The state of California has strict laws for pet bites, like dog bite injuries. This is one of the personal injury cases in which the owner of the animal has strict liability for the actions of his or her pet, even if the animal hasn’t previously been dangerous. The law concerning wild animal ownership in Los Angeles is strictly regulated by California State Law and the owner of an exotic animal that attacks another individual can face serious accusations and even risk imprisonment.
Our Los Angeles personal injury attorneys can help you if you have been the victim of a wild animal owned by another individual.
Laws governing the possession of exotic animals in California
The California Department of Fish and Game regulated the types of exotic pets individuals are allowed to own in the state. The list of animals that cannot be kept as pets includes first generation wolf and dog hybrids, chimpanzees, elephants, caimans and alligators, tigers and other big felines, African clawed frogs, bats, owls, skunks, raccoons, piranhas, ferrets, hedgehogs and others.
Individuals who are in control of wild animals should not intentionally free or allow the animals to escape except for those situations permitted by state authorities. Other regulations governing wild animals in California include:
- the entry,
- importation transportation,
- the release of any wild animals that have been brought into the state.
Permits can be issued for bringing restricted species into the state of California and for the care of such animals, provided that the caretaker has had experience with wild animals.
According to the law in California, all bites that come from animals that are susceptible to rabies must be reported. The incident must be reported to a local health officer and it must include identification details for the bite victim, details about the animal that caused the injury as well as information about the circumstances in which the incident took place (the date and time and the medical treatment that was administered immediately afterward).
The video below highlights the main characteristics of these types of cases:
Liability for wild animal bites
The owner of a wild animal kept as pet faces greater liabilities if another individual is attacked by the animal, than the owner of a dog in California. If the principle of negligence does not apply in the case of animals, meaning that the owner if fully responsible for the acts of the animal, individuals who own exotic pets are liable for the actions of their wild animals even if they take precautionary measures (like building fences or confining the animal). The owner of a wild animal should be aware that it is not domesticated and therefore it can cause personal injuries unless retrained. In some cases, the defendant can argue in court that the plaintiff has taken conscious acts to provoke the animal. Such allegations must be proved with enough evidence.
Individuals who violate the California laws concerning wild animals are subject to civil penalties of no more than 10,000 $ for each violation. The owner of an exotic pet must also observe the requirements for housing that animal.
How can victims prove liability for injuries caused by wild animals?
The first step in wild animal injuries is to establish of the owner of the animal was lawfully in the possession of that pet. This is important because owners of dangerous animals have an absolute duty of care toward other individuals and they are strictly liable if they fail to provide a safe environment for the client/viewer who enjoys a wild animal show or is otherwise in the presence of such animals. The owner or keeper of such animals is liable for their actions even if they provided the reasonable amount of care to prevent an unfortunate attack.
The reason for strict liability for dangerous animals is that these types of wild creatures can never fully be tamed and are considered inherently dangerous. However, a distinction may be made between strict liability and negligence in personal injury cases.
When the accident took place as the result of the negligence of a zookeeper or animal owner, it is important to establish negligence. Below, our team of Los Angeles personal injury lawyers highlights the main aspects that are taken into consideration when proving this:
duty of care: the defendant must have a duty to the plaintiff, such as in the case of the zookeeper who has a duty to keep visitors safe.
breach of duty of care: it must be expressly shown that the said duty was breached by the defendant.
causation: the failure to observe the duty of care must be the direct cause of the accident and the harm brought to the victim.
damages: the plaintiff suffered damages or injuries that are clearly linked to the breach of duty of care.
shared fault: this is not an element of negligence but it is of importance; if the plaintiff is also found guilty, the settlement will be reduced.
It is important to note the fifth element described in the list above, apart from the four elements of negligence. California has a comparative fault or negligence law, which means that the plaintiff may recover damages when if he or she is found at fault for the accident. However, it is important to remember that in this case the settlement amount will be reduced by the percentage of fault. For example, in a wild animal accident that took place in a zoo, the zookeeper might have had a certain percentage of fault, however, if it is proven that the plaintiff also failed to observe the warning signs placed around an enclosure, for example, then the judge may rule that he is also at fault and the settlement amount will be reduced.
One situation in which the strict liability rule does not apply when the wild animal attack took place on private property is when the victim is a trespasser. This is common in guard dog cases, however, the theoretical principles are the same if the trespasser enters the premises despite the wild animal signs. When there are no signs posted indicating the presence of wild animals on the premises, the strict liability principle will continue to apply.
One common manner in which the defendant, the owner of the animal, can attack the claim is by arguing that the plaintiff should have assumed the risk. For example, plaintiff cannot blame the owner of the animal for something that we could have foreseen (the fact that a wild animal will be dangerous and unpredictable). One of our lawyers can give you more information on the primary assumption of risk argument and can help you build a case if you were injured by a wild animal owned by another individual.
The victim who was attacked or mauled by a wild animal which was under the direct supervision of another individual can claim compensation for the injuries and the material damages. As stated by law, the owners of wild animals are responsible no matter the level of restrain or security.
You can contact our Los Angeles personal injury attorneys if you need more information about this type of accident.
We can also help you in other personal injury cases because we have different teams of lawyers:
Marc Y. Lazo is specialized in personal injury cases as well as in complex business and commercial litigation. He has tried numerous cases to successful verdict and has obtained multiple six-figure judgments in both state and federal court.