Animal Attack

Are Dog Bites a Suable Offense in California and Nevada

German Shepperd about to bite a male hand

Dogs are man's best friend, but they can also be dangerous if not trained or managed properly. Every year, thousands of people in California are bitten by dogs, leading to physical injuries, emotional trauma, and even death. Dog bites can be devastating, and they can also result in a legal liability for the owner. In this article, we'll discuss whether dog bites are a suable offense in California.

Table of Contents

I. Introduction

II. Understanding Dog Bites

III. Types of Dog Bites

IV. Common Injuries Caused by Dog Bites

V. California Dog Bite Law

VI. Strict Liability

VII. Elements of a Dog Bite Claim

VIII. Legal Recourse for Dog Bite Victims

IX. Filing a Claim

X. Compensation for Damages

XI. Preventing Dog Bites

XII. Responsible Dog Ownership

XIII. Safety Tips

XIV. Conclusion



Cute wet dog on the beach.
Photo by Greg Jenkins on Unsplash

Dogs are one of the most beloved and popular pets in California and Nevada. They are loyal, affectionate, and can provide a lot of joy to their owners. However, they can also pose a danger to people if they are not properly trained, socialized, or restrained. In fact, dogs can cause serious injuries, permanent scars, and even fatalities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately 4.5 million dog bites in the United States each year, and California is one of the states with the highest incidence rates.

Dog bites can be traumatic experiences, both physically and emotionally. Victims may suffer from pain, bleeding, infections, nerve damage, disfigurement, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They may also face medical bills, lost wages, and other financial and non-economic losses. In some cases, the dog owner may be held legally responsible for the harm caused by their pet.

Understanding Dog Bites

One dog trying to bite another.
Photo by David Taffet on Unsplash

Before we delve into the legal aspects of dog bites in California and Nevada, it's important to understand what a dog bite is and how it can happen. A dog bite occurs when a dog's teeth penetrate or injure a person's skin, tissues, or bones. Dog bites can happen in different ways, such as:

Types of Dog Bites

  • Provoked bites: When a person intentionally or unintentionally teases, threatens, or hurts a dog, causing it to react aggressively.
  • Unprovoked bites: When a dog attacks or bites a person without any apparent reason or warning.
  • Playful bites: When a dog nips or bites during play, usually without causing serious harm.
  • Territorial bites: When a dog defends its territory, such as its home, yard, or owner, and perceives a person as a threat or intruder.
  • Protective bites: When a dog protects its offspring, pack, or resources, and perceives a person as a danger.
  • Fear bites: When a dog is afraid of a person or a situation and bites as a last resort to defend itself.

Common Injuries Caused by Dog Bites

Hand puncture bleeding from dog bite
Photo by lilartsy on Unsplash

Dog bites can range from minor scratches to severe injuries, depending on the size and breed of the dog, the location and depth of the bite, and the health and age of the victim. Some of the most common injuries caused by dog bites are:

  • Puncture wounds
  • Lacerations
  • Abrasions
  • Contusions
  • Fractures
  • Dislocations
  • Infections (such as rabies, tetanus, and MRSA)
  • Scarring
  • Amputations
  • Death

California Dog Bite Law:

In California, the dog bite law is governed by a strict liability rule, which means that dog owners are held responsible for any damages their dogs cause to a person or property. This liability extends regardless of whether the owner was aware of the dog's dangerous propensities. The law is designed to protect victims of dog bites and make it easier for them to seek compensation for their injuries.

Under this law, a victim does not need to prove that the dog owner was negligent or at fault for the dog bite. Instead, they only need to demonstrate that they were bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, such as the owner's property. This is especially important for individuals residing in Los Angeles, California, where dog ownership is prevalent, and dog bite incidents can be relatively common.

Statistics show that California ranks among the top states in the United States for dog-related injuries, and Los Angeles is no exception, with a significant number of dog bite cases reported each year. With such high incidence rates, it's crucial for residents to be aware of their legal rights under the state's dog bite law.

Nevada Dog Bite Law:

In Nevada, dog bite law shares similarities with California's strict liability rule. Under this rule, the owner of a dog is responsible for any damages their dog inflicts upon a person or property, regardless of whether they were aware of the dog's dangerous tendencies. This legal framework is designed to protect individuals who suffer injuries due to dog bites and to provide them with a straightforward path to seeking compensation.

Much like in California, in Nevada, the victim of a dog bite does not need to prove that the owner was negligent or at fault for the incident. They only need to establish that they were bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully on private property, including the owner's premises. In Las Vegas, Nevada, where many residents own dogs, understanding and applying this law is essential.

Statistics show that Nevada also experiences a significant number of dog bite incidents each year, highlighting the importance of being informed about the state's dog bite law. Mendez & Sanchez Law, with offices in both Los Angeles, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada, is dedicated to assisting dog bite victims in both states. Our team is committed to providing professional and empathetic legal services to ensure that victims receive the compensation they deserve.

