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Dog Bites Can Be Devastating. Is the Law on Your Side?

Dogs are undoubtedly man’s best friend. But every day, more than 1,000 people in the United States are sent to the hospital due to a dog bite, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. The statistics surrounding dog bites can be quite contentious, however, though in 2014, the Phoenix New Times reported that between 2008 and 2012, more than 34,000 Arizonians required medical care due to a dog bite.

The statistics don’t, however, give a clear idea of what victims can do after the bite.  According to section 11-1025 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, titled “Liability for Dog Bites,” the owner of a dog which bites a person is liable for damages suffered by a person bitten. Although some bites are tragic, unavoidable mistakes, many are caused by willful neglect or inattention to a dangerous situation, and the injury party deserves compensation for damages

“Strict Liability” Law in Arizona for Dog Bites

Dog bite attorney | Scottsdale AZArizona State Law features several statues governing dog bites, including A.R.S. 11-1025 through 11-1027. These statutes further define the situational matters surrounding a dog bite, such as when a military or police dog bites while assisting an officer or defending itself. Additionally, 11-1027 states that victims who provoked a dog may not claim liability (this, of course, requires proof of provocation).

In addition to the statues, it is important to note that Arizona is a “strict liability” state when it comes to dog bites. What “strict liability” means is that the owner of the dog is liable even if the owner didn’t know the dog would bite. Regardless of the dog’s past, the owner is responsible even when the dog has never bitten before or showed any signs of aggression.

Difficulties In Dog Bite Lawsuits

Unlike car accidents or other personal injuries, dog bites can come from “dogs at large,” whereas there is not an immediately apparent owner. Without a clear owner, victims of a dog bite may not be able to obtain the insurance information needed to cover medical expenses, loss of wages, and other awards for damages. Furthermore, people renting a home may not have renter’s insurance, which means that there is no insurance available to cover the injuries incurred. Some insurance policies specifically state that it doesn’t cover “dangerous animals” as well.This shouldn’t discourage dog bite victims from seeking compensation, however, as past experience has shown that more than 50 percent of dog owners have adequate insurance to cover the victim’s expenses.

What to Do If Bitten By a Dog

Immediately after a dog bite, the most important thing is to move away from the aggressive dog without retaliating and move to a safe spot. Assess the damage, and if the dog bite has broken the skin, medical attention may be necessary.

With the situation under control, victims should make sure to gather necessary insurance information from the dog owner, if possible. Do not leave the dog owner (if in a public space) or his/her residence until the insurance information is handed over. Keep in mind that dog owners are willing to cooperate right after an attack, but if the victim waits for a couple weeks before asking this information, the owners are commonly less responsive. The insurance information should contain the name of insurance, policy number, full name of the dog owner, and home location.

Statue of Limitations on Dog Bite Lawsuits

Dog bite lawyer | Scottsdale, AZThe Statute of limitations for dog bit claims can be as short as one year.

If the victim waits longer than a year, he or she loses the ability to recover from a strict liability claim. Under these circumstances, the victim then has to prove that the dog owner’s negligence somehow caused the attack.

How Much is Your Case Worth?

Compensation in these cases is often based upon the extent of damage, medical bills, wages lost for the victim, pain and suffering, and many other factors. With that said, settlements can range from $1,000 to $7,000,000 (these multi-million numbers usually involve a fatal mauling).

Because some insurance policies and companies may have strict policy limits on dog bite or dangerous animal attacks, an insurance settlement might not be enough to cover the essential expenses involved. On the other hand, Arizona does not have a “damage cap” law that limits the amount of compensation a dog bite victim can receive.

Therefore, it is important to contact an attorney experienced with dog bite claims who can help organize and preserve documents and evidence, and provide an accurate and reasonable settlement.

If you or a loved one was bitten by a dog, we invite you to give us a call at (480) 502-0708 or send us a message for a free initial consultation.

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