Dog Attacks in Northern California: Know Your Legal Options After a Bite

Residents of Chico, Redding, and other communities north of Sacramento have in recent years had reason to be on the lookout for aggressive dogs. A recent incident took place in July of this year when a pack of dogs attacked people in Chico, CA.

Any time a dog attack happens, the question of liability tends to come up. To make it clear, California Civil Code Section 3342, often referred to as the “dog bite statute,” states that a dog owner is liable for damages if their dog bites someone, either in a public place or while the person is lawfully in a private place, including the owner’s property. This liability extends to injuries caused by the dog’s aggressive behavior, including bites and attacks.

So, what actions should you take to seek justice and compensation if you or a loved one have been bitten by a dog?

We’ll explore the answers in this post after a quick look at some of the events that over the past few years have made headlines in Northern California, such as “Pack of ‘vicious’ dogs sends 2 to hospital, Butte County officials say.”

Here’s a sample of recent dog attacks in the area:

Dog Attacks in Northern California

Chico, CA: Pack of aggressive dogs leave several people injured

In mid July, police in Chico began receiving calls of a pack of seven or eight pit bulls or pit bull-cross dogs roaming the neighborhoods, chasing and attacking people. The group left a male bicyclist with significant injuries to his hands and leg before turning to a woman who had stopped her car to help him. She escaped with minor injuries as the dogs ran off into a transient camp with police in pursuit. By the time the aggressive dogs were captured, an officer had suffered a bite to the leg area.

Orland, CA: Pit bull bites man out on a walk

A black and white pit bull was identified as the aggressor in an incident in Orland last fall. The injured man told police he had stopped to pet the dog when it suddenly lashed out and bit him. Glenn County authorities were at the time of publication searching for the owner who was present during the attack but left before police arrived.

Redding, CA: Huskies maul small dog to death

A small dog was mauled and killed in 2020 by two unleashed huskies while out for an evening walk in Redding. The dog’s owner told KRCR he had a bad encounter with the huskies before but never thought his own dogs would be at risk because the city of Redding requires all dogs to be leashed unless on private property or at an off-leash designated dog park. But he immediately realized there was trouble when he watched the huskies approach. He quickly picked up one of his dogs but didn’t reach the second before the huskies attacked. As he tried to save his dog, he was also bitten.

“I ran over and knew that [my dog] was mortally wounded,” the owner told local news.

Magalia, CA: Vicious dogs send two people to the hospital

The headline from Butte County appeared back in 2019 after two people were hospitalized with serious injuries following an encounter with a “pack of vicious dogs.” When police arrived on the scene in Magalia, they found a neighbor of the dogs’ owner with serious injuries from multiple dog bites. As the injured woman was brought to safety and taken to the hospital, police discovered a second victim ready to undergo surgery for several major and minor bite injuries inflicted by the same dogs.

Filing a Dog Bite Claim: What Are Your Options?

If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog in California, you have several legal options to seek compensation for your injuries and losses. California law provides a framework for pursuing claims against dog owners and their insurance companies.

First of all — and this hardly needs to be said — seek medical attention. Prompt medical treatment can not only prevent infection and complications but also establish a medical record of the injuries, which can be crucial for legal claims.

Here are the main legal options available:

Consulting an Attorney

Before you take any action, consult with a personal injury attorney experienced in dog bite cases. A skilled attorney should be able to help assess the case, negotiate with insurance companies, gather evidence, and pursue legal action if necessary.

Personal Injury Claim

As stated earlier, California follows a “strict liability” rule, which means, in general, that dog owners are generally responsible for injuries caused by their dogs, regardless of the dog’s past behavior or the owner’s knowledge of its aggressive tendencies. To pursue a personal injury claim, the injured person should, for example, prove that:

  • The defendant is the dog’s owner
  • The victim was lawfully (generally speaking) on the property where the bite occurred
  • The dog bite caused injuries or damages
  • (Note: There are other too numerous to mention. At times, a person or property owner who does not own the dog may be liable.)

In many cases, dog owners have homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policies that cover liability for dog bites. The injured person can file a claim with the owner’s insurance company to seek compensation. However, some breeds tend to be exempt (read more about this topic here).

Negligence Claim

In addition to strict liability, a person injured by a dog may also pursue a negligence claim. This claim alleges that the dog owner failed to exercise reasonable care in controlling their dog, leading to the bite or attack. To succeed in a negligence claim, the injured person must demonstrate: (Note: Each state may have different laws, including a “first-bite” law.)

  • The dog owner owed a duty of care to prevent harm.
  • The owner breached that duty through careless actions or negligence.
  • The breach of duty was a proximate cause of the injuries.

Negligence claims can be especially relevant if the dog owner did not follow local leash laws or other regulations regarding the control of dogs. Local laws may also dictate liability of dog owners.

Dog Owner’s Insurance Claim

In many cases, the injured person can seek compensation by filing a claim with the dog owner’s homeowners’ or renters’ insurance company. A landlord or employer may also be liable. Dog owners are encouraged to report the incident to their insurance company promptly. The insurance company will typically investigate the claim and may offer a settlement to cover medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.

Civil Lawsuit

If negotiations with the dog owner’s insurance company do not result in a fair settlement or if the dog owner does not have insurance coverage, the injured person can file a civil lawsuit against the dog owner. This lawsuit seeks compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost income, and other damages related to the dog bite.

Contact Penney & Associates

California Personal Injury Attorney Fred Penney and his team of experienced trial attorneys at Penney & Associates have represented thousands of clients from across the country in challenging personal injury cases in the Golden State. Founded by Mr. Penney in 1992, the firm has a track record of success driven by lawyers who fight for your rights. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Read more:
California Dog Bite Law: What Happens If Your Dog Bites Someone?
Dog Bite Statistics: These Breeds Are the Most Prone to Attack
Who May be Held Legally Liable for Emotional Support Animal Attacks?

* This blog is not meant to dispense legal advice and is not a comprehensive review of the facts, the law, this topic or cases related to the topic. For a full review of our disclaimer and policies, please click here.

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