What is the "One-Bite" Rule for Dog Bite Cases (and Does it Apply in California)?

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Does California Law Follow the “One-Bite” Rule for Dog Bite Civil Claims?

Does California Law Follow the “One-Bite” Rule for Dog Bite Civil Claims?

Jun 22, 2022

When you suffer a dog bite injury, the animal owner may be liable for damages. Recovering such damages for things like hospital or medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and emotional trauma is typically achieved through a civil lawsuit with a dog bite personal injury lawyer.

What is the “One-Bite” Rule for Dog Bite Cases (and Does it Apply in California)?

But depending on the state in which the dog bite attack occurred, different laws apply which can ultimately determine liability. In order for a dog bite civil lawsuit to be successful – i.e. for the injured party to recover financial compensation for his or her injuries – negligence or carelessness must be proven.

One of the common misconceptions about California dog bite law is that animal owners are bound to what’s known as the “one-bite” rule. Let’s review what the one-bite rule entails, discuss whether or not it applies in California, and look at how to file a civil claim for financial compensation with the experienced and dedicated dog bite lawyers at Dordulian Law Group.

What is the “One-Bite” Rule for Dog Attack or Injury Cases?

The one-bite rule is a law applied in certain states which can, depending on the circumstances of the incident, either shield or impose liability on dog owners whose pets injure or attack another human.

The one-bite rule states:

The dog owner (and anyone associated with the dog – such as a walker or trainer) is protected from liability pertaining to a “first injury” caused by the animal. However, this one-bite rule can be open to interpretation and impose liability on an animal owner if the incident in question meets certain criteria (i.e. the dog has a history of aggression that may have previously not caused a direct injury via a bite).

Under the one-bite rule, if a dog previously bit a human and the animal owner knew about it, he or she would essentially be held liable for any additional bites or attacks. In one-bite rule states, liability is imposed on animal owners who do not protect other humans from dogs that have previously bitten or attacked.

Is California a One-Bite Rule State?

California law does not apply the one-bite rule for the vast majority of dog bite cases. Rather, the Golden State applies what’s known as strict liability on dog owners. This means that if a dog bites another human – regardless of whether or not that animal had a history of aggression – the owner may be held liable for damages.

California Civil Code 3342, the state’s dog bite statute, reads as follows:

(a) The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness. A person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner within the meaning of this section when he is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner.

(b) Nothing in this section shall authorize the bringing of an action pursuant to subdivision (a) against any governmental agency using a dog in military or police work if the bite or bites occurred while the dog was defending itself from an annoying, harassing, or provoking act, or assisting an employee of the agency in any of the following:

  1. In the apprehension or holding of a suspect where the employee has a reasonable suspicion of the suspect’s involvement in criminal activity.
  2. In the investigation of a crime or possible crime.
  3. In the execution of a warrant.
  4. In the defense of a peace officer or another person.

(c) Subdivision (b) shall not apply in any case where the victim of the bite or bites was not a party to, nor a participant in, nor suspected to be a party to or a participant in, the act or acts that prompted the use of the dog in the military or police work.

(d) Subdivision (b) shall apply only where a governmental agency using a dog in military or police work has adopted a written policy on the necessary and appropriate use of a dog for the police or military work enumerated in subdivision (b).

In summation, the above language means that although there are some exceptions to the strict liability dog bite law in California, most animal owners are held to such a standard. In cases where the strict liability standard may not apply, the one-bite rule will more than likely be imposed in order to prove that the defendant (animal owner) was negligent.

What are Some Exceptions to the California Strict Liability Law for Dog Bites?

California Civil Code 3342 places strict liability on dog owners when bites occur:

  • In a public place
  • In a location where the victim was lawfully present

Accordingly, some exceptions to the strict liability law apply in California, such as:

  • The victim was trespassing on the animal owner’s property at the time of the bite/attack
  • The owner of the dog is not the individual being sued or named in the complaint
  • The dog was a law enforcement animal in the line of duty
  • The victim was at least partially responsible for his or her injuries
  • The victim assumed the risk of being bitten by the dog

If you were bitten by a dog under one of the above exempted scenarios, you most likely do not have a valid claim for damages via a complaint that specifically seeks to hold the animal owner “strictly liable.” However, you may still be able to file a claim for financial compensation in relation to any injuries sustained as a result of the dog bite by arguing that the owner was in fact negligent.

What States Follow the One-Bite Rule?

What States Follow the One-Bite Rule?
The one-bite rule is actually considered archaic among most personal injury lawyers who handle dog bite claims. In fact, only 16 states continue to adhere to the one-bite rule.

