Dog bites can cause rabies, infection, scarring and disfigurement, trauma, and pain—among other many injuries. What is your recourse if a dog mauled or bit you or a loved one in Arizona? You may wonder if you can receive financial compensation from a dog bite lawyer for your injuries and how you would go about obtaining it.
Read on to find out about Arizona’s dog bite laws & whether it makes sense to pursue compensation.
Approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur throughout the country every year and roughly 20 percent become infected. While children are the most frequent victims of dog bites, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, a dog can bite anyone, regardless of size or age group.
Thus, Arizona has passed strict, specific dog bite laws. If you received a bite from any dog in a public place or lawfully in a private area (such as a home or yard), the owner is liable according to section 11-1025, Arizona Revised Statutes. Liable means that the owner bears financial responsibility for your injuries.
If a dog owner invited you onto their private property as a guest, or due to a legal duty (as defined by Federal, state, or municipality), you lawfully entered the premises according to Arizona law.
However, if someone injured by a dog bite was unlawfully on the property, the owner may not be liable under Arizona law. In other words, if the dog’s owner can prove you trespassed on their property, they may be able to avoid liability.
They may bear no liability if they prove the victim provoked the dog. In general, provocation under section 11-1027 ARS happens when “a reasonable person would expect that the conduct or circumstances would be likely to provoke a dog,” such as poking it or running into it with a bicycle.
Despite these two exceptions, though, Arizonans injured by dog bites need to know that our state safeguards persons in all public areas (parks, streets, schools, malls, and every public place) and lawfully on private property by imposing strict liability on dog owners. Some states do not make owners financially responsible if a dog bites someone and has not bitten before because the owner had no way of knowing the dog was dangerous. Arizona’s strict liability holds the owner liable whether the dog bit someone before or not.
Dogs in public should be under control at all times. If a dog running at large bites someone, the owner or person responsible at the time is liable under the law.
In Phoenix, city law provides that owners must leash dogs at all times (such as in parks, canals, and streets) or confined on private property. The leash can’t measure longer than six feet.
What Compensation Can I Receive for a Dog Bite in Arizona?
Dog bite liability law is part of personal injury law in Arizona.
In general, people injured by another party can legally seek financial compensation for:
- Medical bills for doctor’s visits, emergency care, surgery, medical tests, prescription medicine, home nursing care, and more.
- Future medical bills if doctors recommend treatment in the future (such as repeated surgery to repair scarring)
- Income lost from work if the dog bite incident or its treatment prevented you from working.
- Pain and suffering for physical, emotional, and psychological distress.
What Do I Need to Seek Compensation for my Dog Bite?
Generally, you need to know several pieces of information to seek compensation.
Get the Name of the Dog Owner
First, of course, you need to know who the dog’s owner is or who bore responsibility for the dog at the time of the bite (such as a dog walker). If you can do so safely, it can be prudent to get contact information at the time of the bite and any pertinent information about the dog (such as if rabies shots are up to date).
Gather Evidence of the Dog Bite
Second, you need evidence of the bite and its effects. Evidence is crucial to any personal injury case. Hard as it may be to believe, dog owners may try to state that their dog didn’t bite you (especially if there are no witnesses) or claim that another source caused your injuries, not the dog bite. If they can show that their dog was not responsible for your injury, the owner can avoid liability.
Evidence can, of course, protect you from false claims by the owner or any allegation of provoking the dog.
Potential documentation in dog bite cases can include.
- Pictures or videos of your injuries. Taking pictures with your smartphone as soon as possible after you suffer an injury is an excellent idea.
- Pictures or surveillance video showing the biting incident.
- Reports from animal control personnel.
- Police reports if the police become involved.
- Medical treatment records.
- Medical bills for treatment specifically related to the bite(s).
- Records of missing work.
- Eyewitness testimony of the attack.
- Eyewitness testimony about the dog’s behavior or past attacks (from neighbors or people who frequently saw the dog in a park, for example).
The dog’s tags provide evidence of ownership. Maricopa County dog owners must obtain a license for all dogs over three months old. The dog must wear a tag on their collar, proving that they are licensed and vaccinated against rabies.
What Are the Most Common Dog Bite Injuries?
The most common dog bite injuries are lacerations, bruises, rabies, and infections.
Infections themselves can constitute a serious threat to your health. They are particularly dangerous for immunocompromised or diabetic people. A severe infection can lead to hospitalization and lengthy treatment.
Potential injuries from dog bites don’t end there. Bites can injure victims in many ways, depending on the size of the dog, the severity of the bites, and the victim’s size. Biting dogs can knock their victims down, which could potentially cause severe injuries, such as broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, and even spinal cord injuries.
Serious dog bites can cause amputation, scarring, disfigurement, and comas. The most serious can result in death, particularly if the victim is a small child or frail.
What Should I Do if a Dog Bites Me?
