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The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that an average of 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs each year. An estimated 800,000 people require medical attention for dog bites each year, averaging out to 2,191 people seeking medical attention for dog bites every day. The issue of dog bites is also a serious problem in Arizona. In a review of the data between 2008 and 2012, the Arizona Department of Health Services found that 34,151 Arizonans visited emergency departments for dog bites, and 2,358 required inpatient hospitalizations.

When people are bitten by dogs in Arizona, they might be entitled to pursue compensation for their injuries and losses. If you were bitten by a dog in Chandler, you should speak to a Chandler dog bite lawyer at Lamber Goodnow. Our experienced attorneys understand the dog bite and dog attack laws in the state and can help you to understand and pursue your legal options. Here is some information about dog bites and other types of dog attacks that you should know if you have been bitten by a dog in the state.

Liability for Dog Bites in Arizona

Arizona has several state laws that cover dog bites. While some states follow a one-bite rule for dog bites, Arizona does not. Instead, under ARS 11-1025, dog owners are strictly liable when their dogs bite others except in certain cases. Strict liability means that a dog bite victim will not have to prove that the dog’s owner knew that their dog had a propensity to bite. In other words, a dog owner can be held liable and be forced to pay monetary damages even if their dog had never bitten anyone in the past before it bit the victim.

In states that follow a one-bite rule, victims must prove that the dog owners knew that their dogs had a propensity to bite before they can be held liable. In other words, the dogs must have bitten someone else in the past. Thankfully, Arizona doesn’t have such a rule, so victims of dog bites in the state can recover damages even if it was the first time the dogs had ever bitten someone.

When Does the Strict Liability Statute Apply?

The strict liability statute applies when a dog bites someone in a public place or when the victim is lawfully present in a private place, including the owner’s private property. For example, if you are walking down a sidewalk in Chandler in your neighborhood, and a loose dog bites you, the dog’s owner will be strictly liable. Similarly, if you are invited over by a friend to their house, and you are bitten by your friend’s dog while you are there, your friend would be strictly liable. Another situation in which a dog’s owner might be liable when their dog bites someone on their property involves someone who is there to perform legally permissible activities. This can include meter readers, postal workers, and package delivery drivers.

When Strict Liability Won’t Apply

It is important to note that the strict liability statute specifically applies to dog bites and does not apply to injuries incurred by other types of dog attacks. It also doesn’t cover situations in which another species of animal bites or attacks someone. For example, if you visit your friend and are bitten and attacked by your friend’s cat, your friend will not be strictly liable under ARS 11-1025.

Trespassers are not protected from dog bites under the strict liability statute. For example, if a stranger climbs your fence to take a shortcut through your backyard, you won’t be strictly liable if your dog attacks the stranger who entered your yard without permission. Burglars who break into peoples’ homes likewise won’t be able to pursue compensation through dog bite lawsuits.

The statute also exempts police and military dogs when they bite others in the following situations:

  • When the dog was defending itself against a provoking or harassing act
  • When the dog was assisting the military or police officer with apprehending or holding a suspect who is believed to have committed criminal activity
  • When the dog bit someone during the investigation of a potential or actual crime
  • When the dog bit someone while the police were executing a warrant
  • When the dog bit someone to defend a law enforcement officer from another

The strict liability dog bite statute similarly only applies to dog owners. Others who might be in possession of dogs that bite are not covered by the strict liability statute. For example, a dog walker who is caring for a dog that bites someone else on a sidewalk will not be strictly liable under the dog bite statute. However, they might be liable under a theory of negligence.

Provocation and the Owner’s Liability

Arizona recognizes provocation as a defense to strict liability for dog bites under ARS 11-1027. According to this law, a dog owner will not be liable in situations in which their dog bit someone else after the dog was provoked by the victim. Provocation is determined according to what a reasonable person would view as behavior that would likely be deemed enough to provoke the dog to attack. For example, if the dog bit a child who repeatedly pulled its tail, the dog owner might not be liable.

Negligence and Other Types of Dog or Animal Attacks

As previously noted, the strict liability statute only applies to dog bites. However, dog bite victims can also pursue compensation under a common law negligence theory. Similarly, people who are injured in other types of dog attacks or animal attacks can pursue compensation by asserting a negligence cause of action. For example, if a dog knocks an elderly person down on a sidewalk after jumping on them but doesn’t bite, the elderly victim could file a negligence lawsuit against the dog’s owner or caretaker for failing to restrain the dog.

There are also dog-at-large or leash laws that might apply. In Chandler, dogs that are outside must be kept in an enclosed area with a fence. If they are taken for a walk, they must be on leashes that are no longer than six feet long. If a dog is allowed off of its leash in a public park and bites someone, the victim could pursue compensation under both the dog bite statute and a negligence cause of action.

