According to the Insurance Information Institute, there were 1,867 dog bite injury claims in California last year, more than 10% of the national total.
Cal. Civil Code §3342 makes dog owners who fail to control their pets and prevent them from biting members of the public strictly liable for dog bite injury claims in California, except in cases in which members of the public are trespassing on the owner´s land.
Unlike in some other States, there is no “one-free-bite” rule; where the dog owner is only liable for a dog bite injury if the owner is aware that their dog has an inclination to bite humans – i.e. the dog is known to have bitten somebody else already.
However, considering that a large percentage of all dogs kept as pets in the U.S. reside in the Golden State, it is actually surprising that there were “only” 1,867 dog bite injury claims in California last year out of a national total of 16,550.
The dog bite injury claims resulted in the payment of $62.8 million in compensation settlements in California in 2014 (the national total was $530.8 million) but, due to higher jury settlements elsewhere, the average settlement value was only slightly higher than the national average at $33,649 per claim.
Not included among the dog bite injury claims in California were dog attacks on postal carriers. Postal carriers injured while they are delivering mail can claim workers compensation for their injuries, rather than have to go through civil procedures to make dog bite injury claims in California.
The large number of successful dog bite injury claims in California paints a slightly misleading picture as the figure could be much higher. Courts in California have recently tended to dismiss dog bite injury claims that are not strongly supported by evidence of negligence and compensation has been denied to victims who are considered to have provoked a dog, caused an attack by their own negligence or assumed the risk of an attack by a dog.
Consequently, it is in your best possible interests to consult with a lawyer at the earliest possible moment if you or your child have been attacked by a dog and intend making dog bite injury claims in California.