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California's anti-dog bite law

In addition to whatever local regulations San Diego has in place with respect to dogs, California has a statewide law designed to prevent dog bites and, when they occur, to give the victims of these bites the ability to get compensation for their losses.

Under California law, dog owners are strictly liable to pay compensation to victims if their dog bites somebody. This is true even if the owner has not known the dog to have ever bitten anybody before or if, to take it a step further, the dog has not actually ever attacked a human.

The victim's compensation can include having to cover a victim's medical bills and lost wages for any time the victim misses from work due to a dog bite. Additionally, the owner may have to pay compensation on account of the victim's pain and suffering, disfigurement, or even for the emotional turmoil the victim had to endure as a result of the attack.

Californians should be aware, however, that "strict liability" does not mean an owner cannot assert any defense if it turns out their dog bites somebody. For example, the law itself provides that an owner might not have to pay compensation if the victim of the bite was not on private property "lawfully" at the time the bite occurs. "Lawfully" means, generally speaking, that the victim was invited on to the property by some means. A person, like a postal employee or police officer, is also considered "lawfully" on a person's property if he or she is fulfilling his or her duties as a government employee when on the private land.

Still, the good news for victims of dog attacks is that California law explicitly protects them and offers them legal options for getting financial help after suffering injuries from a dog attack.

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