Dog Bite Statute of Limitations

There are two separate statutes of limitations you should understand if you’ve been bitten by a dog. If you want to pursue a strict liability claim for a dog bite, you must file your claim no later than one year from the date of your bite. If you miss this deadline, you won’t be able to pursue a strict liability claim against the dog’s owner.

If you file a negligence claim, however, you will have two years to file your lawsuit under ARS 12-542. However, you will have to present evidence proving that the dog’s owner or caretaker was negligent and caused your injuries to prevail.

Compensation in a Dog Bite Lawsuit

Some of the types of damages that might be available in a dog bite claim include the following:

  • Past/future medical expenses related to your injuries
  • Past/future wage losses caused by your injuries
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Emotional/psychological trauma
  • Disability
  • Loss of the enjoyment of life
  • Other damages

Typically, the dog owner’s insurance policy will pay for the damages. Some of the types of insurance policies that will normally cover dog bite claims include homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance, business insurance, or landlord insurance. Before you agree with an insurance company to settle your dog bite claim, you should talk to a Chandler dog bite attorney at Lamber Goodnow to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.

What to Do Following a Dog Bite

If you are bitten by a dog, you should seek immediate medical attention. Dog bites can quickly become infected without proper care. You should also take steps to document what happened and ensure similar incidents don’t happen in the future with the dog. Make sure to call the police and report the dog to animal control. Get the dog owner’s contact information. If you can’t determine who owns the dog, and the dog runs off, make sure to provide information about what the dog looks like and the direction it ran to animal control. They will try to find the dog and its owner. If the dog can’t be located, you will need to get rabies shots.

Take photos of your injuries, and ask anyone who witnessed what happened for their names and contact information. Contact a dog bite lawyer at Lamber Goodnow, and bring your photographs, the police and animal control reports, witness information, and your medical bills and pay stubs showing missed work with you to your consultation. This type of information can help your lawyer evaluate your case so that you can obtain a better idea of your legal options.

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FAQs: Dog Bites

It is common for people who have sustained serious injuries in a dog attack and their loved ones to have questions about their legal rights. Here are a few of the most common questions the attorneys at Lamber Goodnow receive and their answers to help you gain a better understanding of your rights.

Q: Who Will Be Responsible for my Dog Bite Injuries?

A: Like other states, Arizona has established deadlines for when different types of legal claims must be filed. These laws are called statutes of limitations, and the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is found in ARS 12-542. Under this law, you must file a wrongful death lawsuit no longer than two years after your loved one’s death. If you don’t meet the deadline, your ability to pursue compensation through a lawsuit will be time-barred.

The limitations period for wrongful death claims doesn’t begin running until the victim’s death. This means that if your loved one survived their injuries for a few months instead of immediately succumbing to their injuries, the limitations period will not begin running until the date of their death instead of the date of their accident.

While you might think that two years is a long time, it can go by quickly when you are dealing with the financial and emotional aftermath of losing your loved one. Instead of waiting until you have almost reached the deadline, you should talk to a Chandler wrongful death lawyer at Lamber Goodnow as soon as you can after your loved one’s death. When you retain a lawyer quickly, your attorney will have more time to thoroughly investigate your case and preserve evidence that might otherwise be lost to the passage of time.

Survival actions have a shorter deadline of one year. If the defendant was a government employee who was working when they caused your loved one’s death, the statute of limitations is even shorter. In that case, you must file a claim within six months of your loved one’s death. The attorneys at Lamber Goodnow can help you understand the statute of limitations and when you should file your claim to avoid losing your rights to compensation.

Q: What if My Friend’s Dog Bit Me?

A: Many people are bitten by dogs that are owned by their friends or family members. Even if you know a dog, it could still bite you. Being bitten by a dog owned by your friend might place you in a tough situation. You might be concerned about filing a lawsuit against someone you care about while still needing money to pay for your losses and medical bills. Fortunately, when you file a dog bite claim, the party that will be responsible for paying your damages will likely be your friend’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance company instead of your friend.

Q: Should I Talk to the Dog Owner About My Injuries?

A: It is common for a dog’s owner to reach out to a dog bite victim to ask about their injuries. While this might indicate the dog owner’s real concern for the victim, it can also cause harm to the victim’s potential claim. You should not talk about your medical treatment and injuries with anyone other than your attorney. The only thing you should do is get the dog’s license number and exchange contact information with the dog’s owner. Don’t discuss your injuries or medical treatment, and don’t sign anything that you are given by the owner or their insurance company without talking to your lawyer.

Q: What if I Was Bitten While I Was Working at Someone Else’s Home or Business?

A: If you were hired to work on someone else’s property, the property owner must keep you safe from foreseeable injuries caused by dangerous conditions that are present. If the property owner has a dog, you should be informed about the dog’s presence. The owner should also keep the dog confined away from where you are working. Depending on the circumstances, you might be able to file both a dog bite claim against the dog owner and a workers’ compensation claim with your employer’s insurance policy if you were bitten while you were working within the scope and course of your job.

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