In the state of California, dog bite law holds owners responsible if their pet bites or attacks a human being. People that are bitten by dogs have the legally remedy of seeking damages for their injuries and, in the event of fatal attacks, wrongful death.
Under section 3342 of the Civil Code, any owner of a dog who bites and causes damages is liable for those injuries. The person who was bitten may have been attacked in a public or private place. There is an exception for people who were bitten by a police or military dog that was carrying out its lawful duties at the time.
If a person is otherwise injured by a dog, the owner may be held liable for negligence but not under the same dog bite laws. For example, if you are walking down the sidewalk and a dog jumps on you, accidentally scratching you and causing a deep cut, the owner may be held negligent in reasonably controlling their pet, but they will not be held legally liable for an “attack.”
Unlike some other states in the country, California is a “strict liability” state. That is, an owner cannot claim they did not know their dog would respond aggressively. Even if the dog has never bitten anyone before, the owner will still be held liable. The person bitten does not have a duty to prove that the owner knew the dog was aggressive.
A person who was bitten by a dog while trespassing on a property may not be able to seek damages. The law says that the person must have been on a property lawfully. In other words, if a person is bitten on your property after having jumped your fence or broken into your home, you may not be held liable.