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Dogs are the most popular pet in the U.S. According to the most recent American Pet Products Association, 70% of American households own pets and 69 million own dogs. While many people love their dogs, these pets seriously endanger others. A dog bite might cause catastrophic injuries or death. If you were seriously injured after being bitten by a dog, you might be entitled to pursue compensation from the dog’s owner. A Mesa dog bite attorney at Lamber Goodnow can analyze the facts what happened and explain whether you might have grounds to pursue compensation for both your economic and non-economic losses.
Arizona’s Dog Bite Statute
In some states, dog owners must know that their dogs are vicious or likely to bite others before they can be held liable for dog bites. This type of approach is known as a one-bite rule since owners in those states are not presumed to know of their dogs’ propensities to bite until they have bitten someone. By contrast, however, Arizona follows a strict liability rule for dog bite cases.
According to ARS 11-1025, Arizona holds dog owners liable for dog bites when they bite other people on the public property regardless of whether the owners knew their dogs had a propensity to bite. Similarly, dog owners are held strictly liable when their dogs bite others on private property who are legally present. However, there are some exceptions to the strict liability of dog owners when the dog is a military dog or police dog in the following types of situations:
- Military/police dog bites the person after being provoked or to defend itself
- Military/police dog bites a suspect whom the police are trying to apprehend
- Military/police dog bites someone while a crime is being investigated
- Military/police dog bites during the service of an arrest warrant
- Military/police dog bites in defense of a police officer or another person
One important caveat about Arizona’s dog bite statute is that it only dog owners can be held strictly liable. Others who might have possession of a dog that bites will not be strictly liable under the holding in Johnson v. Svidergol, 157 Ariz. 333 (1988). If someone has a dog but is not the dog’s owner, there might be other ways to pursue compensation such as a negligence cause of action. Similarly, the strict liability law only applies when a dog bites another person but does not for other types of dog attacks in which someone is injured but was not bitten.
Some examples of when a dog’s owner might be liable when the dog bites someone else might include when the dog bites someone in a public park or while walking along a public trail or sidewalk. Dog owners are also strictly liable when their dogs bite people they have invited to their homes and those who are legally present on their property for legitimate business reasons, including meter readers, delivery people, postal carriers, and those who are present for work purposes.
Since trespassers are not legally present, they likely will not be able to hold a dog’s owner strictly liable when they are bitten. However, it’s a good idea for dog owners to post warning signs to trespassers about their dogs so that there will not be a question about whether the owners impliedly invited the trespassers to the property.
Understanding Lawful Presence
According to ARS 11-1026, lawful presence means that someone is present by the invitation of the dog’s owner, is a social guest, or is there to complete a duty recognized by local, state, or federal law.
Even if a person is lawfully present when they are bitten by a dog, the dog’s owner can defend against a finding of strict liability if the victim provoked the dog according to ARS 11-1027. If a dog’s owner raises provocation as a defense, the court will assess whether someone else would reasonably believe that the victim’s actions were enough to provoke the dog to bite. Some examples of provocation might include hitting a dog. Under the holding in Toney v. Bouthillier, 129 Ariz. 402 (1981), even a toddler accidentally stepping on the tail of a dog might be considered sufficient provocation.
Dogs at Large
According to ARS 11-1020, both dog owners and possessors are strictly liable when dogs are roaming at large and cause injuries or property damage. Unlike the dog bite statute, this statute does provide a way for victims to hold non-owners strictly liable when they are injured by a dog that is allowed to roam off-leash, including when they are injured in an attack without bites. For example, if a dogwalker takes the leash off of a dog and allows it to roam through a park, the dogwalker might be strictly liable to an elderly victim who is knocked down by the roaming dog and seriously injured.
Negligence Causes of Action
In Murdock v. Balle, 144 Ariz. 136 (1985), the court held that victims can still pursue negligence claims against dog owners or possessors even though the strict liability dog bite statute exists. When a dog owner is negligent and causes their dog to attack and injure someone, the victim can file a lawsuit that includes both a negligence cause of action and a strict liability cause of action. Filing both types of causes of action might make it likelier that the victim will recover damages.
People might be able to pursue negligence per se causes of action when the dog bite occurs while the owner or possessor of the dog was breaking a municipal ordinance or a state statute. For example, a person who violates a leash ordinance or statute might be liable under both strict liability and negligence per se causes of action. A person is negligent per se when they act in violation of a law or ordinance and cause harm to others.
