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Is a Pet Sitter Liable for a Dog Attack?

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A dog bite injury claim is difficult to litigate in California. You will need to have at least a basic understanding of California’s dog bite laws to determine who is liable for your losses. A dog attack claim can be even trickier to navigate if the dog bit you while under the control of a pet sitter. In general, a dog sitter can be held liable for a dog attack in California.

What Is California’s Dog Bite Law?

Unlike many states, California does not use a one-bite injury rule for dog attack claims. Instead, it uses a strict liability doctrine. California Civil Code Section 3342 states that the owner of a dog will be liable for any of a dog bite victim’s damages, whether or not the owner was negligent in failing to prevent the attack. In a one-bite state, on the other hand, a dog bite victim will need to prove that the pet owner knew or reasonably should have known of the dog’s violent propensity due to a previous attack.

In California, you generally will not need to prove the pet owner’s negligence to hold him or her liable for your dog bite injuries and related medical costs. The animal’s owner will be strictly liable regardless of his or her contributions to the attack. Note, however, that if a dog injured you by something other than a bite, such as by jumping on you, the strict liability rule will not apply. You would need to prove the dog owner’s negligence in this scenario.

Rules Regarding a Pet Sitter vs. a Pet Owner

Although the language of California’s dog bite law uses the word “owner,” anyone with physical control of or responsibility for the pet at the time of the attack absorbs liability for a victim’s injuries. Accepting physical control or supervision of someone else’s pet means accepting the responsibility if an injury occurs. Under California’s strict liability law, the argument that the pet sitter was not aware of the dog’s vicious propensities is not a usable defense during a dog bite claim.

In general, you will be able to hold a pet sitter liable for a dog attack in California. If the attack occurred under a pet sitter or dog walker’s supervision, that person will assume financial responsibility for your injuries and related losses. These may include the costs of an emergency room visit, stitches, an IV, a rabies shot and follow-up care. In a severe dog bite injury case, it may also cover the costs of surgery or permanent scarring and disfigurement. The pet sitter may also owe you for any property damage repairs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

What If the Pet Sitter Was Under the Age of 18?

A special rule called the vicarious liability doctrine will apply to cases involving a pet sitter under the age of 18 in California. The rule of vicarious liability states that the parent of a minor child will absorb liability on behalf of the child. If the pet sitter at the time of your dog attack was under the age of 18, his or her parent or legal guardian will pay for your damages.

What If the Pet Sitter Was Providing Professional Services?

If the pet sitter was part of a company that offers professional pet sitting, dog boarding or walking services, it may be possible to hold the company liable instead of the individual sitter, depending on the circumstances. To hold a company liable, the pet sitter would have to be an employee, not an independent contractor. Companies are only vicariously liable for the actions of their employees, not contractors. If the contractor has business insurance as a dog sitting professional, his or her insurance policy will cover your losses.

California dog attack claims can be confusing. For more information about pet sitter liability for a dog attack in California, contact a Orange County dog bite lawyer near you.

Covid 19 Update: We are accepting new cases and we handle everything electronically and remotely, so our clients never have to leave their homes.