Dog Bite Lawsuit FAQs

Dog bite injuries are unfortunately very common which means dog bite lawsuits happen more often than you might think.  In fact, dog bites are the most common claim for liability on homeowner insurance policies according to the Insurance Information Institute.  But keep in mind, not all homeowner policies include provisions for dog bites and it’s a good idea to check your policy if you own a dog.  In California, the law imposes strict liability on the owners of a dog that bites someone, and as personal injury lawyers, we get a lot of questions about what that means.  Here, we’ll answer some of the most common dog bite lawsuit FAQs.

1. Do I need to file a police report?

There is some important information you’ll want to collect at the scene of a dog bite (if you can; if you are seriously hurt or in danger, call 911).  We talk about what information to gather in another of our blogs, “What to Ask When a Dog Bite Happens.”  You do not need to file a police report in order to file a lawsuit, but you will want to report the bite to the local County Health Officer and possibly Animal Control so that an officer can investigate the dog.  The dog will be quarantined to check for rabies. 

2. Will the dog be euthanized?

When we say the dog will be quarantined, we do not mean euthanized.  Quarantining is required; euthanasia happens under special circumstances.  California does have a euthanasia policy, but it requires the dog to have bitten at least twice before or have been specifically trained to attack (California Civil Code §3342.5(b)).  An action will be brought against the owner in such circumstances and a dog bite victim may inquire about this.  An owner has the duty to take reasonable steps to remove the danger presented by the animal (California Civil Code §3342.5(a).). 

3. Is there a statute of limitations for a dog bite lawsuit?

Yes.  It is important you contact an attorney right away if you or a loved one has been the victim of a dog bite.  Our consultations are free and we can discuss the timeline in more detail with you. 

4. Does a dog have to have bitten once before to file a dog bite lawsuit?

No, California does not require a dog to have previously bitten in order to file a lawsuit.  Per California Civil Code §3342(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.” 

5. Is the owner liable for lost wages?

In a dog bite lawsuit, the dog bite victim can seek to recover damages, including lost wages from time off from work due to the injury.   Damages also include medical bills or a damaged bicycle if you were cycling when the dog attacked. 

6. Can a burglar sue for a dog bite?

It’s a common myth to hear about someone breaking into a home, being bitten by the dog living there, then suing the owners of the dog for the injuries.  It is not typical for someone to recover damages for a dog bite if they are trespassing on private property or if the dog bit out of self-defense of itself or the owner. 

7. Can I sue if a dog bites my dog?

This is a common question as some dogs are more likely to bite another dog than a human.  California Civil Code §3342 does not pertain to dog-on-dog aggressions; however, your dog is your personal property and damages to your personal property can warrant a lawsuit to recover the damages (i.e. veterinarian bills). 

We hope you found the answer to your dog bite lawsuit questions here, but if you have more questions, we are happy to talk to you.  We welcome your phone calls and emails.