Gilbert Dog Bite Lawyer
Several million Arizonans count their pet dogs as important members of their families. While dogs are colloquially known as the best friends of humans, they can also cause serious injuries or death when they attack people. It is important to understand that any dog, including a dog that you know, might bite you and cause you to suffer severe injuries. Because of the risks of injury from dog bites, Arizona has enacted a dog bite law that addresses how these types of cases are handled. If you have sustained injuries after being bitten or otherwise attacked by a dog, call Lamber Goodnow to speak to a Gilbert dog bite lawyer so that you can learn about the legal options that you might be able to pursue. Depending on the circumstances, you might be entitled to hold the dog’s owner liable to pay compensation to you for your losses.
Strict Liability for Gilbert Dog Bites
Unlike some states that have one-bite dog bite rules, Arizona makes dog owners strictly liable to victims when their dogs bite others in most cases. This law is found in ARS 11-1025 and states that an owner of a dog will be strictly liable to pay damages to the victim bitten by the dog. It won’t matter if the owner didn’t know that their dog was predisposed to bite. A dog owner can be held strictly liable even if it was the first time the dog ever bit someone. Strict liability applies to dog bites on both public property and private property on which the victim was legally present.
The law excepts bites caused by police dogs or military dogs in the following situations:
- Biting to defend itself or after being provoked
- Biting while helping their military or police handler to apprehend a suspect
- Biting while engaged in an investigation of a crime
- BIting during the service of a warrant
- Biting to defend another person or the police officer
The language of the dog bite statute only includes strict liability for the dog’s owner and not others who might possess the dog as decided by the court in Johnson v. Svidergol, 157 Ariz. 333 (1988). For example, you can’t hold a dog walker strictly liable if one of the dogs they are walking bites you under the dog bite statute. However, there are other ways you can pursue a claim against someone other than the owner who is in control of a dog that bites or otherwise attacks you.
Similarly, the dog bite statute only applies to bites and not to other types of dog attacks and injuries. In cases in which a dog’s possessor fails to appropriately control the dog or when a dog attacks someone without biting them and causes injuries, the victims might have grounds to pursue negligence claims even if they can’t use the dog bite statute.
A dog’s owner can be strictly liable to a dog bite victim when their dog bites the victim while on the owner’s property, depending on the reason for the visit. In order to recover compensation, you must have been lawfully present as defined in ARS 11-1026. Under this law, you are lawfully present on someone else’s property when you were expressly or implicitly invited by the property owner or are there as a part of your job. The dog owner won’t be strictly liable if the bitten person trespassed on the property or was trying to burgle the home. However, if the person had a legal right to be on the property either because of the owner’s invitation or to perform a duty recognized by the law, the dog’s owner will be strictly liable. Some of the parties that might be lawfully present include the following:
- Postal carriers
- Social guests
- Food delivery workers
- Package delivery personnel
- Meter readers
- Public officials
People who trespass on private property and are bitten by dogs generally will not be able to file a lawsuit against the property owner. However, it is a good idea to post signs about your dog to prevent a bitten person from claiming they were present by your implicit invitation to enter your property.
Even if you were bitten by a dog while you were lawfully present on someone else’s property, the dog’s owner can defend against your lawsuit if you provoked the dog. The provocation defense is codified in ARS 11-1027. Under this law, what is sufficiently provoking is any action that a reasonable person would consider to be enough to provoke a dog to bite. In the case of Toney v. Bouthillier, 129 Ariz. 402 (1981), a toddler who stepped on a dog’s tail was found to be sufficient provocation to defend against a dog bite lawsuit. If you were bitten by a dog, and a jury finds you provoked it, you won’t be able to recover damages.
A broader strict liability statute applies when dogs injure other people or property while being at large. This law is found in ARS 11-1020 and states that both dog owners and anyone else who is responsible for a dog are strictly liable to pay damages when they allow the dog to roam at large, and the dog subsequently injures someone else. For example, imagine a dog walker takes a dog’s leash off and allows it to run down the street, and it knocks down a young child and injures them. In that case, the dog walker will be strictly liable under this statute even though they could be held strictly liable under the dog-bite statute.
Negligence Claims for Dog Bites and Other Animal Attacks
According to the holding in Murdock v. Balle, 144 Ariz. 136 (1985), people who are attacked by dogs are not precluded from filing negligence lawsuits even though the dog bite statute exists. If you were bitten by a dog or otherwise attacked by an animal of any type because of its owner’s or possessor’s negligence, you can file a claim against the party who was responsible for controlling the animal. For example, if the owner of a snake in your apartment building failed to properly keep it contained in an aquarium, and it escaped and bit and injured you in your adjoining apartment, you could file a negligence lawsuit against the snake’s owner.
