If a Dog Bites You, What Are Your Rights?

If an aggressive dog attacks or bites you in the Phoenix area or anywhere in the State of Arizona, seek medical treatment immediately, heed your doctor’s advice, and arrange at once to meet with a Phoenix dog bite attorney to discuss your right to monetary compensation.

Biting is only one of the ways that aggressive dogs injure their victims. Dogs may knock you over, trip you, or run into you and cause falls, sprains, broken bones, and even more severe injuries.

What are your legal rights if someone else’s dog attacks or bites and injures you? How does Arizona law hold biting or aggressive dog owners accountable? Keep reading, and you’ll learn the answers to these questions and more about aggressive dogs, a dog bite victim’s rights, and the law in Arizona.

How Serious Are Dog Bites?

A dog bite may cause a staph infection, disfigurement, injuries to muscles and tissues, nerve damage, and a considerable loss of blood. If a dog exhibits the signs of rabies, or if a biting dog cannot be located, a rabies vaccination may be required. Some dog bites require skin grafting.

Over four million dog bites are reported every year in the U.S. Small children and the elderly are the most common victims of dog attacks and dog bites. For many, recovering from a dog bite injury requires multiple surgeries and months or years of therapy.

If you become a dog bite victim, obtain medical assistance immediately. After you’ve been examined and treated by a medical provider, schedule a meeting promptly to review your rights and legal options with a Phoenix dog bite lawyer.

What Does the Law Say?

Dog owners in Arizona are legally obligated to keep their dogs from injuring others, but dog bites are typically sudden and unexpected, and sometimes, an owner’s precautions are futile and a dog bites someone for no discernible reason.

Arizona, unlike many states, is a “strict liability” state for dog bites. This means that a dog’s owner is held liable for any injuries caused by his or her dog, even if the owner took precautions or was unaware of the dog’s aggressive tendencies.   The applicable Arizona Revised Statute on strict liability is A.R.S. 11-1025, which reads in pertinent part as follows:

11-1025. Liability for dog bites; military and police work; definitions

A. The owner of a dog that bites a person when the person is in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of its viciousness.
B. The breed of a dog may not be considered in findings of facts or conclusions of law entered by a court, administrative law judge, hearing officer, arbitrator or other legal decision-maker regarding whether a dog is aggressive or vicious or has created liability.

That’s good news for dog bite victims in Arizona. Bite victims may bring a personal injury claim against a dog’s owner and recover their medical expenses, lost wages, and related damages and losses without having to prove that the owner was negligent (as some states require).

How Should You Deal With the Dog Owner’s Insurance Company?

Dog bite coverage is included in many homeowners policies. If a dog bites and injures you, don’t speak with the dog owner’s insurance company or sign any document that company provides before you have consulted a Phoenix dog bite lawyer.

A homeowners insurance company may try to reduce your compensation amount – or pay you nothing, in some cases – and any statement you make or document you sign could be used against you.

Furthermore, without a lawyer’s advice, you might accept a settlement for far less than the actual value of your dog bite claim. Accepting a “low-ball” offer also means waiving your right to additional compensation or further legal action.

How Are Dog Bite Claims Resolved?

Strict liability does not mean that dog bite victims are automatically compensated. Victims have to prove, with an attorney’s help, that they were injured, and in some cases, they have to prove that they weren’t trespassing, breaking another law, or provoking the dog when the bite occurred.

In his or her defense, a dog’s owner may insist that a dog bite victim:

  1.   ignored warning signs
  2.   was trespassing
  3.  was breaking another law
  4.  intentionally provoked the animal

The owner is not liable for a dog bite in Arizona if the victim provoked the dog. Arizona law defines a provocation as any behavior or action that reasonable persons would deem provocative.

The applicable Arizona Revised Statute that defines provocation is A.R.S. 11-1025(F)(3), which reads as follows:

11-1025. Liability for dog bites; military and police work; definitions

3. “Provocation” means tormenting, attacking or inciting a dog and includes the standard for determining provocation prescribed in section 11-1027.

The applicable Arizona Revised Statute that lists reasonable provocation as a defense and further defines this concept is A.R.S. 11-1027, which reads as follows:

11-1027. Reasonable provocation as defense
Proof of provocation of the attack by the person injured shall be a defense to the action for damages. The issue of provocation shall be determined by whether a reasonable person would expect that the conduct or circumstances would be likely to provoke a dog.

Will Your Case Go to Court?

In Arizona, like other personal injury claims, most personal injury claims based on dog bites are resolved out-of-court. Your Phoenix dog bite attorney will negotiate with the dog owner’s homeowners insurance company for a reasonable settlement.

However, if no reasonable offer is made, or if the dog’s owner disputes your claim, your case will go to trial.

If that happens, your lawyer will explain to a jury how the dog bit or otherwise injured you, how seriously you were injured, and why the jurors should find in your favor and order the payment of your compensation.

Can You Avoid a Dog Bite?

Most dogs exhibit warning signs before biting. It’s important for both adults and children to know these signs. Before biting someone, a dog may:

  1.  bark furiously
  2.  growl threateningly
  3.  bare its teeth
  4.  go rigid
  5.  raise the hackles on its neck and back

For both adults and children, these are the rules for meeting dogs that you do not know:

  1.  Don’t try to touch or pet the dog (without the owner’s consent).
  2.  Don’t make eye contact or approach the dog (without the owner’s consent).
  3.  Remain calm and still..

Ultimately, it is a dog’s owner who is responsible for keeping a dog from biting or attacking others. Strict liability means that Arizona dog owners should take effective measures to keep their pets from hurting others.

What Else Should You Know About Dog Bite Claims?

Personal injury lawyers in Arizona handle personal injury claims on a contingent fee basis. In other words, you pay no lawyer’s fee unless and until your lawyer recovers your compensation with a jury verdict or an out-of-court settlement.

With a strict liability claim against a dog owner, you have a one-year deadline in Arizona to bring legal action after a dog bite. If your claim is that the owner was negligent, you have a two-year deadline. Don’t wait that long. Contact an attorney as soon as possible after a dog bites you.

Finding the Right Attorney

The legal team at Moore Injury Law has decades of negotiation and trial experience. We’ve successfully recovered compensation for dog bite victims and others who’ve been injured by negligence in or near the Phoenix area.

An attorney at Moore Injury Law will review your dog bite case at no cost and with no obligation. If we move forward with your dog bite claim, you owe Moore Injury Law no lawyer’s fee until we recover your compensation.

If you’ve been attacked or injured by a dog or another pet in or near the Phoenix area – or if you’re injured by someone else’s pet in the future – make the call to Moore Injury Law at 602-795-6605, and let us fight for justice on your behalf.