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What To Do If Your Neighbor's Dog Bites You

Posted by Siamak Vaziri | Mar 13, 2024 | 0 Comments

Getting bitten by a neighbor's dog can be more than just painful; it introduces a whirlwind of legal, medical, and emotional challenges. In sunny California, where every other household seems to have a furry friend, understanding your rights is crucial. If you've found yourself nursing wounds because a "neighbors dog bit me" has become more than just an online search but your reality, knowing what actions to take next can be very helpful amidst the chaos.

Neighbor's dog staring menacingly

The Golden State stands out with its strict liability laws regarding dog bites. This means that regardless of whether Fido had been as gentle as a lamb before this incident or not doesn't affect the case much. The moment those teeth made contact with your skin on public property or while lawfully on private premises marks the start of your journey towards justice and healing.

Table of Contents:

What to Do If Your Neighbor's Dog Bites You in California

If you're bitten by a dog in California, you need to act fast. The steps you take right after the incident can make or break your case.

Here's what you need to do:

Seek Medical Attention

First things first, get yourself checked out by a doctor. Even if the bite seems minor, it's important to have it properly cleaned and treated to avoid infection. Dog bites can lead to serious complications, so don't take any chances.

Keep all your medical records and bills related to the treatment. You'll need them later when filing an insurance claim or pursuing legal action.

Report the Incident

Next, report the dog bite to your local animal control or police department. This creates an official record of the incident and ensures that the dog is quarantined to check for rabies.

Reporting also helps protect others from potential future attacks by the same dog. Don't let the owner convince you to keep quiet - it's your duty to report.

Gather Evidence

To build a strong case, you need evidence. Take photos of your injuries, the location where the bite occurred, and any torn clothing or property damage. Get contact information from witnesses who saw what happened.

The more evidence you have, the better your chances of receiving fair compensation for your injuries and damages.

Contact an Attorney

Dog bite laws in California can be complex. That's why it's crucial to consult with an experienced dog bite attorney who can guide you through the legal process.

An attorney can help you understand your rights, negotiate with insurance companies, and ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve. Don't try to navigate this alone - get professional legal help on your side.

Understanding California's Strict Liability Dog Bite Law

California has some of the strictest dog bite laws in the country. As a dog bite victim, it's important to understand how these laws work and what they mean for your case.

What Is Considered a Dog Bite

Under California's strict liability statute (Civil Code Section 3342), a dog bite is defined as any physical contact between a dog's teeth and a person's skin that results in a break or puncture. This includes not only bites but also scratches caused by the dog's teeth.

So even if the dog didn't actually clamp down on you, if its teeth broke your skin, it counts as a bite under the law.

When Are Dog Owners Liable

In California, dog owners are strictly liable for injuries caused by their dogs in most situations. This means that even if the dog has never bitten anyone before or shown any signs of aggression, the owner is still responsible for damages resulting from a bite.

The law applies whether the bite occurs in a public place or on private property, as long as the victim was lawfully on that property (not trespassing).

Exceptions to Strict Liability

There are a few exceptions to California's strict liability dog bite law. Dog owners may not be held liable if:

  • The victim was trespassing on private property
  • The victim provoked the dog
  • The victim was committing a crime at the time of the bite
  • The dog was a police or military dog acting in the line of duty

However, in most cases, dog owners are legally responsible for bites and must compensate victims for their injuries and losses.

Compensation for Dog Bite Injuries in California

If you've been bitten by a dog in California, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and damages. Here's what you can seek reimbursement for:

Medical Expenses

Dog bite victims can recover all medical costs related to the injury, including emergency room visits, surgeries, medications, and ongoing treatment. It's crucial to keep detailed records of all your medical bills to ensure proper reimbursement.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for nearly one-third of all homeowners liability claim dollars paid out in 2018, costing $675 million.

Lost Wages

If your injuries prevent you from working, you can seek compensation for lost wages. This includes not only the time missed immediately after the incident but also any future lost earning capacity if the injury results in long-term disability.

Make sure to document any time taken off work and obtain a doctor's note confirming your inability to work due to the dog bite.

Pain and Suffering

California law allows dog bite victims to recover compensation for non-economic damages like pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. The amount varies depending on the severity of the injury and its impact on your daily activities.

An experienced attorney can help you determine an appropriate amount to seek for these subjective damages.

Property Damage

In addition to physical injuries, you can also recover compensation for any property damaged during the dog attack, such as torn clothing, broken glasses, or damaged personal items.

Keep receipts for any repairs or replacements needed as a result of the incident.

What Happens to the Dog After a Bite Incident

After a reported dog bite, several things may happen to the dog depending on the severity of the incident and the dog's history. Here's what you need to know:

Quarantine Requirements

Following a bite, the dog must be quarantined for at least 10 days to observe for signs of rabies. This quarantine can take place at the owner's home, a veterinary clinic, or an animal shelter, depending on local regulations and the circumstances of the bite.