Those states include:

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wyoming

The majority of the other states either apply strict liability for dog bites or what’s known as “mixed dog bite laws.”

A “mixed dog bite statute state” is one which typically applies the one-bite rule in the majority instances. However, such mixed dog bite law states may also apply some degree of strict liability on animal owners whose pets attack other humans.

Mixed dog bite statute states:

  • Impose statutory liability upon dog owners under limited circumstances
  • Tend to blur the line between strict liability states and one-bite rule states

What Should I Know if I Live in a One-Bite or Strict Liability State?

If you’ve suffered a dog bite injury, below is some important information to consider, regardless of whether your state adheres to the one-bite of strict liability statute.

Dog owners and others associated with the animal (walkers, trainers, etc.) can potentially be held liable for:

  • Negligence
  • Premises liability
  • Emotional distress
  • Violation of a leash law or other municipal law that leads to injury
  • Intentional conduct involving the use of a dog
  • Reckless, careless, or negligent behavior involving the use of a dog

If you’ve suffered a dog bite injury, an experienced Dordulian Law Group (DLG) attorney is available 24/7 for a free and no obligation consultation. We’ll be able to answer any questions you may have regarding your case, your legal rights, how much your claim may be worth, and what the litigation process may entail.

Does a Dog Have to be Euthanized in California After Biting a Human?

In order for a dog to be either euthanized or removed from its owner after a bite or attack, a formal hearing must be conducted. Such hearings are typically initiated by government officials (e.g. Animal Control officers) or a member of the public who was involved in or witnessed the incident (e.g. a friend, relative, neighbor, etc.).

In order for a hearing to proceed, the following criteria must be met:

  • The dog must have bitten a person/people on at least two separate occasions
  • The dog must have been raised specifically to fight or attack humans and must have bitten at least one person in the past

If the dog is deemed to be a danger to public safety, it may have to be euthanized. However, this is actually something that only occurs in rare cases where an animal demonstrates a sustained history of aggression and injuring humans.

How Much is My Dog Bite Injury Case Worth?

At DLG, we’ve handled countless dog bite cases of varying severity for decades – and we always pursue the maximum financial compensation available for our clients. Whether you’re seriously injured or only suffered a minor dog bite, you may be entitled to financial compensation for various economic and non-economic damages.

What kinds of damages can be recovered in a California dog bite injury claim?

  • Medical expenses
  • Rehabilitation or therapy
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Scarring or disfigurement
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional trauma
  • Reduced quality of life

By contacting the experienced and dedicated dog bite attorneys at DLG, we can help you file a claim and recover the maximum financial compensation you deserve for all applicable damages.

Contact the Best Los Angeles, California, Dog Bite Lawyers Today

DLG was founded by former Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, Sam Dordulian, an experienced litigator who has amassed over 100 jury trial victories throughout his esteemed career. Dordulian and his team of dog bite lawyers are dedicated to helping injured victims secure justice via maximum damages awards.

With DLG, clients can be confident that we will use our experience and proven success to help you obtain the financial compensation you deserve. We never settle for less than a maximum financial damages award, and if an at-fault party attempts a lowball settlement offer, we reject it immediately and take your case to trial.

With Dordulian’s years of courtroom experience, DLG’s dog bite clients never have to worry about being forced to accept unfair settlement offers from insurance companies or defendants looking to save money and evade justice. We’ll fight for your right to maximum financial compensation so you can make a complete recovery that takes into account your physical, emotional, and financial well-being.

Why choose DLG’s California dog bite lawyers? Our results speak for themselves:

  • A 98% success rate
  • A history of recovering over $100,000,000 in settlements and verdicts for injured clients like you
  • More than 25 years of personal injury experience
  • Ready to take any case to trial if a maximum settlement can’t be reached

DLG is the absolute best choice you can make when searching for a Los Angeles, California, dog bite attorney. And our No Win/No Fee Guarantee means you never have to worry about upfront costs or out-of-pocket expenses.

Ready to file a claim and pursue justice through a financial damages award? Our expert attorneys are available online or by phone now.

At DLG, we believe everyone deserves access to the very best legal representation available, regardless of financial means. When you bring your dog bite case to one of our dedicated attorneys, you’ll never have to worry about paying a penny until we recover maximum financial compensation for your injuries. If we don’t win, you won’t pay a dime – that’s the DLG Advantage.

Contact us today online or by phone at 818-322-4056 to learn more about why DLG is the best dog bite law firm in California. We’ll fight aggressively as your dedicated legal advocate to secure justice and recover the maximum compensation you deserve.

For a California dog bite injury, the best call you can make is to the experienced and dedicated team of lawyers at Dordulian Law Group.


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