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Learn your rights after a dog bite in California

If you are bitten by someone's dog while out jogging through the park, are they liable for your injuries? What about while you are visiting at their home? How about if you cut across their yard without their permission as a shortcut home?

Under California's Civil Code, Section 3342, otherwise known as the "dog bite law," the strict liability that is imposed on dog owners would make the owners liable for bites from their dog in the first two scenarios, but not in the latter.

Strict liability means that California dogs don't get a free pass to bite someone before their owners have to assume responsibility for the damage they caused. Dogs without a biting history who have never exhibited vicious mannerisms toward people or other dogs still must be treated as though they could become a danger, as long as:

-- the person who got bitten was in the owner's home or on their property with their permission, or;

-- the person was in public when they were bit.

As you can see, this exempts dogs who bite trespassers, which many dog owners view as one of the reasons they have dogs in the first place — they can be a deterrent to those who have no business on a person's property.

There are other exceptions, including property damage or other injuries, such as a twisted ankle from a dog who jumps up and knocks a visitor down, and all military and police dogs carrying out their lawful duties. The dog's owner is also the only one held liable.

Some municipal codes have stricter regulations in place regarding dog bites, so it is always a good idea to investigate the individual codes where the attack occurred if you got bit by a dog and decide to file a claim for damages.

Those who have been bitten by a dog in California have up to two years to take action and file a lawsuit if they choose. An attorney can assist you with doing so before your case proscribes and you no longer have a right to seek compensation for your injuries.

Source: FIndLaw, "Los Angeles Dog Bites: The Basics," accessed Nov. 25, 2016

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