Around 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs every year in California and throughout the U.S. with some 800,000 cases involving an injury that requires medical attention. One-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims involve dog bites. Dog owners should be aware of the various laws that would impose liability on them.

In this state, dog owners are liable for any bites that their dog causes, provided that that victim was in a public place or was lawfully on private property. This holds even in cases where owners were unaware that their dog would be so dangerous and in cases where owners tried to prevent an incident.

Other states may follow a one-bite rule, which prevents an owner from being responsible for the first bite that a dog inflicts on someone. There are also negligence laws, according to which the victim can hold a dog owner responsible if the owner’s unreasonably careless conduct led to injury.

Pet owners should understand that dogs that have been poorly trained or perhaps even abused or neglected are most dangerous. In addition, dogs that have not been neutered are three times more likely to bite. Owners should socialize their dog, keep children from playing aggressive games with it and avoid unfamiliar situations that would only serve to confuse the animal.

When dog bites are serious, victims may be able to seek compensation, but the laws can be hard to understand without a lawyer. Scheduling a legal evaluation may be a good first step. Victims may leave all the details to their lawyer, who may negotiate on their behalf for a fair settlement out of court or prepare for litigation if the other side refuses to pay out enough. Third parties hired by the lawyer might bring together evidence against the defendant.