For most people, if they are bitten by a dog in California, they do not have to prove that the owner knew the dog was capable of biting. However, there are certain professions that are subject to what’s known as “assumption of the risk.” While veterinarians are the most commonly noted example, they are far from the only ones. Read on to learn more and then contact The Law Offices of Larry H. Parker at 800-333-0000 if you have been injured by a dog and require legal assistance.
Strict Liability Applies to Most Dog Bite Cases
If the average person is bitten by a dog in California, the owner of the dog will almost always be found liable. This is due to strict liability in California, which holds that even if a dog has no history of biting or aggression, the owner of the animal has taken on liability by owning the animal. Other states have one bite rules in which the owner is not responsible if their dog has never bitten anyone, but would then be responsible for future bites.
However, there are exceptions to strict liability. A common example is if a person is trespassing on a person’s property. That person cannot generally hold the owner liable for actions their dog took. Likewise, if the dog is protecting themselves or another person, and the court finds they are acting in self-defense, then the owner is not likely to be responsible for damages. Then you have the “assumption of the risk” exception, which we will cover in detail below.
Understanding Assumption of the Risk
Assumption of the Risk refers to situations in which a person knowingly puts themselves in a risky situation. When that is the case, they are not legally able to win a lawsuit. Put simply, the court holds that if a person takes part in something that they know is very risky, then they have assumed the risk. Allowing them to sue could even encourage people to take part in risky behavior in the hopes of getting a payday at the end.
Situations in Which the Assumption of the Risk Might Not Apply
All of that said, it is important to know that even when a person takes on risk, they might still have options to file a personal injury claim. For example, if the defendant was grossly negligent or reckless, or if they intentionally injured the plaintiff, they could still be held liable. For example, if a dog owner brought their dog to the vet and commanded their dog to bite the vet, the vet could have a legal right to sue.
Another way the assumption of the risk might not apply is if a person acts entirely outside of the range of what could be ordinarily expected during an activity. For example, if a person goes white water rafting with a tour group, and the tour guide wanders off and leaves the tour in the middle of the wilderness, this would be unexpected and the tour company might be liable.