Your dog may be your best friend, but even the most caring of canine companions can surprise us. Well-behaved dogs can become aggressive when they feel protective, threatened or afraid. If your dog misinterprets a situation and bites a bystander, you are liable for the damage caused. Under California law, this liability holds true in both public areas and private homes, given the injured individual was invited.

Usually, a dog bite claim is handled as a negligence suit under the personal injury umbrella, however, in rare circumstances, the charges can be more severe. Criminal charges can be filed if you fail to provide your information to the injured party, serious injury of death resulted from the attack or if your dog was legally classified as “potentially dangerous” or “vicious” prior to the event.

What should I do if my dog bites someone?

Always, always give your information to the injured party, and encourage them to get medical help as soon as possible. Taking the right steps after the incident can help establish that you had no ill intent.

What if my dog was provoked?

California law does differentiate between provoked and unprovoked attacks. If your dog was taunted or threatened, you may have a reasonable defense against a personal injury lawsuit.

What about my dog?

If this is your dog’s first attack on a person, likely there will be no consequences. You may want to invest in more training to curb their behavior. If your dog is classified as “potentially dangerous” or “vicious,” there may be adverse consequences beyond those listed here.

Remember that, as a dog owner, it’s your responsibility to make sure that the community you live in remains safe for everyone.