How Much Can You Sue for a Dog Attack?

Jason Hutzler February 8, 2023

Every state has different dog bite laws. Even counties and cities may have different dog bite laws. Never take a dog bite as something minor even the smallest scratches could become infected. If you suffer a dog attack, you should always contact a dog bite attorney in your county as soon as possible.

A local dog bite attorney knows the local and state laws and can help you recover the compensation you deserve. How much you can recover will depend on your damages.

Victims of Dog Bites

While anyone of any age is susceptible to dog bites, children often suffer dog bites. Most of the bites happen while a child plays with a familiar dog. Because children are smaller and don’t have the strength to fend off a dog, even a smaller dog, they tend to suffer more severe dog bite injuries.

Common Dog Bite Injuries

Dog bite injuries vary from minor scratches to life-threatening injuries or even fatalities.

Typical dog bite injuries include:

  • Punctures from a dog’s teeth. These wounds are usually deep. Because they are difficult to clean, they are more prone to infection.
  • Scratches and cuts.
  • Any bite that leaves a deep enough wound could cause scarring. However, children who suffer bites to the face and neck usually have more scarring.
  • Facial injuries. If a dog bites you in the face and does enough damage, the bite could cause permanent scarring and disfigurement. The dog bite victim could suffer from emotional distress and depression because of a disfiguring dog bite.
  • Broken bones. If a large dog has exceptional bite force, the dog could break bones, especially in children.
  • A dog with rabies could pass it on to the person who suffered from the dog bite. Because rabies is fatal, the victim must start treatment immediately. Even if you know a dog does not have rabies, you should have a doctor check for rabies so they can begin treatment with the vaccine immediately, if needed.
  • Nerve damage. If a dog bite goes deep enough and the dog tears the flesh, you could suffer nerve damage, especially in the hands and face.
  • Traumatic brain injuries if a dog causes you to fall and hit your head.
  • Back and spinal cord injuries.

Even dog bite injuries that seem minor could cause extensive medical bills if complications such as infections set in. After a dog bite, you should always seek medical attention.

If a dog bite exacerbates an existing condition or injury, you could also recover compensation to pay for new injuries or symptoms, as you would not have suffered them if not for the dog bite.

Maricopa County Local Dog Bite Information

Local Dog Bite lawyer near Phoenix az areaEach county has its own local rules for handling dog bites. If you suffered a dog bite in Phoenix or other parts of Maricopa County, you should report the bite. You can also report the bite by calling (602) 506-7387 if you do not wish to fill out the appropriate forms for bites to humans or other animals.

Even when you report a dog bite, you should contact a dog bite attorney to help you recover the compensation you deserve, especially if your injuries are severe. Field Officers from Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (MCACC) will interview you, witnesses, and the dog owner. The Field Officer also collects information from all involved, including contact information, video, and photo evidence, and makes a notation of injuries. The Field Officer may issue a citation to the dog owner.

A dog that bit must stay quarantined for ten days from the date of the bite the quarantine is to observe the dog to ensure that it doesn’t have rabies. If the dog is up-to-date on its rabies vaccination and is licensed, it may quarantine at home. Otherwise, the dog spends the quarantine period at MCACC or a veterinarian’s hospital. If the dog does not have rabies, MCACC notifies you by mail.

The county does not help you recover compensation because of a dog bite. It only investigates the incident. You will need a dog bite attorney to recover the compensation you deserve.

What to Do After a Dog Attack

In some cases, you might help your case after a dog attack.

If you can:

  • Take photos of the dog.
  • Obtain the dog’s owner’s contact information.
  • Obtain the dog’s owner’s homeowner’s insurance information. Even if the dog attacked you off the owner’s property, their homeowner’s insurance might cover the incident.
  • Take photos of your injuries. You can also have someone help you take pictures. If you cannot take photos, you or a loved one should ask medical professionals to document the injuries with photographs.
  • File a police report.
  • Note the date, time, and location of the attack.
  • If you cannot take photos of the dog, write down a description.
  • Seek medical attention immediately. Even seemingly minor wounds could become infected. You also do not know for sure if the dog has rabies.
  • Contact a dog bite attorney for help recovering the compensation you deserve.

Vicious Dogs

Any person with reasonable grounds can file a petition with the City magistrate or justice of the peace asking to label a dog as vicious. If the court believes the animal is vicious, it can impound the animal “on such terms the court deems necessary to protect public safety.”

The court conducts an informal hearing that is open to the public. The person who filed the petition to ask for a vicious designation for the dog must provide evidence. If the dog’s owner doesn’t appear for the hearing, the owner waives their rights to offer evidence against the claim that their dog is vicious.

The court will determine whether the dog is vicious based on documentation and oral evidence provided by the petitioner and the dog’s owner.

