Most of the time, dogs are man’s best friend. They not only offer companionship, but they can improve the lives of their owners by encouraging them to be more physically active, reducing depression, calming anxiety, and contributing to better cardiovascular health. However, when dogs suffer from neglect or abuse or their owners fail to appropriately socialize them, dogs can become fearful and lash out. When they are afraid, in pain, or feel that their resources are threatened, dogs can cause severe damage to family members, guests, or unsuspecting strangers. Dog bite injuries range from puncture wounds and broken bones to permanent disfigurement or other forms of catastrophic injury that significantly impact a victim’s health and well-being. In the worst cases, severe dog bites can lead to death.
The American Veterinary Association reports that over 4.5 million people experience dog bites each year, and nearly one in five requires medical attention to treat their injuries. Sadly, children represent over half of dog bite victims. They tend to move in unpredictable ways, make loud noises, and often cannot recognize when a dog is displaying fearful behavior. While some breeds are considered more aggressive than others, and some owners select “bully” breeds specifically for this reputation, a dog’s behavior will depend on its own background. Ultimately, any dog, regardless of breed, age, or size, can bite when owners fail to properly care for them or put them in unfamiliar situations.
Every dog owner is expected to use reasonable care to prevent their dogs from harming others and can be held legally liable for any damage their pet inflicts on a victim. In addition, if a dog has bitten you or a loved one, you may be entitled to compensation in a personal injury claim. Learn more about Arizona dog bite laws below, then contact the Phoenix dog bite attorneys at Luis P. Guerra to discuss how we can help you receive the compensation you deserve.
Does Arizona Have a One-Bite Rule for a Dog Attack?
Every state has different laws regarding dog bites, and it is crucial to understand these laws, so you know your legal options and what to expect in your case. For example, in Arizona, dog bite laws operate according to “strict liability”, meaning a dog owner can be held legally responsible when their dog bites someone, even if they did not know that the dog would bite or if the dog had never bitten anyone in the past. The Arizona Revised Statutes state that an injured person must prove the following two elements of a dog bite case to hold the dog owner liable:
The injury the victim sustained was directly caused by a dog bite.
The victim experienced this injury while they were in a public place or lawfully occupying private property.
In many other states, dog bite laws follow a “one-bite rule”, which protects dog owners from being held liable for damages caused by a dog bite unless the victim can prove that the owner should have been aware of the dog’s potential for violence. For example, if the dog had bitten someone in the past and the dog owner knew about this incident yet failed to act to prevent further incidents, the victim could hold the owner liable under the one-bite rule. Arizona does not follow this rule. In contrast, the state’s strict liability means that dog owners must pay for any damages that result from a dog bite. It does not make a difference if the owner demonstrated negligence or if the dog has shown any prior indication of aggression or aggressive tendencies.
This statute only applies to dog bites and not to any other injuries caused by a dog. Suppose a dog injures a victim in another manner, such as scratching them or knocking them down. In that case, the victim can file a personal injury claim based on negligence rather than a statutory strict liability claim. In a personal injury claim, the victim must show that the owner neglected to exercise reasonable care to prevent the injury, and this neglect directly contributed to the injury. For example, if a dog owner fails to put a leash on their dog, leading to an injury, they can be considered negligent and held responsible for the resulting injuries.
Who Is Liable for a Dog Bite in Arizona?
In nearly every dog bite case, the dog owner is liable for the attack and any related injuries. The only exceptions to this rule are if the dog is stolen from its legal owner and then bites the victim. In addition, if someone else is responsible for the dog and is present during the attack, a victim can file a claim against this person and the owner, and both parties can be held liable for damages. Thus, the defendant has two possible defenses in a strict liability dog bite claim:
Trespassing—The victim was trespassing when the bite occurred, meaning they were on private property unlawfully or without permission.
Provocation—The victim provoked the dog before being bitten, meaning they behaved in a way that caused the dog’s behavior to radically change compared to how it was behaving before the victim’s actions. Forms of provocation include any actions that a reasonable person should assume may lead to a bite, such as taunting, aggravating, or startling the dog, hitting the dog, pulling on its ears, tail, or fur, or attempting to trap the dog in a small space.
As noted above, dog bite victims can pursue compensation under common law negligence as an alternative to a strict liability claim. Local laws dictate the specific requirements for such a claim, but one of the most common negligence issues involves letting the dog run “at large,” meaning not confined by an enclosure or restrained with a leash; this person can be held liable for the dog bite injuries. A dog bite victim can file a claim and recover compensation regardless of whether they voluntarily associated with the dog or their experience in handling dogs. In Phoenix, an owner who allows a dog with a collar and license to run at large can receive a civil charge, while an owner who allows a dog without a collar and license to run at large can receive a criminal charge.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Dog Bite Claims?
Dog bite laws can be complex, and attempting to handle a dog bite claim on your own can be exceedingly difficult. The only way to ensure you have the best chance of winning your case and recovering the maximum compensation is to hire a Phoenix dog bite attorney. At Luis P. Guerra, our experienced attorneys understand the emotional distress associated with the burden of a personal injury, not to mention dealing with legal issues concurrently. Our team makes it easy on you by providing legal coverage and support throughout the case so that you can focus solely on recovering. In addition, we can thoroughly investigate the incident to gather evidence, calculate your damages, accurately and completely prepare your claim, and file your claim within the statute of limitations.
