Frequently Asked Questions about Strict Liability for Dog Bite

California Dog Bite Law
Dog Bite Claim

Many ask us whether the California dog bite law makes people strictly responsible for the injury caused by their dog. To better understand this, you need to know what does being strictly liable means in case of dog bite injuries.

What does strict liability mean in this context?

When it comes to dog bite injuries, this law holds the owner liable, even if they did not do anything to cause these injuries.

This is an example: Gracy puts her always-calm dog in its crate well before her dinner guests come home. Somehow, it gets out and bites a guest. This unexpected behavior of her dog shocks Gracy.

How is it different from the one-free bite rule?

California has strict liability statutes in place for cases of dig bite, but other American states have laws that are modeled after the rule of one-bite. The latter holds the dog owner responsible only if he or she is aware of the dangerous tendencies of his or her dog.

Most commonly, owners come to know about their dog’s aggression when it has already bitten somebody. This one bite is a warning for them to pay attention to keep other people safe from their domestic dogs. Should the owner fail to do that, the rule will hold him or her responsible for the injuries induced by the bite.

Are there any exceptions to the strict liability rule?

This rule does not apply when:

  • The victim was trespassing
  • It was a law enforcement dog
  • The injured one legally assumed the danger of getting bitten by the animal

There are more exceptions to the rule, but let us dwell on the above-mentioned ones further.


Under California’s dog bite law, the owner is strictly liable in the event the injured victim was lawfully present on their property.

Trespassers, or those who were not invited or not entitled to be there, will not be able to hold the owner strictly responsible. However, they may seek an injury case on the basis of negligence.

Law Enforcement Dogs

The victim will be unable to hold the government entity strictly liable if the animal that bit them works for the police or military. One exception is in the case it bit and injured an innocent bystander. This person can recover compensation for damages under the California dog bite law.

Assumption of the Risk

The owners who face a strictly liability-based lawsuit can argue that the injured claimant assumed the possibility of getting bitten. Some professionals come with a clear, foreseeable risk, like kennel workers and veterinarians.

Individuals in those two roles will not be able to hold the owner strictly responsible for their injuries. However, they can seek compensation by showing the other party was negligent.

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