The dangers of dog bites

Protecting others and protecting yourself

We’ve turned the corner on winter. The days are getting longer. In a month the almond trees will start blooming. And if you’re a dog owner, you’ll be taking more walks with Fido. He’s a well-behaved dog, but can you be completely sure he won’t bite? Because if he does bite someone, not only will that person be injured—and possibly traumatized and scarred for life—but you’ll also be liable for damages under California law.

Dogs bite about 4.5 million people each year in the United States. In 2006, 31,000 of the people attacked required reconstructive surgery.

Here are some things dog owners should know:

Strict liability: There is no “one-free-bite” rule in California. Owners are liable for any injuries incurred. Injury awards average $26,000.

Check your policy: Not all homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies cover dog bites. Make sure yours does.

If you’re a landlord: Be aware that you are liable if your renter’s dog attacks someone who’s lawfully on your property.

Location doesn’t matter: You’re liable if your dog attacks anyone who’s lawfully in a public place, including parks and beaches and the sidewalk in front of your house.