Average Dog Bite Settlement in California [2024 Updated]

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Experiencing a dog bite can potentially be the most terrifying, traumatic experience of your life. Afterward, you could be facing physical injuries, trauma, infections, and mounting hospital bills. To get relief, you may be wondering what the average dog bite settlement in California is. A California dog bite lawyer can help you understand your rights and what you are owed in compensation. 

Average Dog Bite Settlement in California

Types of Damages

Compensation for those injured by dog bites is paid through economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are meant to cover the costs and losses that can be incurred after the incident. These include medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and out-of-pocket expenses.

Non-economic damages are subjective, non-monetary losses experienced by the victim. These can be challenging to quantify, compared to economic damages, because they involve factors that impact the victim’s quality of life. Non-economic damages can include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Disfigurement
  • Scarring
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium, which is a loss of companionship and support

Most victims receive thousands of dollars to cover their damages, but if the injuries are significant enough, your settlement amount may be more. Dog bites don’t come with a set outcome, so the severity of your injuries will become an essential factor in how much your settlement will be worth.

Dog Owners' Liability for Bites

California is a strict liability state for dog bites, meaning that dog owners are often automatically liable for damages caused by their dog’s actions. Civil Code Section 3342 is a California law that establishes this liability. The civil code also outlines that no proof is required that the owner knew or should have known about the dog’s aggression and that it doesn’t matter if the dog has no history of bites.

Most dog bite cases are pretty straightforward in their liability because of California law. They usually end with the dog owner or their insurance company providing compensation to the victim. Some owners can bring up certain defenses that impact their liability, including:

  • The victim was trespassing.
  • The victim provoked the dog.
  • The dog was working, such as with police dogs or guard dogs.

Even with these defenses, though, they can still be held liable in many situations.

The Right Lawyer Can Make a Difference in Your Settlement

The most effective way to maximize your settlement in a dog bite case is to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to handle your claim, as this is their goal. A lawyer does not want you to have to settle for the bare minimum. They want to ensure that you are appropriately compensated for your injuries and losses. A lawyer typically has:

  • Understanding of the Law: Personal injury laws, such as dog bite statutes, can be complex, and a lawyer has an understanding of the relevant laws and regulations.
  • Legal Knowledge: A lawyer can provide a thorough legal assessment of your case. They can help determine who is liable, evaluate any damages you may be entitled to, and guide you with an effective legal strategy to maximize your settlement.
  • Investigation and Evidence Gathering: A lawyer conducts investigations into the circumstances surrounding the dog bite. They also gather evidence, such as witness statements, medical records, photographs, and video footage.
  • Insurance Negotiations: Many dog bite cases involve dealing with insurance companies. A lawyer can handle negotiations with the dog owner’s insurance company to secure fair compensation. They can ensure that a settlement covers both economic and non-economic damages.
  • Filing Claims and Court Representation: If a fair settlement cannot be reached through negotiations, a lawyer can file a claim on your behalf and represent you in court. They can also be there if the dog owner disputes liability or raises defenses.
  • Easing Your Legal Burden: If you’re healing from a dog bite, the added stress of the legal process can be a burden that a lawyer can handle for you.


Q: Is California a Strict Liability State for Dog Bites?

A: Yes, California follows strict liability for dog bite cases, which means that the dog owner is generally responsible for any injuries caused by their dog, regardless of the dog’s history or the owner’s knowledge of its aggressive behaviors. Since the owner is always deemed liable, this also means that the injured party does not need to prove that the owner was negligent when seeking compensation for injuries.

Q: How Much Compensation Is Given to Dog Bite Victims?

A: The amount of compensation for dog bite victims should cover economic and non-economic damages, so it depends on the severity of the incident. The compensation in your dog bite injury settlement, or award should include coverage for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Any potential disfigurement or scarring
  • Psychological trauma
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost wages
  • Property damage

Q: Can I Still File a Claim If the Dog Was on a Leash at the Time of the Attack?

A: Yes, you can still file a claim for a dog bite even if the dog was on a leash at the time of the attack. The owner is held responsible for the actions of their dog, regardless of whether their dog is leashed. A leash does not absolve the owner of any liability.

Q: What If the Dog Has Never Bitten Anyone Before?

A: It doesn’t matter if the dog has no history of bites or similar behaviors. California’s strict liability statute holds the owner responsible for their dog’s actions. The focus is on the occurrence of the bite and the severity of any injuries that were sustained because of it, rather than the dog’s history.

Q: How Long Do I Have to File a Civil Action for a Dog Bite?

A: In California, the statute of limitations for filing a civil action claim for a dog bite is generally two years from the date of the dog bite. You might lose your right to seek compensation for your injuries if you don’t file a claim in this timeframe, so it is recommended that you quickly consult with a dog bite attorney.

Consult With an Experienced California Dog Bite Attorney

To better understand what you are owed after a dog bite injury, you should consult with a California dog bite lawyer at Kreeger Law Firm. Christopher Kreeger is an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help you understand what compensation and damages you are entitled to. Contact us to schedule your consultation.