The statute of limitations (or time window) to bring a dog bite lawsuit in California is two years from the date the injury occurred. Failure to bring your claim within this timeframe will, in most cases, mean that you are forever barred from recovering any compensation.1
This applies to dog bite lawsuits based on:
- Strict liability under California’s dog bite statute (Civil Code 3342),
- The dog owner’s negligence in preventing the bite, or
- The dog owner’s knowledge that their dog was vicious.
Victims who were under the age of 18 when the bite occurred may have longer to file their claims.2
Failure to file a dog bite lawsuit before the statute of limitations has expired can lead to your claim being dismissed.
In this article, our dog bite lawyers explain:
- 1. What is the statute of limitations for filing a dog bite lawsuit in California?
- 2. Does the statute of limitations toll for minors?
- 3. What will happen if I do not file my dog bite lawsuit before the statute expires?
- 4. When is the best time to file a dog bite lawsuit?
- 5. When should I talk to a dog bite lawyer?
1. What is the statute of limitations for filing a dog bite lawsuit in California?
Dog bite lawsuits are personal injury claims. Therefore, the appropriate statute of limitations is California Civil Code 335.1. This statute requires the following lawsuits to be filed within two years:
- Battery, and
- Injuries or death caused by the wrongful act or neglect of someone else.
Dog bites fall under this statute because they are the result of someone else’s wrongful acts or negligence.3 For a more general discussion, visit our page on the statute of limitations for personal injury claims in California.
1.1. Does the statute of limitations begin to run when the dog bites me?
California Civil Code 335.1 begins to run at the time of the injury. In dog bite cases, this is the moment the dog bit you.4
This is important in dog bite cases because it can take time to find who owns the dog. In some cases, it can even be difficult to find the dog that bit you. Failure to find the owner is not enough to excuse missing the deadline.
2. Does the statute of limitations toll for minors?
In some cases, the statute of limitations is tolled, or delayed. One of those cases is when the victim was a minor. When the victim was a minor at the time of the dog bite, the statute of limitations is delayed until they turn 18.
Once they turn 18, the statute of limitations begins to run.5 This gives underage victims until their 20th birthday to file a dog bite lawsuit. For more discussion, see our page on tolling the statute of limitations for minors in California injury cases.
3. What will happen if I do not file my dog bite lawsuit before the statute expires?
If you do not file a dog bite lawsuit before the statute of limitations has expired, your lawsuit will be dismissed.
The statute of limitations is an absolute rule. It exists to force victims to file their lawsuits while evidence is still fresh. They also allow potential defendants to repose after a certain period of time has passed. Courts in California take them very seriously. Even if you miss the filing deadline by one day, the court can throw it out.6
All that a defendant has to do to a lawsuit that has been filed after the statute has expired is file a single motion. That motion argues that the statute of limitations has expired. If you cannot show that it has not expired, or that it was tolled, your case will be dismissed. It will not matter how strong your claim for compensation was.
4. When is the best time to file a dog bite lawsuit?
The best time to file a dog bite lawsuit is
- after your injuries have been diagnosed and treated, but
- before the statute of limitations has expired.
By waiting for as long as possible in your recovery, you can show exactly how much compensation you deserve. By reducing the amount of speculation concerning your medical treatment, it makes your case simpler.
The compensation that you deserve should cover all of your legal damages from the dog bite. These include:
- Medical bills, both those you have already paid and those anticipated for future care,
- Lost wages,
- Lost ability to earn a living,
- Pain and suffering, and
- Loss of consortium for your family or loved ones.7
If you file a dog bite lawsuit before you have fully recovered, some of those losses will still be unclear. This gives the dog owner, and their homeowner’s insurance company, the opportunity to challenge your damages. This can make your case take longer.
5. When should I talk to a dog bite lawyer?
It is important to first talk to a dog bite lawyer soon after you or your loved one was bitten. By getting a lawyer involved soon in the process, you can begin to gather important evidence as it appears, rather than scrounge for it later.
A lawyer’s involvement early in the case can also keep you from making important mistakes like admitting liability to the dog owner.
It is very important not to go to a lawyer in the days or weeks before the statute of limitations is set to expire. Dog bite lawsuits take time to put together and file. Talking to a lawyer only a few days before the statute expires can make it impossible to file a strong lawsuit. This can leave you uncompensated for your injuries.
Call us for help…
If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, you may be entitled to compensation. California does not follow the one bite rule, so you can recover compensation from owners who were unaware of their dog’s aggression. Contact us online to get started on your case.
- Code of Civil Procedure 335.1 CCP.
- Code of Civil Procedure 340.4 CCP.
- See note 1. See also David v. Gaschler (
- See also Regus v. Schartkoff (
- See note 2.
- See, for example, Pritchard v. Sharp (Court of Appeal of California, First Appellate District, Division Two, 1974) 41 Cal. App. 3d 530.
- See, for example, People v. Vasquez (