Under California law, if a dog bites you, the dog owner is responsible for your injuries. Due to California’s “strict liability” laws, the victim does not have to prove that the dog owner was negligent in the containment or handling of the dog to prevail. But what happens when someone is injured by a dog’s behavior, even though the dog doesn’t actually bite the victim?
There are many cases when a victim is injured as a result of a dog’s behavior even when the victim has not been bitten. Common scenarios for this are when a loose dog charges a pedestrian or a bicyclist, knocking the victim down and the person suffers an injury. Unlike in dog bite cases, the victim must prove that the dog owner or handler was negligent in the containment or handling of the dog. Oftentimes this can be established by showing that the owner did not properly secure the dog in a home or yard, or for whatever reason, the dog was off leash in violation of city leash laws. Also, in some cases, a dog has not intended to “charge” at someone but was just being friendly. Think of a big, goofy Golden Retriever overly exuberant in greeting a guest at the door, knocking the guest down and causing an injury. At least the Golden likely gave the victim several “I love you!” licks.
In these non-bite dog cases, the owner is still responsible for injuries incurred by the victim because of the dog’s behavior. Typically, the dog owner has a homeowner’s insurance policy that will take care of the victim’s medical expenses, lost wages, and allow some compensation for pain and suffering. Of course, these legal principles also apply to other animals, too. So, if the family’s pet rat is let loose in the house and scares a guest who then hits their head on the counter-top, well, it’s probably a valid claim!
Edzant Price LLP has successfully handled many of these non-dog bite injury claims and is here to help if you or someone you know has been injured by a dog’s behavior.