Dog Bite

Quality Legal Guidance Throughout Arizona

MESA DOG BITE ATTORNEY

At Budge Law Firm, we understand the stress and worry that comes with dog bite injuries. After seeking medical attention, you will need an experienced lawyer who knows the value of your case.

Millions of people are bitten by dogs every year in the United States. While some of the bites aren’t serious, many result in time lost from work, medical bills, scarring, and suffering. Children tend to receive a disproportionate share of the bites.

Many times, this area of law can be difficult to understand. Contact us to receive a free consultation by an experienced attorney at our law firm.  It is always better to know your rights.

In addition to the owner of the biting dog, the person or persons who are responsible for the dog at the time it bites are also liable for damages to the victim.  For instance, if someone takes their friend’s dog to the park and it bites and injures a child, the individual that brought the dog may also be responsible for damages.

Steps to Take After a Dog Bite

1. Identify the Dog

The most important first step you can take after a dog bite is to identify the dog. Find out who owns the dog or where the animal lives. If the dog is a stray and you cannot identify it, you may be forced to undergo a series of rabies shots, which are expensive and painful.

2. Seek Medical Care

Depending upon the severity of the bite, contact first responders for medical attention or have someone drive you to emergency care. You should always seek medical care after a dog bite. The risk of infection from a dog bite is far too great to ignore.

3. File Bite Report

After you’ve been medically treated — even if the injury was minor — file a bite report with your city or county animal control or sheriff’s department. This legally documents your case and provides help to the next victim who may be harmed by the same dog. Without a paper trail, authorities cannot enforce effectively.

Contact our office at (480) 376-7193 if you or a loved one were injured by a dog.

4. Gather Information

To protect your future rights as a victim, obtain the name and address of the dog owner in addition to the dog license information. 

You should find out if the dog has a record as well. Has the dog bitten a person or dog prior to biting you? Has the dog been labeled “potentially dangerous” or “dangerous?”

5. Photograph Injuries

Take photos of your injury, even if you need to unwrap gauze. Confer with a doctor or nurse as needed — they will tell you about a safe manner in which to do this. It is recommended that you photograph all your wounds( including bruises), as well as torn, bloody clothing and the location of the attack.

6. Contact Attorney

Contact a dog bite attorney now — not later. The issues surrounding dog bites are complex and difficult to navigate through. Your dog bite lawyer is the only person (besides the doctor that treats your wounds) who will look after your best interests from this point forward.

7. Begin Journal

Lastly, if you seek medical reimbursement for your injury, start a journal as soon as you can. Spend a little time each day recording your thoughts for the few first weeks after the attack. Dog bite claims can often take several years to complete — anticipate keeping this journal on a biweekly basis over the course of this time.

In Arizona, when a dog bite causes injuries, the owner and/or person responsible for the dog may be legally obligated to pay the victim’s damages unless the victim provoked the attack.  Dog bite victims are frequently compensated for their injuries by the owner’s homeowners’ insurance policy. Many states have a dog bite law that gives a dog “one free bite.”  In a one free bite state, the owner of the dog is not liable for damages caused the first time the dog bites a victim unless the owner knew or should have known that the dog had a propensity for violence.

Arizona, however, is not a one free bite state.  In fact, Arizona Revised Statutes Sections 11-1020 and 11-1025 impose strict liability on the owner of a dog that bites a victim.

If you or someone you know was bitten by a dog, please contact our office at (480) 376-7193.  We can help you receive the compensation you deserve. In most cases, there are no out-of-pocket costs for you.

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DOG BITE LIABILITY

If your case involves the use of a police/military dog this statute must be read in conjunction with other statutes involving the justifiable use of force and whether the police or military officers acted appropriately. Arizona appellate courts have not yet addressed liability of a governmental agency for a dog bite under this statute, so it is not clear whether those statutes have any effect, unless you are a bystander.

