When Phoenix mail carrier John Schmidt put a letter in the mailbox and received a dog bite to his left calf, he was told by the owner, “This has happened before, just file a report.”
“Just File a Dog Bite Report”
It’s this sentiment that has made Arizona one of the most expensive states when it comes to dog bite settlements. On average, Arizona homeowners pay out $57,000 for injuries caused by their dogs. The average amount for claims is $37,000 a claim.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III) the cost associated with disruptive canines (including bites and other attacks) has risen more than 94 percent to $571 million. Meanwhile, dog injury claims have declined more than 9 percent over the last 12 years.
Of those attacked by dogs every year, children under the age of 14 account for about one-third of victims. Sadly, it’s the family dog that is the attacker. Next on the list of victims: mail carriers.
Last year 6,549 postal employees were attacked by dogs, this causing USPS to adopt new safety measures that require customers to indicate if a dog will be on the premises prior to a delivery. Additionally, if a mail carrier feels threatened, they are able to request that dog owners pick up their packages at the post office.
States Hit with Bills
A four-year study performed by the Arizona Department of Health Services found that dog-bite injuries treated at Arizona hospitals cost $55 million. A third of that amount was paid by Medicaid. As a result, many states are now getting hit with bills.
While most homeowners feel they will get off scot-free because most liability coverage is between $100,000 and $300,000, an amount that should cover most of dog bite claims, but as III spokesperson Loretta Worters warns, “you could wind up with an increase in your homeowner’s insurance premium. Or you could be dropped by your insurer.” So, when it comes to that sentiment of “just file a dog bite report,” homeowners might want to think a little differently.
Free Bite and No Free Bite Law
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 dog 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 dog 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 dog 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 dog 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 dog owner.
**Owner. **If you are a dog 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 Dog Owners
There are a number of things you might not be aware of if you are a dog 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.”
- Dog owners are not the only ones that can be held responsible, but also any one who is responsible for the dog at the time of the dog bite. They are also held liable for the dogs 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 Dog Bite Victim
A victim can be compensated for the following if it is prove 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 Dog 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” statue. You can file a claim based on negligence as well. This must be filed within 2 years from the date of the dog bite. An experienced dog bite attorney will build you case and ensure that evidence is not lost or overlooked.
Working with a Dog Bite Attorney
If you have been a victim of a dog bite, or if you are the owner of a dog who has bitten someone, immediately contact a dog bite attorney lawyer that can help investigate and build your case. It’s crucial that you work with someone that knows the intricacies of the laws surrounding these types of cases as well as your specific state’s laws.