Approximately 4.5 million people a year across the nation are victims of dog bites. More than 300,000 people are admitted to hospitals every year for treatment of bite wounds. Close to half of all victims are children under the age of twelve. With approximately 53 million dogs across the U.S., it’s important you know dog bite laws.
Free Bite and No Free Bite Laws
There are variances from state to state when it comes to dog bite law. Many U.S. states are “one free bite” states. In these states, if a dog bites a person, the owner is not liable for any damages caused by the first time a dog bites a person unless the owner knew, or should have been aware of, the fact that the dog had a propensity for biting. Other states are no free bite states. In these states, if a dog has never bitten anyone, and the owner had no idea that the dog had a propensity to bite someone, the owner is still responsible for the damages done by the first bite.
Arizona is a No Free Bite State
Arizona is not a one free bite state. The law imposes strict liability on the owner of any dog that bites a victim, even if it is the first time the dog has bitten someone. Laws regarding dog bites in Arizona can be found in Arizona Revised Statutes Section 11-1001 through 11-1029. One caveat to this: Arizona courts have decided and ruled that if the bite victim was bitten by a stolen dog, the owner of the stolen dog is not liable. If you are a victim of a dog bite, or the owner of a dog that has bitten someone, you’ll want to work with an attorney that has handled bite lawsuits before. There are many ins and outs of these types of cases, and they will be able to help build your case, while also advise you on the specific laws regarding bites.
Building Your Dog Bite Case
You’ll want to make sure you give all you information to your dog bite attorney, including where the bite happened, how you recall it happening, time, and if there were any victims. If you had to go to the hospital for treatment, you’ll want to provide your attorney with medical records, and any other information regarding the injuries you suffered.
**Victim. **To win a a dog bite case, a victim needs to show they were in or on a public place, or lawfully in or on the private property of the owner.
**Owner. **If you are an owner, the defenses you can claim to a lawsuit filed under Sections 11-1020 and 11-1025 are if the victim provoked the attack. Conduct is considered provocation only if _a reasonable person would expect that it would be likely to provoke a dog. _This is often left to the determination of a jury.
Other Dog Bite Injuries
The statute applies only to dog bites, not any other kind of injury caused by a dog. If another type of injury, such as if you were knocked down by a dog that jumped on you, you will need to show that the dog’s owner, or the person in charge of it, failed to use reasonable care to prevent the dog from jumping on you and knocking you down.
Important Information for Owners
There are a number of things you might not be aware of if you are an owner. Here are some lesser known facts:
- Unless you have posted warnings for people to stay off your property with signs or locked gates, it can be considered that you have given “implied invitation to members of the public to approach your door on common errands.”
- Owners are not the only ones that can be held responsible, but also anyone who is responsible for the dog at the time of the dog bite. They are also held liable for the dog’s actions, regardless of if the victim is in a public place, or if the victim has been invited as a guest into a home. The owner or the person responsible for the dog is also liable if the dog was running loose or not on a leash.
- If you are walking a neighbor’s dog and it bites another person, both you and the owner, can be held liable for the dog bite.
- If you have kept a dog for 6 or more consecutive days, you are legally considered to be a “temporary owner” of the dog.
- Landlords are not usually found responsible for their tenant’s dogs unless the landlord is aware that the dog might be dangerous. A landlord must also be made aware that there is a dog on the premises.
Recovering Damages for Bite Victim
A victim can be compensated for the following if it is proven that the owner is liable:
- Any present or future pain, discomfort, suffering, disability, disfigurement, and/or anxiety.
- Present and future expenses of medical care, treatment, and services rendered.
- The estimated cost of future care for treatment of any permanent scars or wounds.
- The cost for legal counsel prior and after the trial.
- Lost earnings in the present or future.
- The cost of replacing damaged personal property.
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
Filing a Bite Claim
If you have been bitten by a dog, immediately seek medical treatment, but also, do not wait to file your claim. Do not sign anything unless you have spoken with a dog bite attorney. Because insurance companies often try to settle things quickly, you might not receive as much compensation as you deserve.
Also, collect any evidence possible, including photographs.
Under Arizona law, you have 1 year to file under the “strict liability” statute. You can file a claim based on negligence as well. This must be filed within 2 years from the date of the bite. An experienced dog bite attorney will build you case and ensure that evidence is not lost or overlooked.
Tips to Avoid Dog Bites in Your House
There are safeguards that can be taken to prevent dog bites from happening in your household.
- Work with a local animal shelter, rescue organization, or reputable breeder that can help you find breeds and locate dogs of that breed that will be a good fit for you.
- Work with a trainer to establish good training habits for both your new dog and you.
- Be sensitive to cues that a child might be fearful or apprehensive about dogs. If a child seems frightened you should wait before bringing a dog into your household. Dogs with histories of aggression should not be brought into a household with children.
- Be cautious when bringing a dog into a household that has an infant or toddler.
- Spend time with a dog before choosing to buy or adopt it.
After You Have Chosen Your New Pet
- Spay/neuter your dog. This can help to reduce aggressive tendencies.
- Infants or young children should never be left alone with the dog.
- Don’t encourage aggressive behavior with the dog. For example, do not wrestle with the dog.
- It’s important to socialize and train the dog to exhibit submissive behavior such as rolling over to expose the abdomen and giving up food without growling.
- Seek professional advice if the dog develops aggressive or undesirable behaviors.
** T****each Children Basic Safety Tips to Avoid Dog Bites**
Here are some tips that can help you and your family (including your new pet) stay safe:
- Do not approach unfamiliar dogs.
- Do not run from a dog.
- Be still when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
- If you get knocked over by a dog it’s best to roll into a ball and stay still.
- Do not play with a dog if there is not an adult around to supervise.
- Report stray dogs or dogs displaying unusual behavior immediately.
- Do not make direct eye contact with a dog.
- Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
- Allow a dog to see and sniff you first before petting it.
If you’ve been injured by a dog bite accident, you need the expert advice of dog bite attorneys such as those at Personal Injury Attorneys PLLC.