In many jurisdictions, dog owners are generally protected from liability if his or her dog bites someone for the first time and if the owner had no reason to believe that the dog was dangerous.
Arizona, however, holds the owner strictly liable. This means that regardless of the animal’s past behavior, the owner is responsible for injuries caused by the bite. If you or a loved one has been injured by a dog, you should immediately contact an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Deadlines for Filing Dog Bite Lawsuit
Arizona’s relevant dog bite statute contains a one-year statute of limitations. This means that to seek action through the state’s strict liability law, the claim must be brought within one-year from the date of the incident.
However, injured parties may also bring action under Arizona’s general negligence laws, for which there is a two-year statute of limitation. It is more difficult to prove a claim under general negligence and so you should always attempt to file the claim within one year and consult with an attorney asap.
What Must be Shown
To hold a dog owner strictly liable for injuries resulting from a dog bite, an injured party must show:
- The injury was caused by the dog bite; and
- The bite occurred while the victim was in a public space or lawfully in a private place.
Please note that the strict liability law only applies to dog bites, and not to other kinds of injuries caused by dogs. For example, if a person is knocked down by a dog, he or she cannot bring an action under Arizona’s strict liability dog bite law.
In addition to the distinction above, there are two defined distinctions within the statute: dogs at large and dogs not at large. For dogs at large, the statute appears to hold owners liable for all injuries and damages, rather than bites only. On the other hand, for dogs not at large, strict liability appears to apply only to injuries suffered by a bite.
Under Arizona’s strict liability statute, dog owners can be held liable for the injuries caused when their dog bites someone. Under either strict liability and/or negligence claims, victims may recover the following:
- Past and future medical costs;
- Disfigurement damages;
- Past and future income losses;
- Losses for the reduction of the quality of life;
- Pain and suffering; and
- For spouses, loss of consortium if applicable.
If the attack results in death, the family members may also pursue wrongful claims for the grief of the loss of a loved one as well as reasonable costs for the burial expenses.
Defenses to Dog Bite Claims
There are two main defenses that a dog owner can raise to defend a dog bite injury claim. The first defense that the owner can raise is if the dog was provoked.
Provocation occurs when the injured party provokef a dog, such as continuously poking the dog, or even stepping on the dog’s tail. If it is determined that the dog was provoked, the owner may not be liable for the injuries.
The second defense that a dog owner could utilize is to show that the injured party was trespassing at the time of the bite. As previously stated, Arizona’s strict liability statute requires that the injured party be on public property or lawfully on private property when the bite occurs. If the person is unlawfully on private property, the owner will not be liable.
The law defines lawful presence as persons who are guests of the dog owner, invitees, or are on the property to perform a legal duty under the laws of the federal government, state, or municipality. This includes meter readers, postal carriers, and delivery personnel.
No action for damages can be brought against governmental agencies that utilized a dog for police or military work if the bite occurred while the dog was defending itself from a provoking act or assisting an employee of the agency in the performance of his or her duties.
However, for this to apply the agency must have previously adopted a written policy on the necessary and appropriate use of the dog for the work.
Contact Yearin Law Office Today
While dogs are often our best friends, they can also be dangerous. Dogs may attack, resulting in injuries of various degrees. If you have been bitten by a dog, you may be able to hold the owner liable for your injuries. Homeowner’s insurance typically will pay for dog bite claims. It is important to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help you understand your options.
The Yearin Law Office has extensive experience with dog bite cases in Arizona. Contact our team today to learn more about how we can help you and your loved one is in this difficult situation. Call (480) 502-0708 today for a free consultation!