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The Insurance Information Institute (III) reports that 70% of U.S. households own pets. Out of those, 69 million Americans own dogs. While many families consider their dogs to be important, beloved family members, they can also be dangerous. When a dog bites someone else, the victim can suffer permanently disabling injuries or even be killed.
If you were bitten by a dog and suffered serious injuries or lost your loved one in a dog attack, you are entitled to pursue compensation through a dog bite lawsuit. A Scottsdale dog bite lawyer at Lamber Goodnow can review your case and help you understand its legal viability. if your claim has legal merits, we can help you pursue maximal compensation for your injuries and other losses.
Dog Bite Statute in Arizona
The US states generally either follow a one-bite rule or a strict liability statute for dog bites. Arizona has a strict liability dog bite statute found at ARS § 11-1025. Under this law, dog owners are strictly liable to pay damages to people who are bitten by their dogs when the victims are present in a public place or lawfully present on private property. Under Arizona’s approach, the dog’s owner will be liable even if the owner was unaware that the dog had a propensity to bite other people. There are some exceptions to the strict liability dog bite rule in cases involving a military or police dog when the bite occurs in the following ways:
- Police or military dog bites a person after being provoked or to defend itself
- Police or military dog bites someone the police are trying to apprehend
- Police or military dog bites someone during the investigation of a crime
- Police or military dog bites someone while a warrant is being served
- Police or military dog bites someone to defend the police officer or another person
It is important to note that Arizona’s strict liability dog bite statute only applies to dog owners and not to other people who might possess a dog, according to the holding in Johnson v. Svidergol, 157 Ariz. 333 (1988). Possessors of dogs who are not owners are not strictly liable for dog bites. However, there might be other ways that you could pursue a dog bite lawsuit against someone other than a dog’s owner when you have been bitten or otherwise attacked. The strict liability statute also only applies when a dog bites someone and not when a dog attacks and injures somebody in another way. For example, if a dog jumps on a child or elderly person and knocks them down in a public park, Arizona’s strict liability statute wouldn’t apply because they were not bitten. However, the victim might be entitled to pursue a negligence claim against the dog’s owner or the person in possession of the dog.
Dog owners are strictly liable when their dogs bite people in public or on private property, including their own property. A dog’s owner will be liable when the dog bites someone who is lawfully present on their property. However, dog owners are typically not liable when their dogs bite trespassers or others who do not have the legal right to be present. Some examples of people who might be able to recover compensation through a dog bite lawsuit after being bitten on private property include invited guests and those who are present for legitimate business reasons, such as meter readers, postal workers, delivery personnel, and others.
Trespassers typically will not be able to recover compensation through a dog bite lawsuit against a property owner. However, owners should post warning signs about their dogs so there won’t be any question about whether or not the owner extended an implicit invitation to the trespasser to enter the property.
Lawful Presence and Provocation
Arizona defines lawful presence in ARS § 11-1026. Under this statute, someone is lawfully present when they are there by the dog owner’s invitation, are social guests, or are present to complete a legitimate duty recognized by local, federal, or state law.
While a lawfully present person can file a lawsuit against the dog’s owner for a dog bite, the dog owner can assert an affirmative defense in cases in which the victim provoked the dog under ARS § 11-1027. When a dog owner asserts the affirmative defense of provocation, the court will consider whether a reasonable person in the same situation would have viewed the victim’s actions as provocative enough to induce the dog to bite. Provocation can include many things, including hitting a dog, pulling a dog’s tail, and others. In Toney v. Bouthillier, 129 Ariz. 402 (1981), the court found a toddler’s accidentally stepping on a dog’s tail was sufficiently provoking.
Liability Under the Dog-at-Large Statute
Under ARS § 11-1020, anyone who allows a dog to roam off-leash can be strictly liable to pay a victim compensation when the dog injures the victim or causes damage to their property. This law provides a way to hold someone liable even if they do not own the dog. For example, if you let a friend take your dog to a public park, and your friend removes your dog’s leash to let it run free, they could be liable if it knocks down someone and causes them to hit their head and sustain a traumatic brain injury.
Pursuing a Negligence Lawsuit
You are not limited to only filing a strict liability claim under the state’s strict liability dog bite statute. According to the decision in Murdock v. Balle, 144 Ariz. 136 (1985), victims are permitted to pursue negligence causes of action against dog possessors and owners even though the dog bite statute is codified in the state’s statutory laws. If a dog’s owner or possessor negligently permits a dog to attack or bite someone else, the victim can file a lawsuit for negligence against the responsible party. If the dog owner was the negligent party, the victim can file a lawsuit that includes both strict liability and negligence claims. Pursuing both types of causes of action increases the likelihood of recovering full compensation.
When a dog owner or possessor violates a municipal ordinance or state law, which allows the dog bite to happen, the victim can pursue a negligence per se cause of action. Negligence per se claims allow victims to hold owners or possessors liable based on the violation of the law instead of having to prove negligence. For example, violating the leash ordinance might provide the victim with the ability to pursue both negligence per se and strict liability causes of action when a dog bites someone.
Relevant Statutes of Limitations
The different statutes of limitations in Arizona for dog bite claims are another good reason to file both strict liability and negligence causes of action. Under the dog bite strict liability statute, victims must file a dog bite lawsuit against the dog owner within one year of when the dog bite occurred. By contrast, the statute of limitations for a personal injury negligence claim is two years from the date of the incident under ARS § 12-542. If you don’t file your lawsuit in time under the strict liability statute, you might still be able to recover compensation by filing a negligence lawsuit against the dog’s owner. However, filing a negligence lawsuit will require you to prove each of the elements of negligence by a preponderance of the evidence.
If you wait longer than two years after the date of your dog bite injury, you won’t be able to pursue compensation through a legal claim of any type. The statutes of limitations are in place to prevent people from filing stale claims. It’s best for you to contact a Scottsdale dog bite attorney as soon after your dog bite incident occurs as possible. Contacting a lawyer quickly can help to preserve critical evidence and strengthen your case.
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FAQs: Scottsdale Dog Bite Lawsuits
Dog bites are often unexpected and can leave victims suffering debilitating injuries. It is common for people to have questions about their rights and legal options when they have been bitten by a dog. To help you better understand your potential rights, the attorneys at Lamber Goodnow have compiled some of the most frequently asked questions we receive from dog bite victims.
Q: How Many People Are Bitten By Dogs?
A: According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, an estimated 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year. Approximately 800,000 dog bite victims visit the emergency department for treatment, and more than half of the victims are children. Because dog bites are so common, every state has enacted dog bite laws. if you own a dog, you should take steps to protect others from being bitten. if you invite someone over, secure your dog away from your guests.
Q: Which Breeds Are the Most Dangerous?
A: Even though you might think that your dog would never bite somebody, any dog can bite. However, some breeds are considered more dangerous than others. Dogbite.org reports that 568 people were killed by dog bites in the U.S. between 2005 and 2020, and 76% of the fatal attacks resulted from pit bull terriers. However, even smaller dogs can bite. Some breeds that have been shown to have a greater propensity for biting include the following:
- Jack Russell terriers
- German Shepherds
- Labrador Retrievers
- Pit Bull terriers
You should always be cautious whenever you encounter a dog regardless of its breed. A dog might bite you for a variety of different reasons, including feeling threatened, protecting their food, protecting their puppies, or protecting their territory. Never approach a stray or unfamiliar dog even if it is wagging and appears friendly.
Q: What if I Was Bitten While Visiting my Friend’s Home?
A: If you were bitten while visiting the home of a friend or family member, you might worry about filing a lawsuit against them for your injuries. However, when you file a dog bite lawsuit against a dog owner after being bitten on their property, they are usually not the party that will end up paying your claim. instead, homeowners’ insurance and renters insurance policies typically cover dog bites.
However, some insurance companies include exclusions for specific breeds. You can find out whether the dog that bit you was excluded under your friend’s insurance policy by asking them to check. Even if you were bitten by a dog at your friend’s home that was excluded under their insurance policy, you still deserve compensation for your injuries. If you’re worried about filing a claim against your friend when there is no insurance available, you can talk to your friend to find out if they would be willing to pay for your medical bills.
Q: What If I Was Bitten By a Dog on Another Person’s Property?
A: Your ability to recover compensation after being bitten by a dog on someone else’s property will depend on the reason for your visit. if you were bitten while trespassing you won’t be able to recover compensation. However, if you were invited to the property by the dog’s owner or were present because you were working on the premises, you can file a strict liability claim against the dog’s owner under the state’s dog bite statute. The dog’s owner will then be required to pay damages to you for your losses as long as you didn’t do something to provoke the dog.
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