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Is the Owner Liable? Here’s What an Arizona Dog Bite Lawyer Would Tell You

Should dog owners be held liable if their pet bites someone in Arizona? If you asked an Arizona Dog Bite Lawyer, the answer is commonly a “yes”. With dog bites though, the details matter. A bite is not an automatic basis for a lawsuit, since the incident must fall under the provisions of the dog bite laws in Arizona. (click graphic below to see full version)

Infographic: Is The Dog Owner Liable?
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Dog Bite Statistics in Arizona

The Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS) has published a report from the dog bite discharge records of its licensed hospitals in a 4-year period. Based on the data collected, “Children of less than 14 years represented almost one-third of all dog-bite related injuries”. The fact that children are the usual victims of dog bites further proves negligence among dog owners.

Whether the dog is a family pet or owned by a friend, a neighbor, or a relative, bites can be prevented by following safety precautions. Obviously, this doesn’t always happen. In fact, the same report from the AZDHS reveals the top three places where dog bites happen in Arizona:

  • At home/residential properties (73%)
  • Streets and roads (~8%)
  • Places for recreation and sport (~3%)

Hence, most dog attacks occur while victims are inside the yard, on the street, near a neighbor’s house, or in parks and playgrounds. Most often, dog bites come from unrestrained dogs or those without a leash.

A few years ago, the counties that had the most cases of dog bites in Arizona are Maricopa (20,071), Pima (5,175), Pinal (1,664), Yavapai (1,479), and Cochise (989). The majority of the bites caused open wounds to the hands (14.29%), knees and legs (10.54%), and forearms (9.88%).

Dog Bite Injuries

A dog may attack in different ways. In most cases, the wounds inflicted may result from other forms of action besides the act of biting alone.

  • Bite – the most common attack; defined as the action of closing the jaws to cut into something
  • Swipe – occurs when the animal’s open mouth and exposed teeth cause a slice or tear in the skin
  • Scratch – when wounds are inflicted using the animal’s claws
  • Push – happens when a dog is strong enough to knock you down, causing bruises and fractures

All these attacks happen when a dog mauls you. In the complicated world of dog bite lawsuits, some of these injuries do not fall under the definition of a dog bite. Insurance companies and pet owners may use this against your claim. This is why you need a skilled Arizona Dog Bite Lawyer to defend your case.

Fortunately, the dog bite law in Arizona does not limit the liability on bites alone. As stated in the Arizona Revised Statutes 11-1020, “Injury to any person or damage to any property by a dog while at large shall be the full responsibility of the dog owner or person or persons responsible for the dog when such damages were inflicted.Therefore, in Arizona, you must be compensated for all the injuries inflicted by the dog, regardless if it’s a bite or not.

An Arizona Dog Bite Lawyer Can Help Prove Negligence

With the strict liability imposed by the Arizona Dog Bite Law, you may think it is easy to file a legal claim on the dog owner. As stated in A.R.S. 11-1025, “The owner of a dog which bites a person when the person is in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of its viciousness.”

This means that, if you are a guest and not an intruder in the place where you have been bitten, the owner is liable for the damages.

However, due to the uniqueness of dog bite scenarios, the insurance companies, and dog owners may find ways to work around the facts and allegations.  Unlike car accidents, for example, you cannot measure fault in a dog bite incident like the way road traffic violations do. It will always be your word against their word.

No Free Bite in Arizona Dog Bite Law

Did you know that there are states where dogs are entitled to one free bite? It is a rule that exempts the dog owner from any liability if their pet has not bitten anyone before. The owner will only be liable for the succeeding bite incidents.

In many ways, such a rule can cause a great deal of stress on the victim’s part, since some people may abuse it. As many dog bite incidents often go unreported, the owners may deny awareness of their dog’s viciousness.

As of this writing, these are the states that are currently using the one bite rule:

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Mississippi
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wyoming

Arizona is not on the list because the state imposes statutory strict liability upon its dog owners. Thus, when a dog bites you, you have every right to hold the owner responsible for the damages.

Provocation and Comparative Fault

In Arizona, the defendants may use A.R.S. 11-1027 or reasonable provocation as a defense. Under this statute, the owner may not be held liable if the victim provoked the dog to attack. Whether unintentional or not, these actions may be considered acts of provocation:

  • Hitting or slapping the dog
  • Cornering or trapping the dog
  • Taking away something from the dog, like its food or toys
  • Pulling a part of the dog’s body
  • Disturbing a nursing dog or threatening its puppies
  • Startling or stepping on the dog’s tail
  • Showed aggressive gestures towards the dog owner, causing the dog to defend him/her

You may have trouble defending your claim if you provoked the dog to bite you. All personal injury cases in Arizona follow A.R.S 12-2505 or the comparative negligence law. This means that if the jury finds that you are partially responsible for the dog bite, you may lose a percentage of your claim.

So, is the owner liable for dog bites in Arizona? Yes, but to prove it, you need an experienced Arizona Dog Bite Lawyer by your side. With all the complications and tactics that can be used against you, it takes legal expertise and skills to get the compensation that you truly deserve.

 

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