How to Prove Liability for Dog Bites in California - Adamson Ahdoot

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Dog Bites and Dog Sitters: Determining Liability and Seeking Compensation

July 26, 2023 Alan Ahdoot
Home » Blog » Dog Bites and Dog Sitters: Determining Liability and Seeking Compensation

Dogs are often honored as cherished companions, but even these beloved pets can cause harm with their sharp teeth. Canines may react adversely when they feel stressed or threatened, presenting a significant risk to humans. As both responsible owners and dog sitters, it’s crucial to take steps to prevent dogs from attacking people and to take liability for bites. This is why the process of finding a caregiver is so important. The owner must be sure to choose someone who can effectively care for their dog and avoid any potential harm.

Liability for dog bites can vary from state to state. And in some instances, the responsibility may extend beyond the owner. 

In California, for example, dog bite laws take into account the care and custody exercised by the sitter. Understanding these laws is crucial when pursuing a lawsuit for dog bites. Continue reading to learn more about how to sue for dog bites under California’s existing laws.

What is Considered a Dog Bite in California?

A dog bite occurs when a canine grabs a person with its teeth or closes its jaws around them. Even if the skin is not broken, the dog’s attempt to bite the person is still considered a bite. In some cases, the victim may fall or sustain injuries as a result of the dog grabbing their clothes.

Who is Liable When a Dog Bites You?

Dog owners are strictly liable when their pets attack or hurt people. But if your dog is under the care of a sitter when the incident happened, the injured victim may sue the sitter to seek compensation for the medical expenses and other damages.

Depending on how the accident occurred, the liability of the owner or pet sitter may be revoked due to the following circumstances:

If the Dog Was Provoked

If the injured person clearly hit or teased the animal, the owner or sitter is not responsible for the damage. Dogs may be considered provoked if the person stepped on their tails, hit them with a stick, or sprayed a repellant on them for self-defense. 

Similarly, if the person intervened in a dog fight and tried to pet the animal while it is eating or chained up, the pup will get triggered and bite the person as a reaction.

If the Person Trespassed at the Time of the Incident

If a person enters a home or private property and is bitten, dog sitters and owners usually have no liability for bites. However, if the court finds out that you’ve given an implied invitation, like open gates without any warning signs that you have dangerous dogs, you may face premises liability charges.

Even if you did not explicitly invite others but expected them to come over, you are still liable if your canine bites them. More importantly, owners and sitters are also responsible for preventing children from getting close to their dogs, which might hurt them.

If the Person Knows the Risk of the Injury

The owner or sitter may not bear liability if the injured person willingly assumed the risk despite the presence of a “Beware of Dog” sign. 

Likewise, individuals who agree to care for an animal are deemed aware of the potential risks involved in their role.

This scenario is particularly applicable to veterinarians, pet groomers, sitters, and other professionals entrusted with the responsibility of looking after animals.

If the Victim Can’t Show Bite Marks

If there is no physical contact between the dog’s teeth and the individual’s body part, the plaintiff cannot press charges against the owner or sitter. 

When initiating a lawsuit, it is crucial to provide evidence that substantiates the incident. Even if the dog exhibited aggressive behavior, this argument alone cannot establish liability without the presence of actual bite marks.

If the Injured Person Commits a Crime at the Time of the Accident

The liability of owners or sitters may be diminished or eliminated if the injured person was engaging in illegal activities at the time of the incident. 

Moreover, if the individual was unlawfully on the premises or property of the dog owner, they may also face trespassing charges in addition to their injuries.

Dog Bite Laws in California

In California, the law holds all dog owners and sitters responsible for injuries sustained by individuals who lawfully visit their property or who are bitten in public. 

This means that owners and dog sitters cannot escape civil liability for bites. And, therefore, they are liable for damages caused by these animals in such circumstances.

a pet sitter walking a dog
Pet sitters may also assume liability for injuries sustained after a dog bite incident.

Strict Liability

Owners cannot claim ignorance about the potential danger posed by their dogs. In California, they are generally held responsible for most dog bite injuries. However, individuals who are bitten by military dogs while the dogs are on duty are typically unable to file a lawsuit. 

Additionally, the strict liability rule may not apply to individuals who are chased or attacked by a dog while on the road. Although they may not be eligible for compensation specifically for the dog bite, they can still pursue a lawsuit against the owner based on negligence.


Owners and sitters have a general duty to exercise reasonable care in controlling their pets. This, of course, includes preventing them from causing harm to others. They may be charged with negligence if they fail to exercise this responsibility.

If a dog has a known history of biting or attacking people, caution should be applied. The owner should take steps to restrain the animal. This includes warning people who may come into contact with it.

Furthermore, owners and sitters can be held liable if they allow their dogs to roam freely and unsupervised in public areas.

Dangerous Dogs

In California, a dog is deemed potentially dangerous if individuals find themselves needing to protect themselves from it. It is classified as vicious if it has previously caused unprovoked, aggressive injury or death to someone. 

The State has established a different procedure for controlling dangerous dogs. They are required to be kept indoors or confined in a fenced yard on a strong leash. And, above all, away from children. In some cases, authorities may euthanize them if the animals continue to pose a threat to public safety.

How to Pursue Compensation for Your Injuries

Filing a personal injury claim after a dog bite is the optimal course of action to seek compensation for injuries. To recover damages, it is crucial to provide evidence of the injury, such as bite marks and witness statements.

Victims may be entitled to compensation for the following damages resulting from the dog bite incident:

  • Medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost income
  • Property damage, such as broken motorcycles or eyeglasses
  • Punitive damages (in certain cases)

Seek Legal Help From Dog Bite Lawyers at Adamson Ahdoot

Have you been unexpectedly attacked by a dog? Let our personal injury lawyers help you. We can assist you in filing a lawsuit against the dog owner or sitter for the bites you received.

Our experienced team is dedicated to advocating for your rights and obtaining the compensation you deserve.

Call us at (800) 310-1606 today to schedule your free consultation with a premier injury attorney. We offer free and no-obligation consultations in English or Spanish.

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Our team can better advise you on your legal options once we receive any available evidence about the incident.

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