A professional dog walker, employed by a company to walk dogs, may experience challenges in securing a dog bite lawsuit victory in the state of California.
California’s dog bite statute attributes strict liability in the case of a dog biting or attack someone, even if the dog has never previously bitten or attacked someone, and the owner is otherwise faultless,
The exception to the strict liability rule, however, manifests in the form of those who work with in animals in a professional capacity. This exception in California is embodied by what is known as the “Veterinarian’s Rule.”
Under the purview and scope of the “Veterinarian’s Rule,” individuals interacting and working with dogs in a professional capacity, inherently assume the risk of incurring a dog bite as a potential hazard of their professional occupation.
The article below digs deeper into the discussion of when dog walkers are eligible to sue for a dog bite attack.
As reiterated earlier, the “Veterinarian’s Rule” encompasses a unique assumption of risk under the scope of California law and dog bite legislation. This rule entails that’s individuals working with dogs professionally assume the risk of dog bite unless the following circumstances arise:
The notion here is that an individual, regardless of his or her professional working title or environment, cannot consciously assume a risk of which he or she is not aware exists in the first place.
The question, however, may arise. Does California typically enforce strict liability in the context of dog bites?
Conventionally, the answer to this question is yes- California does render dog owners strictly liable for dog bites.
The strict liability imposition contrasts sharply with the legislation of other states, which enforce the “one bite rule,” allowing for an animal to exhibit aggression or biting towards another human just once, prior to holding the dog owner liable.
While California does not enforce the “one-bite,” rule, the Veterinarian’s Rule, is often held as the exception to the state’s imposition of strict liability in the case of first-time dog bites.
The Veterinarians Rule functions in accordance with the premise of the one bite rule, holding the dog owner liable only in the case that the dog owner may have already been aware of the animals history of aggression or biting of other people.
It is to be noted, however, that the Veterinarian’s Rule is only applicable in scenarios that encompasses individuals who work with dogs in a professional capacity i.e. animal technicians, dog walkers, veterinarians…etc.
Yes. The Veterinarian’s Rule effectively applies to any individual who works with dogs in a professional capacity, assuming risk as a byproduct of workplace conditions, Professionals working with dogs may include the following occupations:
However, a follow up question may arise. What about a scenario in which the dog bite victim was walking the dog as a favor to the dog owner?
Typically, the Veterinarian’s Rule is only held applicable to individuals who work with dogs in a formal, professional capacity. By regularly and professionally working with dogs, these individuals implicitly assume the risk of dog bite or other injuries resulting from interactions with dogs.
Currently, this ruling has not been applied to individuals walking other dogs as a favor their friends or neighbors.
While unlikely, it is conceivable that a court may apply the Veterinarian’s rule to a seeming non-professional who has had exposure to many dogs over the years through repeated ownership and pet oversight, as he may be deemed as having superior knowledge of canines.
In order to sue for a dog bite under California legislation, a non-professional dog walker would be required to prove the following:
However, if the plaintiff is a professional dog walker, having assumed risk as a result of his or her occupation, the individual would be required to prove the following:
Consider the following fictitious scenario: Koda is a full-grown Pit-bull Terrier Mix His owner Ralph hires Angela to walk Koda and informs her that Koda is friendly. During the walk, Koda attacks Angela severing tendons in her ankle. Angela must undergo life-saving surgery as well as months of therapy following the attack. Ralph denies strict liability attributing the Veterinarian’s Rule. But, Angela’s dog bite attorneys discovers a history of Koda’s aggression in which he previously bit and attacked another veterinary worker. Because Ralph knew of this attack and chose not to disclose this information to Angela, he is held liable for Angela’s injuries.
Note, the case above would be held applicable only in the scenario that Angela did not do anything to purposefully provoke, tease, or anger Koda into aggressively attacking her.
California professional dog walkers who are bitten by dogs during their service, are eligible to recover compensatory damages, and in some cases punitive damages, as a result of the transpired dog bite incident.
Damages in a dog bite case can include the recovery of financial losses encompassing the following items:
Non-economic damages can also be recovered in a dog bite incident. They include the following:
In the case that a fatality results from a particularly morbid dog bite attack, a victim’s family members are eligible to recover damages in the form of a wrongful death lawsuit filed in California, which is also known as a “lawsuit for loss of consortium,” or “survival action.”
A dog walker, if bitten while on the job, may be eligible to recover compensatory damages from the following parties: