Anyone who has been attacked or bitten by a dog understands how frightening and painful of an experience it can be and how it can lead to long-term consequences. Because of the serious nature of dog attacks, it is important to know that a victim does have legal recourse. But, who exactly is responsible for a dog attack?
Generally, if you have been the victim of a dog attack, the person against whom you can seek recovery is the owner of the dog. In fact, the majority of states in the country have statutes that specifically establish owner liability for when their dogs attack, requiring the dog owner to fully compensate a dog attack victim. In these states—which includes California—ownership of the dog is the only thing a victim has to prove in order to recover. This general rule applies so long as the attack happened in a public place or when the victim was legally on the owner’s property.
Unfortunately, for some victims of dog attacks, the owner of the dog is not known. Perhaps the attack happened in a public park or while walking through a neighborhood. In other cases, even if the owner is known, the victim may seek recovery against someone who is not the owner. Under certain circumstances, someone other than the dog’s owner might be held responsible. For example, a landlord or even a homeowners association might be held liable. In cases that do not involve the actual owner of the dog, however, proving liability will often be more complex because it will often involve proving that the person being sued had some prior knowledge of the dog’s viciousness and failed to take adequate steps to prevent an attack from happening.