Always ensure your health and safety if a dog bites you. Medical personnel recommend seeing a physician within eight hours of the bite, but you should see a doctor as soon as you are able. A physician can provide appropriate treatment for any injuries and advise on further care.
As soon as possible after the bite, thoroughly wash the affected area and apply antibiotic ointment, if you have it, to ward off infection. If you are bleeding, use cloths and bandages to stop it. (If the bleeding is significant, go to an emergency room.) Be sure to change bandages frequently to avoid infection.
Common signs of infection are a pain in the area, redness, swelling of tissues, and fever. If the bite breaks your skin, watch for these signs.
Again, you want to ensure that the animal does not have rabies. Rabid dogs sometimes show signs, such as drooling, aggression, or abnormal behavior. However, dogs that don’t show visible signs can also have rabies. Rabies is potentially fatal if not treated.
Although Maricopa County requires dogs of a certain age to be vaccinated, the dog could be young or from outside the county and therefore unvaccinated. You need to consult with the owner or animal control personnel to ensure the animal received a current vaccination. If it did not, or you cannot find out, consult your physician immediately about rabies treatment or prevention.
While seeing to your health and safety is paramount, don’t neglect material you may need later to receive just compensation. Keep all records of the dog bite and your subsequent actions, including visits to the emergency room or a doctor, the dates, and bills. Keep all records of any medical supplies. All of this material is important to support your injury claim.
As soon as your health is addressed and stable, it is prudent to consult a lawyer.
Does Arizona Have Different Dog Bite Laws Depending on the Breed?
Arizona enforces its strict dog bite liability laws without respect to the breed of dog.
A larger breed of dog could cause more damage, in which case, the victim would potentially need more medical attention. But again, there is no consistent relationship between breed and damages relating to medical expenses.
How Can a Dog Bite Lawyer Help Me?
If you receive serious injuries from a dog bite, an attorney can help you in many ways.
First, even though Arizona has strict liability laws in the case of dog bites, owners can try to defend themselves against financial responsibility. They may try to do so by claiming that you provoked the dog or trespassed on their property. These are two primary defenses that the owner may claim, even if they are unfounded.
If this happens, a lawyer can gather evidence to support your claim. They can talk to neighbors or other potential eyewitnesses. They can gather the evidence you have (or have access to), such as pictures of your injuries and the incident, police or animal control reports, medical reports and bills, and more.
They can also investigate the incident if necessary. Lawyers work with investigators frequently.
Second, a lawyer can help you negotiate for just compensation. They can help you gather the bills from medical treatment and other related expenses. If, in the future, you need medical care related to your dog bite injuries, they can work with experts to assess how great those expenses are likely to be. Individuals, quite justifiably, are unlikely to know what a fair amount for their treatment will total. Lawyers frequently work with medical experts to estimate these amounts.
Third, a lawyer can take your case to civil court for damages if the dog’s owner or other liable person disputes events or refuses just compensation. They can present evidence and argue for just compensation in court.
If you are in Phoenix and you have been bitten by a dog, the Phoenix dog bite attorneys at Hutzler law can help you recover damages.
Are Criminal Charges Ever Brought Against Dog Owners in Arizona?
Dog bite liability laws apply to civil court, where the victim also brings the damage claims. Civil court is an entirely different court system than criminal court. Criminal charges are unrelated to a victim’s seeking civil court damages. Criminal charges, though, can potentially constitute evidence of the dog’s danger and the owner’s responsibility.
But dog owners can be charged in criminal court by the state in certain instances. For example, if a dog is not properly leashed or restrained, the owner can be charged with a misdemeanor.
If a dog attacks a victim without provocation and has attacked previously, and the owner knows of it, the state can also bring charges.
How Much Does a Dog Bite Lawyer Cost?
The first consultation, in any case, is free. The lawyer needs to hear about what occurred, your injuries and other damages, and how they affected your life. At the end of the consultation, they can give you an opinion about whether you have a viable case.
You can discuss fees with any lawyer you may want to handle your case. Most dog bite attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. Their fees are contingent upon winning the case. Their fees are a percentage of the compensation you receive. If they do not win the case, you owe them nothing.
Knowing how dog bite lawyer compensation is structured can alleviate any anxiety about the expense of a lawyer. You will not need to pay upfront or receive hourly bills for work done on your case.
Should I Report a Dog Bite in Arizona?
Under Arizona law, anyone with knowledge of a dog bite taking place needs to report it—including victims, owners, and witnesses. The victim should report the bite to the appropriate animal control authority.
This law protects the public. Animal control can help determine whether the animal has appropriate vaccinations and tags.
Reporting also brings dangerous dogs to the attention of authorities. A dangerous dog has a history of biting or attacking people or domestic animals without provocation.
Contact an experienced Phoenix personal injury lawyer if you need further information about dog bite claims and how to pursue the compensation you deserve.