Oakland Dog Bites: The Basics

Oakland is filled with dog lovers. At any given moment of the day you'll find proud owners walking their canine friends around Lake Merritt, sitting in dog-friendly cafes enjoying that smooth, silkily java taste, or joining other fellow-dog lovers on a play dates at any one of the many dog parks. But, what happens when things go to the dogs? What if your pooch bites another person?

Oakland dog owners are responsible for keeping their animals under control. It doesn't matter if you're at Grover-Shafter, Jefferson Square, or shopping for a new rawhide chew at a store. In most cases, if your dog attacks another person, you're legally responsible for that attack. Read on to learn more about the law surrounding dog bites in Oaktown.

What is the law in California?

In California, the state law is found in the Cal. Civil Code section 3342. Check out Section 16.

"Animal attacks or injuries. If a dog or other animal, without provocation, attacks, attempts to attack, or injures any person who is peaceably conducting himself or herself in any place where he or she may lawfully be, the owner of such dog or other animal is liable in civil damages to such person for the full amount of the injury proximately caused thereby."

Ok, plain English -- if you own or have custody of a dog, you are strictly liable (i.e. responsible) for any injuries your canine causes to another person in many cases.

Is there a time limit to pursue a dog bite case?

Yes, California law says a victim has two years from the date of the dog bite to file a lawsuit. If not, they may forfeit their right to sue.  

I had no idea my dog was "dangerous."

It doesn't matter. You don't have to be aware of any dangerous tendencies on your dog's behalf in order to be held liable for injuries. It also doesn't matter if an owner took measures to restrain the dog and protect the public from the dog, such as chaining it and putting up fences. The owner is strictly liable for every injury the dog causes another person, unless the other person was trespassing, provoking the dog, or both.

Even if man's best friend doesn't actually "bite" someone, but still causes them injury, you can be liable. Let's say your best friend is at your house watching the 49ers trample the Seahawks. If Fido jumps on your best friend in your home unprovoked, causing him to fall and break his leg, you may be strictly liable.

What if I provoked the dog?

An example of provoking a dog can be pulling the dog's tail, hitting the dog with a stick, or kicking the dog.

Keep in mind, provocation can be completely accidental. You don't have to intend to anger the dog. If your act would have caused a regular dog to bite, then it could be considered provocation under California law, barring your claim. If you accidentally step on a dog's tail and he bites you, it may be considered adequate provocation.

Can You Give Me an Example of Lawfully Being on Someone's Property?

If you were invited onto the dog owner's property as a guest or a potential customer, then you were lawfully on the property and can likely recover for your injuries -- friends, family, social guests, contractors, postal employees, utility workers, newspaper carriers, and anyone else invited onto the property.

But if you're committing a crime (like trespassing), you may not be able to recover. Sorry, cat burglars. If a dog bites you while breaking and entering into a residence, you almost certainly can't recover.

Damages

In a lawsuit, compensation for your injuries is known as damages. If a dog bites you, you can sue for such damages as:

  • Medical expenses;
  • Emotional distress;
  • Pain and suffering; and
  • Lost wages.

Dog Owner's Homeowners or Renters Insurance Policy

Homeowners and renters insurance policies often cover animal bite claims brought by nonresidents of the home. Liability coverage ranges. If the claim exceeds policy limits, the dog owner can be personally liable for the remaining balance.

If you or someone you know has suffered a serious injury because of a dog bite or attack, you may want to consider speaking to a personal injury lawyer and learn more about what your options are in Oakland.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.