California is one of several states that, in most instances, holds dog owners strictly liable for injuries caused by their dogs.
Specifically, California Civil Code Section 3342 provides that, in pertinent part, [t]he owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner's knowledge of such viciousness. A person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner within the meaning of this section when he is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner.
Dog owners (and their insurers) who have unlawfully caused serious injury to unsuspecting victims often argue that the dog was provoked, or that they were wholly unaware of the dog's propensity for dangerous conduct. Don't be bullied by such tactics.