Each day, more than 1,000 people in the United States require medical care for a dog bite. In Arizona, dog bites are one of the most common causes of injury, and each year, the courts award compensation to hundreds of dog bite victims. If you or someone you care for has been bitten by a dog, knowing the dog bite laws in Arizona can help determine your plan of action, and what compensation, if any, you or another victim may be entitled to. This can also help you decide whether or not to retain a dog bite lawyer.
Arizona Statutes on Dog Bites
Arizona has several statutes that govern dog bites, including A.R.S. 11-1025 on liability for dog bites through 11-1027 on provoking a dog. Arizona is known as a strict liability state when it comes to dog bites, which means that the owner of the dog can be held liable for injuries and damages regardless of the owner’s negligence or knowledge of the attack. This is different than many states, which have a “one bite free” policy. In these states, the first time a dog bites someone, the owner may not be held liable for damages. But in Arizona, there is no such policy, and an owner can be held legally responsible no matter how many times the dog has bitten someone. If someone who is not the owner of the dog is present and caring for the dog at the time of the attack, the caretaker and the owner may be jointly held liable for the victim’s damages.
Negligence Not Required
It’s important to note that negligence or lack of knowledge of the viciousness of a dog is not required in order for an owner to be held responsible. So even if the owner properly owned the dog, he or she can still be responsible for damages if the dog attacks someone. A.R.S. 11-1025 states that the owner can be held liable if the attack happens on public property, or if the victim is lawfully on private property. The statute also says that the viciousness of the dog, or the owner’s knowledge of its viciousness, does not impact the owner’s liability. That means that even if the dog was, up to that point, not very aggressive, the owner can still be held liable for damages.
When the Owner is Not Liable
If it’s determined that the dog bite was the result of the victim provoking the dog, the owner cannot be held liable for damages. Provocation is defined in A.R.S. 11-1027 as “circumstances [that] would be likely to provoke a dog.” Though A.R.S. 11-1025 states that the owner is liable on private property that is lawfully entered, according to A.R.S. 11-1026 the dog owner may still be responsible for a victim who is attacked on private property unlawfully. However, if there is a situation where there are clearly posted warning signs of a vicious dog, the trespassing would most likely negatively impact the injury claim. Being lawfully on private property occurs, when someone is invited as a guest onto your property, or as required by state or local ordinances.
Common Law Negligence
The statutes above refer specifically to dog bites, but a dog bite victim can also be compensated under common law negligence. These are more general statutes and local ordinances that cover animal control situations and conduct. One of these common negligence laws is that of having a “dog at large.” A dog at large includes any dog that is not sufficiently and legally fenced in, leashed or otherwise contained.
For example, if the dog attack occurred at a park where the dog was off its leash, the victim could seek damages under common law negligence in addition to the dog bite statutes that were violated. According to the City of Phoenix, a civil dog at large charge is given if the dog at large has a collar and license on it, while a dog without a collar and license can make the owners liable for criminal dog at large charges. In addition, there may be other local or community-based (HOA) ordinances that may be violated in the case of a dog bite, and for the victim, it’s worth exploring each of these avenues in order to get the proper compensation for injury and damages.
Statute of Limitations for Dog Bites
There are two timelines for statute of limitations for dog bites. The dog bite statutes, A.R.S. 11-1025 through 11-1027, have a one-year statute of limitations from the time of the bite. If a claim is brought to the owner at any time within the one year, the owner may be held immediately liable. For the common law negligence statutes, there is a two-year statute of limitation. It’s recommended that victims seek legal action as soon as possible within the one-year time frame in order to have a strong case for both legal areas.
What Does Compensation Cover?
In a dog bite accident, there are medical bills and expenses that can often add up quickly. A dog bite accident claim and provide the victim with compensation for this and more, including:
- Future medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of wages due to missing work
- Counseling, therapy or surgery, if needed
- Miscellaneous costs of care
Generally, the insurance policy of the dog’s owner will pay for these costs. Insurance policies that cover dog bites typically include renter’s insurance, landlord insurance, homeowner insurance or business insurance, if the attack occurred at a place of business. For victims, it’s important to discuss your case with an injury attorney before making arrangements or settlements with the homeowner’s insurance company. Without speaking to an attorney, you’ll have no way of getting an accurate estimate of compensation, and therefore no way to determine if an insurance company’s settlement is fair and accurate.
What to Do After a Dog Bite
After a dog bite, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately. But it’s also important to document the accident, as this will make a future accident claim much easier to organize. Once you’ve received medical care, consider doing the following:
- Contacting police
- Getting the contact information for the dog’s owner
- Taking written and photographic evidence of the bite
- Filing a report with your local animal control agency
- Collecting contact information for witnesses, if any
Having this information will make the accident claim process much easier. You can provide your attorney with this information when initially evaluating your case, and this will allow you to get a better understanding of what legal options are available to you.
Fair Compensation for Dog Bites in Arizona
While the great majority of dogs are lovable and friendly companions, there are certainly exceptions to this rule. In fact, hundreds of thousands of dog bite victims are admitted to emergency rooms each year. At this point, calling the experience injury attorneys at JacksonWhite can make all the difference in making sure that the victim is compensated for any and all damages. Perhaps more so than most people realize, dog bites can have rather serious repercussions. Innocent dog bite victims commonly suffer permanent injury, surgery and even death. For this needless suffering, dog bite victims deserve to be compensated and can be with the help of an accident attorney.
Proving Liability for a Dog Bite
As with other personal injuries, plaintiffs in dog bite cases can pursue a negligence claim by showing that the dog owner’s careless actions directly caused the injury. Arizona has a strict liability dog bite statute. Under this statutory claim, dog owners are liable to dog bite victims regardless of whether they acted negligently. The statute also provides that anybody responsible for the dog at the time of the incident may share in the liability.
There are very limited circumstances in which dog owners can escape liability in a strict liability claim. In the majority of dog bite cases, the dog owner’s insurance will cover the victim’s damages. Victims can be compensated for a range of damages, including past, present and future medical expenses, lost wages, counseling costs, property damage, and pain and suffering. Where dog bite victims suffer needlessly, it is only fair that the person responsible for the dog is held liable. East Valley dog bite victims can seek the assistance of Mesa, Arizona personal injury lawyer Jared Everton to help recover fair compensation for their injuries.
Get Help with a Dog Bite Accident
Getting the right legal help with a dog bite accident can make all the difference in the amount of compensation you receive. At JacksonWhite, we pride ourselves on giving our clients the most comprehensive representation possible. Each year, we help victims of all types of accidents get the compensation and legal results they deserve. If you need help with a dog bite or related accident, call the injury team at JacksonWhite Law. Our team, led by attorney Jared Everton, can offer you the right legal help you need to move forward in your life. We work on a contingency basis, which means you pay nothing unless you receive compensation. To learn more about our services, schedule a free case evaluation with our team.
Call Dog Bite Attorney Jared Everton at (480) 467-4392 to discuss your case today.
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