Modified: January 19, 2023

California’s Dog Bite Law Let’s Trespassers Sue: All You Need to Know

If you’re a trespasser who suffered injuries in a dog attack, you may want to explore your legal options. Although trespassers have minimal rights, in certain circumstances, California’s dog bite law let’s trespassers sue dog owners for injuries.

Ehline Law and our award-winning personal injury attorneys have been protecting the rights of thousands of injured victims and ensuring swift justice since 2005. We’re a premier law firm with more than 15 locations across California and Texas. We have the resources to aggressively pursue your personal injury lawsuit and get you the compensation you deserve.

Contact our experienced dog bite attorneys to learn more about your rights as an injured victim.

California Dog Bite Laws – Strict Liability

Unlike states with a one-bite rule where dog owners get a golden ticket to escape liability, California is a strict liability state. That means the injured party does not have the burden of proof or provide evidence of the dog owner’s negligence.

In simple words, if a dog bites another person, the dog owner will be responsible for the damages under state law (except in certain circumstances) regardless of the following:

  • Dog’s prior history of bites
  • The owner’s effort to take reasonable steps to prevent dog bites
  • Whether the dog owner knew that their pet was dangerous.

The strict liability ensures that the dog owners are responsible for the damages done by their pets, except in the following circumstances:

  • The victim was trespassing
  • The victim provoked the dog
  • The victim suffered injuries from their employer’s dog at work.

Can a Trespasser Sue Dog Owners for Dog Bites in California?

In some situations, a trespasser may be able to hold the dog owner liable for the injuries sustained. However, they cannot assert the strict liability statute, which offers maximum protection to dog bite victims.

Under California Civil Code 3342, dog owners are strictly liable for dog bite injuries if the incident occurs:

  • On public property
  • In a place where the victim has the right to be.

The California Civil Code 3342 does not protect trespassers as they’re neither on the public property nor have the right to be on the dog owner’s property. Since they cannot rely on strict liability, trespassers must prove that the dog owner was negligent, which resulted in their injuries.

Since trespassers cannot invoke strict liability, they have a far more challenging task to prove their case compared to other visitors/guests. A trespasser may be able to recover damages for dog bite injuries under negligence law, which makes it rather difficult to pursue compensation.

Who Is a Trespasser?

When someone is on another’s property unlawfully or without their consent, they are trespassing on another’s land and therefore are a trespasser.

Certain situations can lead to a person having a trespasser status, some of which include the following:

  • When a person does not have an express or implied invitation on the property: A person going inside a shop is not trespassing as the business is open to the public, but a stranger walking on another’s land without their consent is.
  • When a person is on another’s land and is not there for official work duty: A mailman who walks onto another’s porch daily to drop mail is not trespassing, but a random plumber strolling on someone else’s property is.
  • When a person is on another’s land past their invitation: A tenant who overstays their visit by staying longer than the agreed duration in the rental agreement is a trespasser.
  • When someone refuses to leave after their invitation is revoked: A neighbor invited to a dinner party starts a scuffle and is asked to leave, but refuses to go, is a trespasser.

Proving Injuries in a Dog Bite Case Involving a Trespasser

A trespasser must prove the dog owner’s negligence by establishing either:

  • The dog owner was negligent in preventing the dog attack, or
  • The dog owner knew about their pet’s dangerous propensities.

The Dog Owner Was Negligent in Preventing the Dog Attack

Under California’s negligence law, dog owners have the duty to prevent unreasonable risk of harm or injuries by their pets to others. The risk becomes unreasonable when a reasonable person can foresee that the dog may bite someone. If a dog owner fails to prevent their dog from attacking someone when it is reasonably foreseeable that their pet might attack, they may be liable for the damages.

The Dog Owner Knew About Their Pet’s Dangerous Propensities

Whether it was a trespasser or any other visitor, dog owners can face liability if they knew about their dog’s dangerous propensities and failed to do anything about it. To prove the dog’s violent nature, the one-bite rule kicks in where the victim must show that the dog bit or attacked someone in the past.

California law imposes strict liability on dog owners who know that their dogs are dangerous and could harm anyone, even if the dog owner takes some steps toward controlling their pet.

Trespassers looking to hold the dog owner responsible for their injuries must prove the following elements of negligence:

  • The defendant owed the victim a duty of care (Legal duty).
  • The defendant’s conduct fell below the reasonable standard of care (Breach).
  • The victim suffered dog bite injuries (Damages).
  • The victim suffered damages due to the defendant’s failure to exercise reasonable care (Causation).

Most dog bite cases revolve around the defendant’s conduct and whether they sufficiently controlled their pet from attacking another individual. Liability in such situations will depend on the circumstances of the case. For example, a dog owner failing to prevent their dog from attacking a trespasser who has no idea they are unlawfully on another’s property may lead to a valid dog bite injury claim.

Legal Defense in Dog Bite Lawsuits Filed by Trespassers

Although a trespasser may believe they have a valid dog bite lawsuit, certain legal defenses can either reduce the compensation awarded or eliminate liability.

The Trespasser Was Partially At-fault for Their Injuries

Are you stuck with medical bills and lost wages after trespassing and being bitten by a dog on private property? When a trespasser suffers dog attacks on someone else’s property, they may be able to hold the dog owner responsible by pursuing a dog bite lawsuit under California dog bite laws. However, the defendant can also argue that the trespasser was partially at-fault for the dog bite injury under the dog bite statute.

It is important to note that even if the trespasser was partially at-fault for the dog bite injury, under California’s comparative negligence rule, they might still recover compensation, but the amount awarded will be reduced according to the degree of fault. It will be up to the jury to decide the degree of responsibility of the dog bite victim making personal injury claims.

