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Law Offices of Robin E. Paley
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Are dog owners strictly liable for non-bite injuries to others?

An attack by a vicious dog can leave a victim with serious medical complications and may even cause them life-threatening injuries. Pain, suffering, disfigurement, and death are all possible outcomes from dog attacks. In California, when a dog bites another person, their owner is strictly liable for the harm the dog causes the victim.

Strict liability means that a victim does not have to show fault to prove that the owner of the dog that bit them is liable for their injuries. The mere fact that the dog bit them is enough to show the dog's owner is responsible. However, when a dog inflicts injury on a victim through an action not associated with biting, strict liability is no longer the standard by which the law will judge their case.

For example, if a dog jumps up on someone and scratches their skin, the dog's owner will not be strictly liable for the victim's injury. The victim may choose to sue the dog's owner for the recovery of their damages but doing so will require the victim to prove that the dog owner was negligent when the incident took place. Negligence claims carry their own elements that must be proven.

There is no question that dogs can cause serious injuries to individuals and that dog owners should be held accountable for the actions of their pets. However, in California, strict liability only applies to animal attack cases that involve biting. Other personal injury claims may be pursued based on standard negligence theories of law.

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