Does California have a One Bite Rule for Dogs?

one bite rule California, orange county dog bite attorneyMany people believe that they are not liable for the injuries their dog inflicts if their dog has never bitten a person before.  The thought behind this is that if a dog was never acted out in aggression towards a human in the past, then the owner shouldn’t be held liable because there was no way of knowing their dog would do that.  That isn’t true.  In California, if a dog bites someone, even if the dog has never bitten a person before, the owner is liable for the injuries sustained by the person who was bitten.

With that said, there are two main exceptions.  The first is whether the dog was provoked; the second is whether the person who was injured was trespassing on property when they were bitten.

Provoking a Dog

There are many ways you can provoke a dog, such as throwing things at it, making loud noises, poking it with a stick, pulling it’s tail or hair or trying to scare it.  If a dog is being provoked, and then bites the person who is provoking it, the owner of the dog can argue that the dog wouldn’t have bitten the person had they not been purposefully taunting the dog.

This argument can get tricky when it comes to children.  Some people will try to argue that a child provoked the dog, but most of the time the child doesn’t know it’s provoking the animal.  Additionally, most dogs that attack children do so out of proportion to what the child was doing to the dog.  With that said, it’s important to teach your children how to safely interact with dogs.


If a person is trespassing on a property, and is bitten by a dog while trespassing, the owner of the dog can argue they are not liable for the injuries sustained by the dog bite.  Trespassing is pretty well defined and there are a lot of people who can be on your property without it being considered trespassing.  For example, if a dog injures a utility worker or mailman while they are on a property, it isn’t considered trespassing and the owner of the dog would be held liable for the injuries.

In conclusion, if a dog has bitten you, even if the dog has never bitten anyone in the past, you can still recover damages from the owner of the dog.  The claim is often placed against the homeowners insurance, which usually includes liability coverage for incidents such as this.

We have helped many Orange County residents get the compensation they deserve for the injuries they have sustained from dog bites.  If you have been bitten by a dog, please give us a call at 800-496-7000.  The first call is always free and we can help you understand your options.