Elements of a Dog Bite Claim

To recover damages for a dog bite in California, the victim must prove the following elements:

  • The defendant is the owner of the dog.
  • The victim was bitten by the dog or sustained injury as a result of the dog's behavior.
  • The victim was in a public place or lawfully in a private place.
  • The bite or injury was a substantial factor in causing the victim's harm.

If the victim can establish these elements, then the owner may be held liable for the victim's damages, which may include medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.

It's important to note that the strict liability rule only applies to dog bites, not to other types of injuries caused by dogs, such as knocking down or chasing a person. In those cases, the victim would have to prove that the owner was negligent or at fault for the injury.

Legal Recourse for Dog Bite Victims

If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog in California, you may be entitled to legal recourse. Here are some steps you can take:

Filing a Claim

The first step is to seek medical attention for your injuries. Dog bites can be serious and require prompt medical treatment to prevent infection and other complications. You should also report the bite to the local animal control agency or police department, as they may need to investigate the incident and quarantine the dog for rabies testing.

After seeking medical attention and reporting the bite, you should consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can advise you on your legal options. Your lawyer can help you gather evidence, such as medical records, witness statements, and photographs of your injuries, and negotiate with the dog owner's insurance company or file a lawsuit if necessary.

Compensation for Damages

If you have a valid claim, you may be able to recover compensation for your damages. This may include:

  • Medical expenses, such as hospital bills, doctor visits, and medication.
  • Lost income, if you had to take time off work or were unable to perform your job duties due to the bite.
  • Pain and suffering, such as physical pain, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.
  • Property damage, if the dog damaged your personal belongings or clothing.

The amount of compensation you may receive depends on various factors, such as the severity of your injuries, the impact on your life, and the insurance coverage of the dog owner.

Preventing Dog Bites

Black dog being walked on a road with a blue leash
Photo by Dominik Kempf on Unsplash

While dog bites can happen unexpectedly, there are ways to reduce the risk of them happening. Here are some tips:

Responsible Dog Ownership

If you own a dog, it's important to be a responsible owner and follow these guidelines:

  • Train and socialize your dog from a young age.
  • Keep your dog on a leash or in a secure area when in public.
  • Supervise your dog when around children or other pets.
  • Spay or neuter your dog to reduce aggression.
  • Vaccinate your dog against rabies and other diseases.
  • Provide proper food, water, shelter, and exercise for your dog.

Safety Tips

If you encounter a dog, here are some safety tips to follow:

  • Do not approach or touch a dog without the owner's permission.
  • Do not run away from a dog or make loud noises, as this may trigger an attack
  • Stand still and avoid eye contact with the dog.
  • If the dog attacks, use an object to defend yourself, such as a jacket or backpack.

By following these guidelines, you can help prevent dog bites and ensure the safety of yourself and others.


In both California and Nevada, dog bites can result in serious injuries and emotional trauma. However, victims of dog bites have legal recourse under the state's strict liability rule, which holds dog owners responsible for any damages caused by their dogs. If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, it's important to seek medical attention and consult with an expert dog bite attorney who can help you recover compensation for your damages.

Preventing dog bites is also crucial, and responsible dog ownership and safety tips can go a long way in reducing the risk of these incidents. By working together, we can make our communities safer for both people and dogs.

In California and Nevada, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims, including dog bite claims, is two years from the date of the injury. It's important to act promptly to preserve your legal rights.

As dog lovers, it pains us to hear about the devastating effects of dog bites on victims and their families. No one should have to endure the physical and emotional trauma that comes with being attacked by a dog. That's why it's so important for dog owners to take responsibility for their pets and ensure that they are properly trained and socialized.

But even the most well-behaved dogs can sometimes lash out and cause harm. When this happens, it's essential for victims to know their legal rights and options for seeking compensation. No one should have to bear the financial burden of medical bills and lost wages caused by someone else's negligence.

At the same time, we must also recognize that dogs are not the only ones at fault in these situations. It's crucial for individuals to take precautions when interacting with dogs and to educate themselves on how to prevent dog bites. By working together, we can create safer communities for both people and their furry companions.

So let's do our part to promote responsible dog ownership and prevent dog bites from occurring in the first place. And for those who have already suffered the pain of a dog bite, know that you are not alone. There is help available, and justice can be served.


No, the strict liability rule only applies to dog bites, not other types of injuries caused by dogs.

You may still be able to recover compensation from the dog owner's personal assets, depending on the circumstances of the case.

Provoking a dog may be a defense for the owner, but it's important to consult with a personal injury lawyer to determine the best course of action.

Yes, the strict liability rule applies regardless of whether the dog was on or off-leash.

In California, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims, including dog bite claims, is two years from the date of the injury. Act quick!

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