The U.S. Postal Service announced last week that more than 5,400 mail carriers were attacked by dogs in 2021, and California topped all states with 656 attacks. Los Angeles reported 44 of those attacks, ranking the city at number four behind Cleveland, Houston and Kansas City.
In a press release, the postal service said many of the attacks occurred after the owners assured the carrier that the dog would not bite. To avoid more attacks, they urged owners to keep their dogs inside the house and away from the door.
These numbers are high and don’t even include data on dog attacks that happen to non-mail carriers. In early April, it was reported that a 3-year-old girl was attacked by a dog at a home in Southern California used as a day care center. She received 180 stitches after suffering bites to her face, arms and stomach area. The owner claimed that the dog was in a pen and on a leash in the backyard but the victim’s mother says that the dog was inside the house.
Many businesses don’t allow animals inside their buildings partially for this reason, but service animals bypass this rule. In January, two guards at a San Francisco library approached a man who appeared to be unconscious when the man’s dog attacked one of them. After regaining consciousness, the man took control of his dog and claimed that it was a service animal. The guard was left with serious injuries.
There are many different possible situations that could lead to a dog attack, but when would the owner be deemed liable in California?
Even if the dog had never bitten anyone before or shown aggressive tendencies, state law holds owners strictly liable for injuries under California Civil Code 3342. The strict liability rule places responsibility on the owner for bites that happen in public or where the victim had a lawful right to be, despite having taken necessary precautions. In contrast, the more uncommon “one bite rule” requires proof that the owner was in the wrong.
According to the one bite rule, once a dog bites someone for the first time, the owner is put on notice of their dog’s tendency to bite. From that point on, the owner is held liable for future bites. California is not one of the 16 states that follow this rule, but it can be used when the dog attack falls outside the scope of the strict liability statute.
The one-bite rule can play a crucial role in helping the injured person recover compensation if:
- The owner isn’t the one being sued,
- The victim was a trespasser on private property or
- The victim’s profession comes with the risk of dog attacks.
Does California euthanize dogs with a history of biting people?
Dogs with a history of biting people can be euthanized after a hearing determines that it is a threat to public safety. The hearing process can be initiated if the dog bit people on at least two separate occasions or if the dog was raised to attack people and has bitten one person.
If you or someone you know was attacked by a dog and need help with your claim, reach out as soon as possible to the skilled personal injury lawyers at Custodio & Dubey LLP. With over 25 years of experience, our lawyers will guide you at every step of the way to help you receive the justice you deserve.