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Debunking “The One-Bite Rule”

Debunking “The One-Bite Rule”
Christian J. Amendt

Some people in California might amusingly observe that the line between dogs and children is increasingly blurred (with pet owners treating their animals more and more like people). One may understand this; dogs provide love and companionship, and can easily begin to feel like another member of one’s family. Yet despite the level of intelligence may assign to them, dogs are still animals (and thus subject to animalistic instincts).

It is for this very reason that dog owners often question the validity of liability claims filed against them when their animals attack other people. Indeed, it may be difficult to argue that in such cases, the dog does not know any better. Yet many come to our team at The Law Offices of Christian J. Amendt asking how the law views such incidents.

“The One-Bite Rule”

For many years, the standard nationwide was to follow a principle known as “the one-bite rule.” According to the Cornell Law School, this rule only holds dog owners liable for injuries caused by those animals if they had prior knowledge of the dogs’ propensity for aggression (likely as demonstrated by a previous bite).

California’s stance on animal attacks

In recent years, however, several states opted to drop the one-bite rule for a strict liability standard. California ranks among these. Strict liability means that liability exists despite the intentions behind the action in question. In a dog bite case, this means that pet owners remain liable for an attack victim’s injuries regardless of whether the animal previously attacked another (thereby eliminating the excuse that the animal was simply acting on instinct rather than from aggression).

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