Defenses to Strict Liability

Provocation is the only defense to a claim for damages or injury under A.R.S. § 11-1025 or A.R.S. § 11-1020. If a defendant claims the plaintiff provoked the dog, the provocation can be intentional or unintentional and either caused by an adult or a young child. The proper question is whether the actions taken by the plaintiff would amount to sufficient provocation.

Common Law Liability

The Arizona dog bite statutes do not replace common law liability regarding injury to another person and can be brought at the same time as the strict liability claims. If the owner knows or has reason to know the animal is dangerous and it is abnormal to the breed, then the owner can be liable.

Defenses to Common Law Liability

1. Unlawful presence: A landowner is not subject to strict liability to someone who intentionally or negligently trespasses upon the land, for harm done to them by an abnormally dangerous domestic animal that the possessor keeps on the land, even though the trespasser had no reason to know that the animal is kept there.

2. Assumption of the risk: Other defenses to common law liability may be available since Arizona courts follow the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 515 (1977), but only in the absence of contrary authority, which provides that the unreasonable assumption of the risk of harm relative to an animal is a defense to a claim for strict liability.

Damages

Damages caused by a dog under the dog at large statute include property and personal injury damages that resulted from the conduct of the dog. However, damages arising out of the dog bite statute are limited to those caused by the dog bite.

Damages would include any permissible tort damages and may include a loss of consortium (claimed by a parent where the child’s injury was a disfiguring scar from a dog bite).

The policy must address the use of a dog in the:

  1. apprehension or holding of a suspect where the employee has a reasonable suspicion of the suspect’s involvement in criminal activity;
  2. investigation of a crime or possible crime;
  3. execution of a warrant; and/or
  4. defense of a peace officer or another person.

Arizona has a statute that imposes strict liability for dog bites. This means that a victim does not have to prove negligence on behalf of the owner or person in control of the dog. The only defense to this is provocation. Claims can also be brought under common law and negligence theories.

Arizona defines the time in which a case must be filed or recovery will be barred, otherwise known as the statute of limitations. There are two separate statutes of limitations for dog bites in Arizona.

1. A.R.S. § 11-1020 and A.R.S. § 11-1025, which provide a one-year statute of limitations based upon the language in A.R.S. § 12-541. Therefore, a claimant who is injured by a dog must settle the case or file a complaint in the proper court within one year of the dog bite under these statutes in order for the owner to be strictly liable.

2. Common law and negligence claims have a two-year statute of limitations under A.R.S. § 12-542, however, you will have to prove that the owner was negligent under this theory.

Statutory or Strict Liability

1. Dogs at large. A.R.S. § 11-1020 provides that: “Injury to any person or damage to any property by a dog while at large shall be the full responsibility of the dog owner or person or persons responsible for the dog when such damages were inflicted.”

a. “At large” is defined as “being neither confined by an enclosure nor physically restrained by a leash.”

b. Although dog owners are strictly liable for injuries caused by their dogs, strict liability does not mean absolute liability. Strict liability removes the need to establish liability but does not remove the need to prove causation.

c. For example, the court has held that a stolen dog would be an unforeseeable, intervening act that would prevent liability being imposed for an injury caused by the stolen dog.

2. Dogs not at large. A.R.S. § 11-1025 provides that: “The owner of a dog which 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.”

a. In Arizona, there is no “one free bite” rule, and the statute essentially makes the dog owner an insurer of the dog’s conduct unless the defendant is on the owner’s property unlawfully.

b. Lawful presence. A.R.S. § 11-1026 defines the lawful presence requirement. In order to impose liability for a dog bite on private property, a person must be an invitee or guest, or be on the property pursuant to a legal duty imposed by state or federal statute or municipal ordinance. However, courts have determined that this does not apply to members of the owner’s family even though they are there lawfully.

3. Police dogs. No action for damages can be brought against any governmental agency using a dog in military or police work if the bite occurred while the dog was defending itself from a harassing or provoking act or assisting an employee of the agency in the performance of their duties. However, in order for this to apply, the agency must have adopted a written policy on the necessary and appropriate use of a dog for the work. 

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