Owner Liability in Dog Bite Cases

Categories: Personal Injury

When you are bitten by a dog, you are understandably panicked. A dog attack is a frightening experience that often causes serious injury. Knowing what type of state you live in when it comes to dog bite liability can make a difference in the steps you take following treatment.
In San Luis Obispo, dog owners are subject to strict liability. Other states adopt the one-bite rule. Here’s more on the two types of liability. Regardless of the state’s stand on dog bites and animal attacks, it’s important for dog owners to remember that any dog can bite under the right circumstances.

Strict Liability

In states that follow the legal idea of strict liability, there are specific rules in place. A dog owner will be held liable in specific situations and events, regardless of their ability to prevent the bite from having occurred.
The defendant may be liable if their dog bit someone and:

  1. The victim was legally permitted in or on the area where the attack occurred, and
  2. The victim did not provoke the dog.

Under this legal concept, the owner of the dog does not have to know the history of the dog. Each case is considered unique. This means that if a person adopts a dog from a shelter and it bites someone the next day, the owner has no defense in saying that they were unaware the dog was aggressive or had a propensity to bite.


In states that have one-bite laws on the books, dogs typically have one bite before the owner is in trouble. This is not the case for dog breeds that are considered dangerous or vicious. It also does not apply if recent circumstances make the dog prone to biting someone.
The focus in this type of law is whether or not the owner should have reasonably known that the dog may bite and if they took precautions to prevent an attack. For example, if a pregnant dog recently had babies and the owner failed to warn a visitor against petting the dog or handling the puppies, and the visitor was bitten, the owner could still be held liable.
If, on the other hand, an owner did not know that their pet was ill and the dog was approached by a visitor, the dog may bite that visitor in what would be considered out of character for that animal. In this case, the one bite rule could apply. The owner was unaware that their dog may bite, and they were unaware that it was not feeling well. Should the dog bite again, however, the owner could be held liable.
If you have been bitten by a dog in San Luis Obispo, call our office for a free consultation. We will speak with you to discover the details surrounding the attack and help you determine if you have the elements necessary for a successful lawsuit. You may be entitled to various forms of compensation. Call today to schedule your case evaluation and let us help you learn about your next steps.