How To Prove Negligence in a Dog Bite Claim

Dog Bites & Injuries | January 19, 2024

The state of California follows a “strict liability” dog bite law that holds pet owners responsible for most dog bite injuries that occur. Under a strict liability system, the process of determining whether or not the dog owner was negligent is not quite as vital. Here, we want to review California’s dog bite laws and discuss situations when determining liability after a dog bite is still important.

California’s Strict Liability Dog Bite Law

California’s strict liability dog bite law apply to civil cases, not criminal cases. These laws are used in situations where individuals have sustained injuries caused by a dog bite and need to recover compensation from an at-fault dog owner.


In California, the strict liability dog bite law holds pet owners responsible for most dog bite injuries that occur, and under these strict liability rules, it does not matter whether or not the dog has previously bitten anybody before or shown a propensity for aggression. Under these laws, the owner of the dog will be liable for bite injuries if the injury victim was lawfully in a public or private place and was not provoking the dog.

In lieu of proving negligence to recover compensation for a strict liability dogged bite claim, individuals must show that they were lawfully in the location and that there was no provocation of the dog to cause the bite. This is generally easier to prove than proving actual negligence if that were necessary.

What About Non-Bite Injuries?

The strict liability law in California does not rely on negligence like other types of injury claims. However, there are times when determining negligence will matter, especially for non-bite injuries.

The strict liability laws covering dog bites do not cover non-bite injuries caused by a dog, although these injuries can certainly affect individuals just as much as a bite injury. For example, if a dog attacks a bicycle while a person is riding or knocks a person down on a sidewalk by running into them, the strict liability law will not apply. Even if a person sustains injuries, such as lacerations or broken bones, they will have to file a claim against the alleged negligent dog owner.

Determining negligence for a non-bite injury can be challenging and involves gathering as much evidence as possible. This can include statements from eyewitnesses, video surveillance footage of the incident, photographs of the injuries, and more.

Time Limit for Filing a Dog Bite Claim in California

Individuals have a limited amount of time to file dog bite injury claims in California. The personal injury statute of limitations in California is two years from the date an injury occurs. Dog bite injury victims must file their claim against the other party within this two-year time frame or they will not be able to recover compensation for their losses.

A successful dog bite injury claim could recover compensation for a victim’s medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering damages, and more. There is no set amount of compensation paid for these claims, but several factors, including the severity of the injuries and how long it takes to recover, can affect total compensation payouts.