Some people are innocent trespassers who have no knowledge that they’re walking on another’s property. But a fenced yard would be a good indicator for most people. Our legislature thinks it’s not fair that they suffer the physical pain from dog bite injuries and the emotional trauma from the dog viciously attacking them. Strict liability means may be unable to recover compensation under California dog bite laws, but they can pursue a dog bite lawsuit under negligence law to obtain monetary damages for the injuries sustained whether the owner knew of the dangers or not.

For example, Jack decides to take a detour in the woods for a refreshing morning walk but doesn’t realize that he is trespassing on John’s property due to a lack of a warning sign. So he has no idea he is engaged in potentially criminal activity at all. There are a few dogs on the property to keep trespassers away, and one of them attacks Jack leading to severe injuries, $100,000 in damages and even criminal charges for trespassing. Jack decides to sue John, and the jury finds Jack 30% responsible for the unfortunate incident. He can only recover $70,000 instead of the $100,000 in damages incurred. He doesn’t get punitive damages unless the owner did this attack with pre meditation. If so, the dog owner may even face criminal charges for attempted murder or assault and battery.

A Military Dog Bit the Trespasser

In cases involving military dogs on duty, the injured trespassers may not be able to pursue dog bite claims. California’s dog bite statute eliminates liability preventing an injured person from suing a government agency if they suffered injuries when the military dog was on duty.

The Trespasser Provoked Dog Bites

If the trespasser comes across a dog who is sleeping and they provoke them knowingly or negligently, they may not be able to pursue a dog bite claim against the dog’s owner. 

Suppose a trespasser sees a dog sleeping on someone’s property, steps on their tail, or partakes in other careless or unreasonable behavior that provokes the animal. It can stop them from recovering damages.

Provoking the dog is one of the defenses a defendant may use to reduce or eliminate liability. However, they cannot use such a defense if the trespasser is a child, as children are incapable of understanding what is dangerous and acting with reasonable care. In dog bite cases where children are the trespassers, they may be able to recover damages despite provoking the animal.

When Should a Trespasser File a Dog Bite Injury Claim?

In California, injured victims have two years following their dog bite injury to bring legal action against the negligent party, regardless of whether they had the right to be on another’s property.

Innocent victims who are looking to pursue dog bite lawsuits under the negligence law must speak to an experienced dog bite lawyer. Whether it was a dangerous dog that resulted in injuries or a negligent dog owner who did not put up a warning sign, an experienced attorney can help establish the elements of a negligence claim and increase your chances of recovering compensation.

Why Choose Ehline Law for Your Dog Bite Case

Here are three reasons why the professionals at Ehline Law is the right personal injury law firm for you and your bite or puncture wound case. We are available around the clock, 24/7 to assist bite victims and their families on a contingency percentage basis.

Expertise in Dog Bite Laws

California dog bite laws can be complex to navigate, and it can be even more challenging to prove a dog bite claim under negligence law. The upside is it’s not just dangerous dogs, all dogs are lawfully covered under strict liability, not just a dog’s past behavior according the the relevant California Civil Code Section. The animal’s history with the police and veterinarians is important, but won’t prevent you from suing as in some “one bite rule” states. Even if the dog was protecting, it can still be euthanized for harming you. After an administrative hearing over the severity of the attack, a judge could send the dog away to be put down.

Our experienced dog bite attorneys have over 15 years of experience handling dog bite claims and protecting the rights of injured victims across California. We have deep knowledge of dog bite statutes and state laws and can help you build a strong case and the animal defendant owned or controlled. Civil lawsuits are our specialty and we will fight to make sure defendant is held liable as we prove negligence for the injuries caused by their domestic animal. We can even sue a canine owner sent to prison, the police or military responsible for your harassing dog bites during their official duty.

Superior Track Record in Handling Cases Involving Negligence

We have successfully handled thousands of personal injury cases involving negligence and recovered well over $150 million in compensation for our injured clients. 

With our skilled dog bite attorneys on your side, you can put your worries aside, knowing we will be looking out for your best interests.

Aggressive Legal Representation

When a law firm becomes too big, they prioritize bigger cases over smaller ones. Ehline Law has always maintained strict ethics where we give every case the attention it deserves no matter the harm caused by bad dogs.

We understand how stressful it can be following an injury, and our attorneys will regularly provide you with case updates and aggressively pursue insurance companies to ensure speedy justice. We will also look at the dog’s history with animal control to see if punitive damages are available.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Ehline Law Dog Bite Trespass Law Experts

Do you need help after being bitten by another person’s dog after you were trespassing? Are you untrained to handle personal injury lawsuits? Secure leash, or not, you have rights to get paid for medical treatment as well as pain and suffering. California law states you have rights to compensation as an injured party. If you were bitten during law enforcement work, you may have been legally allowed to trespass as well. If if negligence caused it, self defense laws may not cover the dog’s owner with legal responsibility.

If you’re an innocent trespasser who suffered serious injuries in a dog bite attack, contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation, as you may be able to seek compensation under negligence California law. Call our superior, compassionate advocates to see if the law considers your injury caused by a dog means you have the legal right to sue over the matter for the damages caused! We stand ready 24/7 to swiftly answer your important legal questions.

Top Notch American Injury Lawyer, Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline

Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.

Downtown Los Angeles Corporate Offices

Downtown Los Angeles Office
633 West 5th Street #2890
Los Angeles, CA 90071
(213) 596-9642
Torrance/South Bay
3838 W. Carson Street, Ste 334
Torrance, CA 90503
(424) 999-7246
Woodland Hills
6200 Canoga Ave, Suite 202-b
Woodland Hills, CA 91367.
(747) 330-1783

Downtown Los Angeles Office
633 West 5th Street #2890
Los Angeles, CA 90071
(213) 596-9642
Navigation /More Locations.

© 2022 All rights reserved.
Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC