Does California have a "One-Bite Rule"?

No. While other states have a “one-bite rule,” California’s dog bite statute is a strict liability statute.  

 Section 3342 of the California Civil Code provides damages to a dog bite victim if he or she is bitten:

  1. in a public place or, 
  2. lawfully on any property, including the property of the dog owner. (trespasser) [1]

In a one-bite rule jurisdiction, the owner must have notice of a dog's aggressive behavior to be liable for a victim's injury.  However, in California, the dog owner is strictly liable even if he or she didn't know the dog would act aggressively.  As such, the dog bite victim does not have to prove that the dog has a history of violent behavior to recover damages.  

If a dog has bitten someone on two or more occasions or has been trained to attack someone, a concerned citizen or local government entity can petition the court to have the dog removed from the home or euthanized. 

Below, our California personal injury attorneys discuss the one-bite rule.   

Aggressive 20dog

1. What is the one-bite rule? 

The one bite rule provides that the owner must have notice of a dog's aggressive behavior to be liable for a victim's injury.

Example: Becky owns Parker the golden retriever. Parker occasionally snaps or growls at people who enter Becky's home.  While hosting a brunch, Parker escapes from his crate and attacks one of Becky's guest.  Becky is liable under the one-bite rule because she has notice of Parker's aggressive behavior.

Although Parker had not previously bitten anyone before the incident, Becky would still be liable because she had previous knowledge that Parker snaps and growls at people who enter her home.  

2. Does California have a one-bite rule? 

No. California does not have a one-bite rule.  California's dog bite statute is a strict liability statute. Strict liability means that a dog owner is legally responsible for an injury even if he or she was not negligent.  The owner cannot escape liability for a dog bite because he or she was ignorant of the dog's aggressive or violent nature.

Example: Isabel owns Monty. Monty is a fun and friendly poodle.  Monty frequently roams around the neighborhood and plays with the neighborhood children. One day, Monty walks up to 9-year-old John who is playing at the park.  When John reaches down to pet Monty, Monty bites John.  

John only has to prove that:

1) he was injured by Monty, and

2) he was on public property (the park).

If John proves these two elements, Isabel is financially responsible for all damages resulting from the dog bite even though Monty had never shown signs of aggression.

3. How does California handle a dog with a previous biting history? 

Dogs with a previous biting history can be taken away from its owner or euthanized following a hearing.  

California law imposes an extra duty of care on the dog's owner whose animal has a previous biting history or history of aggression.  The dog owner must take all reasonable steps to prevent people from being bitten.  If the dog owner fails to take reasonable steps to protect others, any government entity or person, including a neighbor or a friend, can petition the court to euthanize the dog. [2]

A concerned citizen or local government can bring suit for such a hearing against an owner when:

  • the dog has bitten people two times or more, or
  • the dog that was trained to fight, attack, or kill bites a person just once and causes substantial physical injury.  [3]

Injured by a dog in California? Call us for help...

Contact our experienced California dog-bite attorneys for a free consultation. 

Call us at (855) JUSTICE to discuss your case in confidence with an experienced California injury lawyer.

We have offices throughout California, including in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino, San Diego and Riverside Counties, as well as Central and Northern California.

Related Topics:

  1. Does California's Dog Bite Statute Protect Dogs who are Attacked?
  2. What is the “Statute of Limitations” for California's Dog Bite Law?
  3. Does California Require a Dog To Be Quarantined After It Bites Someone?
  4. Does Homeowner's Insurance Cover Dog Bites?

Legal References:

  1. California Civil Code § 3342
  2. California Civil Code § 3342.5
  3. California Civil Code § 3342.5

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