The First Bite Isn’t Free: California Law Provides Protection for Dog-Bite Victims

Each year, San Diego County Animal Services investigates approximately 6,000 California dog bites are reported each year by local residents and visitors. These incidents can be costly—physically and financially. The average cost of a dog bite injury treated in a hospital emergency room is $274. Severe injuries can result in thousands of dollars in treatment and surgery costs, not to mention pain and suffering for victims.

This is a reality some San Diego dog bite victims know all too well. For example, a forty-year old man from Mountain View suffered severe injuries after a neighbor’s pit bull attacked him, biting him on the arm, side, and back. The attack on Paul “Mario” Todd, Jr., was the fourth dog attack in a recent spate of incidents in San Diego this summer. The victims also included a one-year-old in Chula Vista and a woman walking her dog in Grant Hill. Another victim, an elderly woman who was attacked by two pit bulls while collecting her morning newspaper, lost her leg and was also in danger of losing her arm.

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In the U.S., approximately 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year and 800,000 of those bitten require medical treatment. In some states, the “one bite” or the “first bite free” rule prevails, meaning that a dog owner will not necessarily be civilly liable to the victim. Under the “first bite free” rule, a dog bite victim may have to prove that a dog is dangerous or vicious and that its owner kept the animal after knowing of the dog’s dangerousness or vicious nature before being able to recover for injuries.

In other words, states that follow the “one bite free” rule can leave some victims vulnerable. Even unprovoked attacks can leave dog bite victims without compensation for their personal injuries. It is often difficult, though not impossible, for victims to prove specific previous misconduct on the part of dog owners. Even if they can show all that is required to recover, it always requires more time and expense on the part of the victim before receiving compensation for their injuries.

Fortunately, under California’s strict liability dog bite statute there are no “free” bites. Our California personal injury lawyers know that the law protects dog bite victims by permitting them to recover for their injuries, regardless of a dog’s past bite history or viciousness. That means dog owners may have to pay for injuries their pets cause to others.


Dog bite victims may face high medical costs and long and painful recoveries. The San Diego dog bite lawyer at the Walton Law Firm understands the importance of helping victims obtain compensation for their medical costs and lost wages due to dog-bite injuries. If you or someone you know has been injured by a dog in this area, be sure to contact a local legal professional to learn about your rights. Timing is important in these matters, so it is vital that you get in touch with a lawyer as soon as feasible after the injury.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Dog Owners Arrested After Vicious Attack

Amputation Require After Pit Bull Attack in San Diego

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