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Dog Bites: Who Is Liable?

By Aghabegian & Associates on January 14, 2021

Dogs may be among the most popular pets in the United States, and we see a ton in Glendale, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous. Any dog can be aggressive, and any dog can cause serious damage during an attack, even a smaller breed.

If you have suffered serious injuries due to a pet attack, then you deserve compensation. But who could be considered liable for a dog bite?

Dogs Bites and California Law

In some states, dog-bite victims can only file a claim against the dog owner if the owner had prior knowledge that the dog was aggressive. However, that is not how dog-bite laws work in California. Instead, California follows the “strict liability” model. This means that dog owners are always responsible for their dog’s aggressive actions, whether the dog had been aggressive in the past or not. This means that if you were attacked by a dog, the owner cannot use the argument that because he did not know about the dog’s aggressive behavior, he could not have prevented the dog from attacking in the first place.

However, the law does have some limitations. Even if you are attacked by a dog, you can only file a claim if:

  • The dog bit you (in other states, if a dog knocks you down and injures you, you can file a claim)
  • You were on public land, or lawfully on private property

If you were, for example, trespassing on the dog owner’s property, as in you did not have permission to be on the property, and were then attacked by the dog, you would not be able to file a claim against the dog owner for your injuries.

The Liable Parties

It seems logical to file a claim against the owner of the dog that attacked you. That makes sense, as the owner has a responsibility to make that his pet is properly secured so that the animal cannot hurt anyone, or get out without supervision and cause mischief. However, what about dogs that don’t have owners?

The San Fernando Valley is a highly populated area, with a large number of stray animals, including stray dogs. These dogs can be incredibly aggressive, and may even carry diseases such as rabies, which make them more likely to attack people. If you are attacked by a stray dog, then you do not have an owner to file a claim against. That does not mean you won’t be able to recover any compensation, however.

Under certain circumstances, you may be able to file a claim against the owner of the property you were attacked on. This would be considered a premises liability claim, which would allow you to receive the same compensation that you would have received if you filed a claim against the dog’s owner. Property owners have a “standard of care” toward all legal guests. This means that the property owner is expected to keep you reasonably safe from harm while on the property, including aggressive animals.

For example, if you were walking to your car in the parking lot of a mall and were cornered and attacked by a stray dog, the mall owner or the owner of the parking lot may be considered to be at fault for your injuries. Because you were a guest on their property, you should have been able to leave the property without coming to harm. Since the property owner’s lax security allowed a stray dog to cause you serious injury, they could be considered liable for your damages.

Proving Liability

Whether you are filing a claim against the dog’s owner or against a property owner, you will need to provide evidence for your injuries. No one is going to just hand over money because you demanded it. A successful claim requires proper documentation. Some key pieces of evidence you could use include:

  • Photos of your injuries
  • Photos of the aggressive dog
  • Witness statements
  • Security footage of the attack
  • A medical assessment
  • Police reports

Gathering this evidence will not be easy. It will require a proper and in-depth investigation. If you are recovering from serious wounds, then tracking down witnesses and security footage will be the last thing on your mind. That is why you should work with an experienced Glendale personal injury attorney from Aghabegian & Associates, PC. We have the skill and dedication you need to receive the compensation you deserve. Call our firm at (818) 507-4311 to speak with a member of our incredible team.

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