What Is a Landlord’s Responsibility in a Dog Bite Accident?
After a dog bite accident in a rental property, injured accident victims must locate all liable parties to secure maximum compensation. Landlord-tenant relationships in California are complex, and in some cases, the landlord may also share liability for the incident. What is a landlord’s responsibility in dog bite incidents under California law?
Dog Bite Liability in California
California has a strict liability dog bite law (Civil Code Section 3342). Under this law, tenants are liable for their dog if they bite someone, regardless of the dog’s prior behavior. This means that a dog doesn’t have to have a history of aggression for the owner to be liable for the dog’s actions. If the dog bites someone – then the owner is responsible for the damages.
But what about landlords?
In the Golden State, landlords bear a fundamental duty to uphold a safe living environment for their tenants. This duty extends to individual rental units and encompasses common areas. Landlords must ensure that their property remains free from hazards that could potentially cause harm to tenants, their guests, or even individuals passing by.
In some situations, the property’s landlord may share liability with the dog’s owner after a dog bite incident.
In Ucello v. Laundeslayer, the courts adopted a two-part test to determine if California landlords were liable for dog bite injuries that occurred on their property.
- Did the landlord know the dog was dangerous before the dog bite accident?
- Did the landlord must have the ability to prevent foreseeable harm? This means that they must have sufficient control over their tenant and dog. For example, they must have the right to insist that their tenant remove the dog from the property. If they can’t remove a dangerous dog from their property, they may not be liable for accidents that occur.
A landlord might also be liable if their failure to maintain the property resulted in the dog escaping and biting someone. For example, if the landlord failed to repair a broken fence promptly and the dog escaped and bit someone, the landlord might be liable for the damages.
While California law is strict regarding liability for dog bites, there are limited exceptions and defenses. For instance, if the injured party was trespassing or provoking the dog, the landlord’s liability may be reduced or eliminated. Additionally, if the tenant violated the lease agreement by having a prohibited dog breed, this could affect the landlord’s liability.
Given California’s strict liability dog bite law, it is paramount for landlords to have comprehensive liability insurance coverage. Such insurance can be instrumental in covering legal expenses and compensating victims if a dog bite incident occurs on the rental property. Landlords should thoroughly review their insurance policies to understand what is covered.
Proving a Landlord’s Liability for a Dog Bite Injury
Immediately after your injury, it is essential to seek medical attention and to contact the local police or sheriff’s office to file a report about the dog bite incident. Law enforcement agencies often conduct their investigations, particularly if they have received other complaints about the same dog.
The next step in proving a landlord’s liability for a dog bite is to gather as much information as possible.
- Get the name of the dog owner and contact information.
- Obtain the landlord’s contact information
- Take pictures of where the dog bite occurred. Pay special attention to any fences, restraining walls, or leashes that may have been used to contain the dog.
- Get copies of the dog’s license, as well as records of its rabies and other vaccinations. This documentation can be used to demonstrate the owner’s responsibility for the dog’s well-being and behavior.
- Get a copy of the dog owner’s lease agreement with the landlord, especially clauses and provisions related to pet ownership and responsibilities.
- Get witness statements and contact information
Proving a landlord’s liability for a dog bite requires a well-documented and organized approach. By following the steps outlined above, you can gather the necessary evidence to support your case. Remember that each case may present unique challenges, so it’s crucial to consult with an experienced dog bite accident attorney as soon as possible.
How Can a California Dog Bite Lawyer Help?
Dog bite injuries can be serious and require extensive surgeries and hospitalization. In some cases, they can result in reduced mobility and a lifetime of disability. Dog bite injury victims need a law firm on their side to help them identify all liable parties. An attorney can investigate the accident and determine if the landlord shared liability for the accident and your injuries. If the landlord and the dog owner are both liable, your dog bite accident attorney can negotiate with their insurance companies to ensure that you receive maximum compensation.
Contact Our San Bernardino Dog Bite Accident Attorneys Today
If you or someone you love suffered an injury after a dog attack, the dog owner and landlord may be to blame for the incident. After a serious dog bite accident, you deserve compensation and justice. An experienced San Bernardino dog bite accident lawyer at William D. Shapiro Law, Inc. can help you through this difficult and traumatic time.
Our lawyers want to meet with you for a free initial consultation and review. We can answer your questions and give you legal guidance during this meeting. Call (909) 890-1000 or complete our confidential contact form today.
This article is intended to be a general overview, not a complete statement of the law applicable to all situations. As the facts of each case are different, we urge all to consult an attorney without delay to fully understand what law applies in your case.”
William Shapiro has handled catastrophic injury/wrongful death actions for over 4 decades obtaining numerous seven and eight-figure verdicts and settlements. Honors include: 2022, 2016 and 2013 OCTLA “Top Gun” TLY; 2022 CAOC TLY Finalist; 2018 “Lifetime Achievement Award” Western State College of Law, 2021 & 2017 Best Lawyers, Lawyer of the Year; 2016 WSBCBA “TLY”; 2015 CAL-ABOTA “TLY”; 2014 “TLY” Consumer Attorneys of CAOIE; 2011 “Hall of Fame,” Western State College of Law; Fellow, American College of Trial Lawyers; International Academy of Trial Lawyers; International Society of Barristers; Diplomat, American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA); National Board of Trial Advocacy; specialist in Trial Advocacy, State Bar of California; “Best Lawyers in America” and “Tier 1 Best Law Firms” U.S. News; AV Preeminent, Martindale-Hubbell; SuperLawyers; Past President of: San Bernardino/Riverside chapter ABOTA; San Bernardino County Bar Association; Consumer Attorneys of Inland Empire; The Joseph. B. Campbell American Inn of Court; Consumer Attorneys of California; IE ; National Sec of ABOTA, Adjunct professor, Western State College of Law. Learn more here.