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Dog Bite

No Recovery, No Fee.


Dog Bites

Dogs are supposed to be man's best friend, which makes it all the more traumatic when one attacks.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are approximately 4.7 million dog bites every year in the U.S.  Injuries from dog bites can range from minor puncture wounds to serious lacerations with permanent scarring, and in rare cases, dog attacks can be fatal.  


Phillips & Associates is highly experienced handling dog bite cases.  Our firm has successfully recovered millions of dollars for the victims of dog attacks through a combination of well crafted litigation strategy and a thoughtful approach to presenting damages.

How Do I Know if I Have a Dog Bite Case?

Odds are high that if you were bitten by someone else's dog that you are entitled to compensation for your injuries.  This is because California, unlikely many other states, generally holds dog owners "strictly liable" for dog bites.  In other words, it is not necessary in most cases to prove that the dog owner was negligent in allowing the bite to occur.  The simple fact that the dog bite occurred means the owner is responsible.

California's "strict liability" dog bite law is codified within Civil Code section 3342, which states:

"The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness. A person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner within the meaning of this section when he is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner."

There are certain exceptions to California's strict liability rule, though.  Exceptions include circumstances in which:

  • The victim was trespassing at the time of the attack

  • The dog belongs to law enforcement

  • The victim "assumed" the risk of their attack in some manner

  • The victim bears fault in causing the attack (i.e. provocation)

Common Injuries Suffered in a Dog Attack

Victims of a dog attack may suffer any of the following injuries:

  • Lacerations: Lacerations are deep cuts in the skin caused by the dog’s teeth. These cuts can be very deep and may require stitches to close.

  • Puncture Wounds: Puncture wounds are caused by the dog’s teeth penetrating the skin. These wounds can be very deep and may require medical attention.

  • Bruising: Bruising is caused by the dog’s bite or by being thrown to the ground.

  • Abrasions: Abrasions are caused by the dog’s claws or teeth scraping the skin. These wounds can be very painful and may require medical attention.

  • Broken Bones: Broken bones can be caused by a dog’s bite or by being thrown to the ground.

  • Sprains and Strains: Sprains and strains can be caused by the dog’s bite or by being thrown to the ground.

  • Infection: Dog bites can cause infection if the dog’s teeth penetrate the skin.

  • Psychological Trauma: Victims of a dog attack may suffer from psychological trauma, such as fear of dogs, anxiety, and depression.


No matter how severe the injury, it is important to seek medical attention after a dog attack. A doctor can assess the injury and provide treatment. It is also important to contact the police and animal control to report the incident.

Common Ways That Dog Bites Occur

While dogs can be wonderful companions, it's important to remember that they are animals and can bite or attack in certain situations, leading to serious injuries.  Here are some of the various ways that dog bites can occur:

  1. Unsupervised or unleashed dogs: When dogs are left alone without proper supervision or are allowed to roam free without a leash, they may become agitated or territorial, leading to a potential attack.

  2. Unintentional provocation: Dogs may feel threatened or provoked if they are cornered, teased, or otherwise provoked by humans or other animals. Children may be especially prone to accidentally provoking dogs by pulling their tails or ears.

  3. Fear or anxiety: Dogs that are anxious or fearful may lash out if they feel threatened or cornered. This may be especially true for dogs that have been mistreated in the past.

  4. Protective instincts: Dogs may feel protective of their owners or their territory, leading them to attack if they perceive a threat. This can be especially true for guard dogs that have been trained to protect property.

  5. Medical issues: Dogs that are in pain or are suffering from a medical condition may be more likely to bite. This may be the case if the dog is suffering from a toothache or other dental issue.

Regardless of the cause, it's important to remember that dog bites can be serious and may require medical attention. If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, it's important to seek medical attention right away and contact a personal injury lawyer to learn about your legal options.

Who Pays for Your Damages Following a Dog Bite?

In most circumstances, the owner of the dog will be "strictly liable," meaning automatically responsible for the damages you suffer from a dog bite.  Usually, the claim will be covered by the dog owner's home owner's insurance policy.  Most home owners insurance policies have policy limits of a million dollars or greater, so in the vast majority of cases, your dog bite damages can be fully compensated through the applicable insurance coverage with no need for personal contribution from the dog owner.  In certain cases where it is appropriate, personal contribution from the dog owner may be pursued.

What Are Common Defenses to Dog Bite Claims?

Common defenses in bog bite lawsuits include the following:

Assumption of Risk

California law recognizes that some occupations pose an increased risk of dog bites (i.e. veterinarians and kennel workers).  The individuals who accept this work as said to have assumed the risk of being bit by a dog.  California law provides that in cases where this risk is assumed, it would be unfair to hold the dog owner strictly liable for a bite.  Commonly referred to as the "Veterinarian Rule," this is is an exception to strict liability for a dog bite under Civil Code 3342.  It is important to understand that professionals who fall under the Veterinarian Rule are still able to pursue compensation for a dog bite injury.  However, they will need to establish that the bite was incurred as a result of the owner's actual negligence.

Comparative Fault

Another defense to strict liability under Civil Code section 3342 is based on a legal principal known as comparative fault.  This defense applies if the victim of the dog bite was partially responsible in some manner for what happened (i.e. the victim was harassing, provoking, or hurting the dog).  In cases where the victim has some degree of blame, their damages can be reduced by their percentage of comparative fault.


California's strict liability statute only applies if the victim was bitten in a public place or while "lawfully on private property."  Therefore, a defense that is commonly raised in dog bite actions is whether a victim bit on private property truly had a right to be there.  Even if the victim was trespassing at the time of the bite and the strict liability statute does not apply, the victim may still be entitled to compensation if they can prove that the owner was somehow negligent or knew the dog was dangerous.

Why Hire Phillips & Associates for Your Dog Bite Case

Our firm has more than three decades of experience handling dog bite cases.  We understand from our representation of countless dog bite victims how traumatic and personal and dog bite injury can be.  We recognize the importance of crafting individualize and thorough damages presentations that take into account the unique harms suffered by the victim.  We handle all of our dog bite cases on a pure contingency fee basis, so there is never any up front fee for our work, and there is no legal fee if we don't wind up recovering money in your case.  We also advance all costs, including costs to retain qualified expert witnesses such as plastic surgeons and life care planners when appropriate. 


We know dog bite laws inside and out and are not afraid to take a dog bite case to trial if the other side refuses to make a fair settlement offer.  We also stay in direct personal contact with our clients throughout their case so they always know what is happening and are comfortable with the process.  Contact us today for a free and immediate consultation regarding your case.


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Woodland Hills, CA 91367

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Helping accident victims has been our business and passion for more than three decades. 

All consultations are FREE and there is never any charge for legal services unless something is recovered in your case.


Have you been the victim of an accident that was caused by someone else’s carelessness or neglect?  You may feel overwhelmed and frightened, but the good news is that our legal system entitles victims to recover financial compensation for their damages, including compensation for medical expenses, lost wages and your general pain and suffering. 

Insurance companies and mega-corporations utilize vast pools of resources to stop victims from recovering the compensation they deserve.  They don’t intimidate or deter us.  As seasoned trial lawyers with more than 50 years of combined experience, John and Patrick know how to navigate the obstacles and red tape of injury claims to recover maximum compensation for their clients.

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