A Phoenix dog bite lawyer can help you recover damages for:
Future medical care
Pain and suffering
Even if the dog owner does not have sufficient funds to cover your damages, most homeowners have insurance policies that provide dog bite coverage, meaning you can still recover compensation. In addition, punitive damages are rarely awarded in dog bite claims but can be available in certain circumstances. For example, if the dog’s owner instructed their dog to attack you, you may be able to recover punitive damages in addition to the damages listed above. Whatever the specific circumstances of your case, securing representation from a team of Phoenix personal injury attorneys who specialize in dog bites is key to achieving the optimal outcome in your case.
What Should I Do After a Dog Bite?
If a dog bit you, the actions you take immediately afterward could either support or undermine your dog bite claim. Follow these three steps after a dog bite:
Report the Dog Bite to the Municipal Animal Control Office in Your CountyIn Maricopa County, dog owners and victims of dog bites are legally obligated to report dog bites to Maricopa County Animal Care and Control. Notifying the MCACC as quickly as possible is crucial for substantiating a claim for damages. When you speak with this office, explain where the attack occurred and provide a detailed description of the dog with any information to help the authorities locate the dog, including its breed, size, color, or distinctive markings.The law requires that any dog who has been reported for biting must be quarantined for 10 days. This quarantine can occur in the owner’s home if the MCACC deems it safe, or the agency may remove the dog from the home for this period and charge quarantine costs before the owner can recover the dog.
Seek Medical Attention and Keep a Thorough Record of Your TreatmentYour injuries may be more severe than they appear or may worsen over time, so it’s always better to see a doctor right away. Proper documentation is necessary to prove that the dog bite caused your injuries, establish your damages, and recover compensation. You should compile all medical records, doctor’s notes, emergency room or surgery bills, physical therapy information, and documentation of any other medical expenses to include in your dog bite claim.
Contact an Experienced Phoenix Dog Bite AttorneyThe statute of limitations for a dog bite claim is one year after the incident when filing a statutory strict liability claim or two years when filing a negligence claim. The longer you wait to contact a lawyer, the higher the chances of missing this deadline, and the court will dismiss your claim. An attorney will ensure you understand the state’s dog bite laws and how they apply to your case, prepare and file your claim within the statutes of limitation, and advocate on your behalf throughout every stage of the claims process.
What Should I Do After Being Bitten by a Vicious Dog?
Although some dog bites appear to be isolated incidents, research shows that after a dog bites someone once, it is significantly more likely to do so again. Therefore, if you believe the dog is vicious and may continue to pose a threat to others, you will follow a different procedure in which you file a vicious dog petition with a city or justice court in the area where the dog owner resides. The court will set a hearing date where you and the owner can present evidence about the dog’s disposition, and you can request that the quarantine continues until the court reaches a judgment.
After the court hears the evidence, they can either determine that the dog is not vicious and order it be released or determine that the dog is vicious and order various remedies to prevent further injuries. This can include ordering the owner to post a sign that alerts the public about the dog’s viciousness, maintaining liability insurance, confining the dog indoors or within a securely locked crate, spaying or neutering, or euthanizing the dog. While no one wants to be responsible for the death of a dog, remember that the attack was not your fault, and you are not to blame for any legal consequences. Furthermore, concern over the dog’s welfare should not prevent you from filing a vicious dog petition, as the animal may cause additional harm to other victims in the future.
Why Choose Luis P. Guerra for a Dog Bite Case?
The Phoenix dog bite attorneys at Luis P. Guerra have spent decades representing victims of dog attacks and ensuring they receive the compensation they need to recover from their injuries. We are passionate about fighting for our clients and pride ourselves on our attention to detail, which can make a difference in winning or losing a case. Our expert team is dedicated to exploring every avenue for justice, and we do not consider a case resolved until you are satisfied with the results. At our firm, our extensive experience, legal knowledge, and litigation skills make us the leader of the pack. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with Luis P. Guerra, LLC. You are only responsible for legal fees if we are successful in recovering compensation for you.
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Total rating 5★ Quality of Representation Excellent!!! These attorneys understand all that is required to achieve favorable results. Talking with Mr. Shapiro and Mr. Guerra is easy and comfortable. I highly recommend this law firm.
I was badly injured in an accident at work. I hired a well-known attorney to represent me, but it wasn’t till Luis Guerra and his firm joined my case that things actually began to take off. Luis Guerra took my case personally and fought hard for me like I was family. I truly believe that if it wasn’t for him I would not have received the settlement that I did! He is an aggressive and HONEST attorney who will fight for what is right. His entire firm is filled with love and compassion for the victims. In the unfortunate event that you or a loved one is injured, I would HIGHLY recommend Luis Guerra.
Not only did Mr. Guerra and Mr. Shapiro meet their reputation but by far exceeded my expectations. They are diligent advocates for their clients, professional and extremely responsive to all inquiries. Most importantly, they had the expertise and genuine personal concern for my well-being that inspired confidence and ultimately resulted in an outstanding result. Mr. Guerra and Mr. Shapiro are attorneys that are truly interested in the welfare of their clients. I highly recommend having their team on your side for any case.
by Elizabeth H.
Mr. Luis Guerra is one of the most caring and compassionate people I have ever met. Thank God there are still people like him in the world. He carefully explained the entire process to me so I was aware at all times what was going to happen next.
The quality of representation we received was of the highest anyone could expect. It was a privilege to work with Luis and his staff. I am extremely grateful that I chose you to be our attorney. I am relieved that this matter has been concluded. Thank You for representing us. God Bless You.