If the court determines that a dog is vicious, it has several options, including:

  • Ordering the owner to display a sign with the words “Vicious Animal.”
  • Ordering the owner to procure public liability insurance of at least $100,000 to cover injuries or death to a person or damage to property that her dog caused.
  • Ordering the destruction of the dog.
  • Ordering the dog to wear a leash and muzzle when outside a pen, kennel, or the owner’s home.
  • Ordering the owner to spay or neuter the dog.
  • Ordering the owner to have the dog defanged or declawed.

Phoenix Leash Laws

Phoenix’s leash law states, “No dog shall be permitted at large.” A dog owner can keep a dog off-leash in a yard as long as the dog is contained in the yard and cannot escape. Otherwise, the dog owner must keep the dog in the house, in a kennel, or on a leash no longer than six feet long. The city has exceptions for working dogs, training dogs, and dog parks.

A working animal is a dog law enforcement uses for search and rescue work. However, the off-leash dog must be in control of its handler.

The city code sets penalties for dog owners who break these laws. Penalties for a first offense include civil sanctions with fines up to $250 or being charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. Subsequent violations for the same owner have increasingly higher fines and serious punishments.

The charges and fines are through the criminal court and are not awarded to the dog bite victim. The victim must pursue compensation in a civil court action.

Recovering Damages After a Dog Attack or Dog Bite Incident

Many dog bite victims ask how much they can recover after being bitten or attacked. It varies from case to case. Not every dog bite or attack is the same, and not all injuries are the same.

Statute of Limitations for Dog Bites

In most cases, the statute of limitations for personal injury based on negligence is two years. However, dog bite suits are typically brought under strict liability for violating a statute.

You have only one year from the day the dog bit you to file a claim under strict liability. One year is not a very long time to file a claim, as several things happen before filing a claim, including an investigation of your case.

Your legal team also needs time to locate and question witnesses and the dog owner and collect other evidence, including medical records. If your injuries are severe or catastrophic, it could take longer than a few weeks to obtain the medical records you need doctors may take longer to determine whether an injury will affect you for the rest of your life. The best time to contact a dog bite attorney is as soon after the incident as possible.

Compensatory Damages

After a dog bite attack, you could recover compensatory damages in the form of economic and non-economic damages. While the money doesn’t eliminate your injuries, erase the pain and suffering, or bring back a loved one who died because of a dog attack, it can bring you financial stability.

Economic Damages

Economic damages have a monetary value. Most people recover economic damages, including:

Medical Expenses

The amount of medical expenses you might recover depends on the extent of your injuries.

You could recover compensation for:

  • Doctor’s appointments.
  • Surgeries and follow-up appointments.
  • Psychological therapy.
  • Cognitive therapy.
  • Occupational therapy.
  • Physical therapy.
  • Prescriptions and prescribed over-the-counter medications.
  • Ambulatory aids.
  • Medical equipment.
  • Updates to your home, including wheelchair ramps, handrails, grab bars and widened doorways.
  • Hand controls for your vehicle.
  • Home health care or nursing home care or rehabilitation.


If a dog bite is severe enough, it could cause you to miss work while you recover. You could collect compensation for the missed days. In some cases, a dog bite causes significant injuries such as nerve damage or traumatic brain damage. If doctors do not expect you to recover fully and you can no longer work, you could recover loss of future earning capacity.

Even if you can work part-time or are forced to take a job that pays much less than your current job, you could recover the loss of partial future earning capacity.

Death-Related Expenses

If you lost a loved one because of a dog attack or dog bite, you could recover compensation for:

  • Funeral and burial expenses.
  • Cremation expenses.
  • Certain probate court expenses.
  • Probate attorneys’ fees and costs.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages do not have a monetary value. Generally, you can recover non-economic damages if you suffer catastrophic injuries that lead to long-term or permanent disabilities or if you lost a loved one due to a dog bite or attack.

Non-economic damages include:

  • Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
  • Loss of quality of life if your injuries require you to take medications, use ambulatory aids, or make other changes for the rest of your life.
  • Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy the time, activities, and events with your family.
  • Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse.
  • Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the work you usually do, including but not limited to house cleaning, grocery shopping, home maintenance and repair, and lawn maintenance.
  • Excessive scarring and disfigurement.
  • Amputation of a digit or limb.
  • Loss of use of a digit or limb.
  • Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your eyesight.

If you suffered injuries because of a dog bite or attack, contact a dog bite lawyer as soon as possible for a free case evaluation. Remember, you have only one year to file a lawsuit to pursue compensation for your dog bite losses.

The sooner you contact a Phoenix personal injury attorney, the sooner they can begin the investigation into your case and create the most compelling claim for your recovery.