If a dog’s owner was negligent, and you were bitten and injured, you can file both types of claims against the owner. Filing both types of causes of action might increase your chance of recovering full compensation. Similarly, if a dog walker unleashes a dog that bites you in a public park, you can file a negligence lawsuit against the dog walker and a strict liability claim against the dog’s owner.
To prove a negligence cause of action, you will have to present evidence showing each of the following elements:
- The defendant owed you a legal duty of care.
- The defendant breached the duty.
- The defendant’s violation of the duty of care caused your injuries and accident.
- You suffered damages.
Negligence Per Se Claims
If you are bitten or otherwise attacked by a dog because the person responsible for it violated a state law or municipal ordinance, you can pursue a negligence per se cause of action based on the violation of the law. For example, Gilbert Mun. Code 6-60 states that a dog can’t be allowed to be at large and states that a dog is not at large if it is kept on a leash of a maximum length of six feet. If you were bitten by a dog that someone was walking on a 12-foot leash, you could file a negligence per se claim against the person who walked the dog for violating the municipal ordinance and a strict liability claim against the dog’s owner.
Statute of Limitations
Arizona has statutes of limitations that control when lawsuits can be filed. For strict liability claims under the dog bite or dog-at-large statutes, the statute of limitations is one year under ARS 12-541.
Negligence lawsuits for personal injuries have a two-year statute of limitations under ARS 12-542. If you don’t file your claim in time to meet the strict liability claim deadline, you can still pursue a negligence lawsuit against the dog owner as long as two years haven’t passed since your attack.
FAQs: Gilbert Dog Bite Lawsuits
If you were bitten by a dog, you might have questions about your next steps. Here are a few of the most common questions received by the attorneys at the law firm of Lamber Goodnow from victims of animal attacks.
Q: What if My Friend's Dog Bit Me?
A: In many cases, people are bitten by familiar dogs owned by their friends or family members. If you were bitten by a friend’s dog, you might be facing expensive treatment but worried about suing your friend. Fortunately, however, if you file a lawsuit against your friend, their homeowners’ insurance or renter’s insurance will likely cover your claim. As long as your friend has insurance on their home, they likely won’t have to pay anything out of pocket to you. If you’re concerned about it, you can explain to your friend why you need to file a claim to recover compensation for your medical bills, wage losses, and non-economic losses.
Q: What if I Was Bitten by a Loose Dog on the Sidewalk?
A: If you were bitten by a loose dog running down the sidewalk, try to find out who owns it. You can watch where it goes and trace its path to see if it goes into its owner’s yard. Call Animal Control immediately to report what happened. An officer can try to find the dog’s owner. After you have reported your bite, you should then go to a doctor immediately for treatment. Dogs have a lot of dangerous bacteria in their mouths that could cause serious infections when they bite. Once you have undergone medical treatment for your injuries, call a Gilbert dog bite lawyer at the law firm of Lamber Goodnow to learn about your rights.
Q: What Is My Case Worth?
A: How much your dog bite case is worth will depend on several factors. There isn’t a specific amount an attorney can quote you over the phone for the value of your dog bite case. Instead, a lawyer will need to review your medical records, wage losses, and other evidence to determine the nature and severity of your injuries, how long it will take you to recover, the actions of the dog’s owner, and other factors to properly value your claim.
Q: What Are Damages in a Dog Bite Lawsuit?
A: Damages in a dog bite lawsuit are monetary compensation designed to make you financially whole. Compensatory damages include both general and special damages, which include damages for a victim’s pecuniary losses and non-economic losses.
Some examples of damages that might be available in a dog bite lawsuit include the following:
- Medical expenses to treat your injuries
- Past and future rehabilitation costs
- Lost wages from being forced to miss work
- Property damage if applicable
- Physical pain and suffering
- Psychological or emotional trauma
Depending on the behavior of the defendant, punitive damages might also be recoverable. Punitive damages are meant to punish a defendant whose behavior was reckless, wanton, or willful, so they aren’t available in all cases. However, when they are available, they are paid in addition to the compensatory damages. An example of when they might be available in a dog bite lawsuit includes when a dog’s owner takes a dog off its leash on a sidewalk and tells the dog to attack an innocent passerby.
Talk to an Experienced Gilbert Dog Bite Attorney
If you were bitten or attacked by a dog or another animal, you may have legal rights. Call an attorney at Lamber Goodnow to schedule a free consultation.