limitations is another reason why you should consider partnering with a lawyer early in the process. You may not be able to handle your business right away since you’re still recovering from your injuries.

Knowing that the law won’t wait until you are physically well, go ahead and ask your lawyer to get the ball rolling on your lawsuit as you continue to recuperate.

What Happens to the Dog Involved in the Case?

Once they identify the dog that bit you, they will quarantine the animal for a certain period of time. Quarantining the dog is necessary because authorities will evaluate for rabies.

The dog may be quarantined inside their owner’s home or at a local Animal County Center. If the dog shows no signs of having rabies throughout the quarantine period, he/she may be released back into his/her owner’s care.

However, quarantining the dog is not the only action authorities could take.

If the owner trained the dog involved in the case to attack or kill people, the court may deem it necessary to detain the animal. There are also cases where they euthanize the dog to preserve the safety of the community.

Euthanasia also becomes an option if the dog involved in the case has bitten someone more than once. It could be the same person or two different people.

The court will be the one to issue such an order, but a petition for that may be brought up by anyone.

Are There Any Exceptions to the California Dog Bite Laws?

Dogs are not only guardians of the home. They are also allies in the fight against criminal activity. Police officers and even soldiers often bring their trained dogs along for certain operations because they can prove helpful.

You should know that dogs involved in police and military options are typically exempt from the dog bite laws we’ve been discussing.

If the bite occurred while the dog was helping investigate a crime or apprehend a criminal, you can’t sue its owner. The caretakers of police or military dogs also cannot be sued if the animals in question bit someone while executing a warrant or if they were protecting the people they were with.

What if the Dog Bit Your Pet?

People are not the only ones vulnerable to being attacked by dogs. Some dogs may attack their fellow pets unprovoked.

So, what can you do if your pet was harmed by another canine? This time around, you aren’t going to file a dog bite lawsuit. You will instead file a property damage lawsuit because the law considers your pet to be your personal property.

When figuring out how much compensation to ask for in your lawsuit, consider the total amount of vet bills you’ve already paid and will likely pay in the future. It’s not unlike accounting for your medical expenses in a dog bite lawsuit.

Seeking rightful compensation is a must, but it can be a challenge given the severity of your injuries. Work with us at the Quirk Law Group if you need help pressing forward with that lawsuit. We will work closely together with you to win the case and claim the compensation you deserve.