Dog Bite Statute of Limitations
Arizona’s statute of limitations for strict liability dog bite claims is one year from the date of the dog bite and resulting injuries. This means that you must file your claim within one year of your attack to pursue a strict liability claim against the dog’s owner.
Under ARS 12-542, there is a two-year statute of limitations for negligence claims. If you miss the deadline for filing a strict liability claim, you might be able to pursue a negligence claim against the dog owner. However, this will require you to prove that the dog owner’s negligence caused the dog to bite and resulted in your injuries and losses.
Finally, your ability to pursue any type of action will be barred if you fail to file a lawsuit against the dog’s owner for more than two years after your attack. The best approach to take is to contact a Mesa dog bite lawyer at Lamber Goodnow as soon as possible after you were bitten by a dog to help preserve evidence and strengthen your claim.
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FAQs: Dog Bites in Arizona
While many people consider their dogs to be members of their families, their dogs can be dangerous in some situations. Because of the devastating injuries people can suffer from dog attacks in Arizona, a Lamber Goodnow dog bite attorney Mesa is prepared to aggressively pursue compensation for the victim. Many dog bite victims and those who have lost loved ones have questions about their potential claims. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions a dog bite lawyer Mesa at Lamber Goodnow might receive to help you understand your potential claim.
Q: How Common Are Dog Bites?
A: Dogs bite an estimated 4,500,000 Americans each year. Out of those who are bitten, 800,000 people visit the emergency departments of their area hospitals for treatment. More than half of those bitten are children. The prevalence of these types of incidents and the serious harm they can cause has prompted every state to enact dog bite laws. People should take care to avoid dog bites and prevent their dogs from attacking others.
Q: Are Some Breeds More Dangerous Than Others?
A: Any dog can bite, but certain breeds have a reputation for being more dangerous. According to data compiled by Dogbite.org, dogs killed 568 people in the U.S. between 2005 and 2020. Out of these fatal attacks, 76% were caused by pit bull terriers. However, any type of dog might bite, including smaller dogs. Some types of dogs that have statistically been shown to have a greater tendency to bite include the following:
- Jack Russell terriers
- German shepherds
- Labrador retrievers
- Pit bull terriers
Regardless of which type of dog you might encounter, you should be cautious. Dogs might bite when they are attempting to protect their puppies, food, or territory or when they feel threatened. Do not approach an unfamiliar or stray dog.
Q: What Should You Do After a Dog Attacks You?
A: If a dog bites you, call animal control immediately. Dogs carry a lot of dangerous bacteria in their mouths. Call 911 to report the dog if it is running loose to prevent it from attacking others. Once you have reported the dog, make sure to seek medical attention. You can report a dog bite in Maricopa County at (602) 506-7387. Once animal control receives your report, it will investigate. After you have received medical care for your injuries, you should then talk to a Mesa dog bite lawyer at Lamber Goodnow to learn about your legal options.
Q: What if I Was Bitten on Someone Else’s Property?
A: If you were bitten by a dog while on someone else’s property, your ability to pursue compensation might depend on your status as a visitor. If you were trespassing when the dog bit you, you will likely not be able to recover compensation for your injuries. However, if you were present at the dog owner’s invitation or because you were working on the property, the dog’s owner should be strictly liable to pay damages for your injuries as long as you didn’t provoke the dog.
If you are a dog owner, you should make sure to keep your dog away from people who are legally visiting your property, including your guests or those who are there to read meters, deliver mail, perform renovation work, or deliver packages. Don’t allow the children of guests you have invited over to play with your dog. Even though you might believe that your dog is docile and good-natured, it only takes a second for a dog to bite and seriously injure someone.
Q: Who Pays if I File a Dog Bite Claim?
A: In many cases, a dog bite victim will be bitten by a dog that is owned by a family member or friend while they are guests in their homes. This might make them hesitate about filing a dog bite claim. However, if you file a claim after you are bitten by your friend’s dog, your friend’s homeowner’s insurance policy will likely be responsible for paying it. Most homeowner’s insurance policies cover dog bites when their insureds’ dogs bite others. These policies might also cover other pets’ bites, including cats. However, certain insurance policies might include exclusions for certain dog breeds, including pit bulls or rottweilers.
If a dog owner’s insurance policy includes an exclusion for their dog breed, you will need to determine if the owner has sufficient assets or income to pay your damages. Your lawyer will also investigate to determine whether other types of insurance sources might be available.
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