During the quarantine period, the dog must not have contact with other animals or people outside the household. This is to ensure that the dog does not have rabies and to prevent any potential spread of the disease.

Dangerous Dog Hearings

If a dog has a history of aggression or has been involved in multiple bites, animal control may initiate a "dangerous dog" hearing. At this hearing, evidence is presented to determine whether the dog poses a significant threat to public safety.

If the dog is deemed dangerous, the owner may be required to follow strict guidelines, such as keeping the dog muzzled in public, posting warning signs on their property, or obtaining liability insurance. In some cases, the dog may even be required to be euthanized.

Possible Euthanasia

In severe cases where a dog has caused serious injury or death, or has a history of repeated aggression, authorities may seek to have the dog euthanized. This decision is not taken lightly and typically follows a thorough investigation and legal proceedings.

Owners have the right to appeal any decision to euthanize their dog, but in cases where public safety is at risk, the courts may ultimately decide in favor of euthanasia.

It's important for dog owners to understand their responsibilities and take steps to prevent bites from occurring in the first place. By promoting responsible dog ownership, we can help keep both people and pets safe in our communities.

Preventing Dog Bites and Promoting Responsible Dog Ownership

As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When it comes to dog bites, this couldn't be more true. By taking proactive steps to prevent bites and promote responsible dog ownership, we can create safer communities for both people and pets.

Leash Laws

One of the most effective ways to prevent dog bites is through the enforcement of leash laws. Many cities and counties in California require dogs to be on a leash when in public areas, and for good reason.

Leashes allow owners to maintain control over their dogs and prevent them from running up to or jumping on strangers. This simple step can go a long way in reducing the risk of bites and other dog-related incidents.

Spay/Neuter Programs

Another important aspect of responsible dog ownership is spaying or neutering your pet. Not only does this help control the pet population, but it can also reduce aggressive behavior in dogs.

Many local animal shelters and veterinary clinics offer low-cost spay/neuter programs to make this essential procedure more accessible to all dog owners. By taking advantage of these programs, you can do your part to promote responsible pet ownership in your community.

Dog Training

Proper training and socialization are key to raising a well-behaved dog that is less likely to bite. Enrolling your dog in obedience classes and working with a professional trainer can help address any behavioral issues and teach your dog important skills like bite inhibition.

Exposing your dog to a variety of people, animals, and situations from a young age can also help them become well-adjusted and confident in different environments. A well-socialized dog is less likely to react with fear or aggression when faced with new experiences.

Liability Insurance

Finally, as a responsible dog owner, it's important to make sure you have adequate liability insurance coverage in case the unthinkable happens and your dog does bite someone. Most homeowners and renters insurance policies include some level of liability coverage for dog bites, but it's important to review your policy and make sure you have sufficient coverage.

If you own a breed that is often excluded from insurance policies or have a dog with a history of aggression, you may need to purchase additional liability insurance to protect yourself financially in the event of a bite incident.

By working together to promote responsible dog ownership and taking steps to prevent bites before they occur, we can create a safer, more harmonious community for everyone - both two-legged and four-legged alike.

Key Takeaway: 

Got bitten by a neighbor's dog in California? Act quickly to protect your rights. See a doctor, report the bite, gather evidence, and consult an attorney. Know that California's strict laws may favor you, but also understand exceptions exist. Seek compensation for damages like medical bills and lost wages.


Understanding California's strict liability laws provides bite victims with solid ground from which they can seek rightful compensation without getting lost in technicalities about previous pet behavior patterns.

This journey needn't be walked alone—knowing how important immediate medical attention is post-bite both for health reasons and as evidence should encourage quick action. Moreover, reporting incidents properly bolsters community safety against future mishaps while reaching out for professional help could ease burdens significantly during such trying times.

Above all else though—is recognizing that support exists within these structures designed to protect us; navigating them might require patience but isn't insurmountable so long as we remember our rights are enshrined precisely for moments like these where accountability matters most after unexpected encounters leave lasting marks far beyond physical scars left behind by neighborhood pets gone astray.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a dog attack, or if you have lost a loved one in a dog attack, the experienced California dog bite lawyers at the Vaziri Law Group, APC can help you evaluate your legal rights and options. Our knowledgeable team can help injured clients understand how the law applies to their case. Call our law offices to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.

About the Author

Siamak Vaziri

Attorney Siamak Vaziri’s mission is to help make his clients whole by obtaining maximum physical, emotional, and financial recovery. Mr. Vaziri’s clients' needs come first, evidenced by his 98% success rate, more than $1 Billion in client settlements and verdicts, as well as 100+ 5-star reviews. Mr. Vaziri invests every resource to nurture his client and partner relationships and does so with integrity and a relentless work ethic.


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