Dogs can be great companions, but they can also be dangerous if they bite someone. Victims can suffer serious physical injuries and emotional trauma that can cause long-term changes in their lives.
If you or a family member were injured due to a dog bite or attack, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries from the dog's owner. It is important to understand your rights under Arizona law to know what options you have for recovering the damages you deserve.
Arizona's Strict Liability Law
Some states have a one-bite law that provides that a dog owner may not be liable to compensate the victim if this is the first time their pet bit someone. However, Arizona has a strict liability law. It provides that the dog owner can be held liable to compensate the victim—even if their dog has never bitten anyone before.
In order for this law to apply, the animal must have bitten the victim. In addition, they must have bitten the person on public property or when they were lawfully on private property. The injured individual would not have to prove the owner's negligence to hold them responsible for the attack.
There are two exceptions when Arizona's strict liability law would not apply. They include the following:
- Provocation. If the dog was provoked by the victim, the owner would not be liable under Arizona's strict liability law. In order to be considered provocation for an attack, the injured individual must have taken actions that a reasonable person would consider to have provoked the dog.
- Trespass. If a person were trespassing on private property at the time of the attack, the owner also would not face liability under Arizona's strict liability law.
Dog Owner Liability for a Dog at Large
Arizona has another strict liability law for an attack if a dog is allowed to run freely when not in an enclosure or on a leash. In this situation, the animal's owner or another individual caring for them can be held responsible if an individual or property is injured.
Dog Owner Liability Under Negligence Laws
In some cases, Arizona's strict liability laws will not apply to a victim's case. For example, if they suffered injuries due to a dog attack but were not bitten, the law would not be applicable. It also could not be used to hold another individual liable who was caring for the animal at the time of the dog bite but who was not the owner.
Fortunately, dog bite victims may have other legal claims for compensation under Arizona negligence laws. Even if a strict liability law applies, claims under a negligence doctrine can also be pursued. These legal theories include:
- Negligence. If the owner or handler did not use reasonable care to control the dog and this caused the dog bite, the injured person can pursue a negligence claim against them.
- Scienter. Under the scienter legal theory, a dog owner could be held responsible if their dog attacked someone and they knew or should have known about their pet's vicious tendencies.
- Negligence per se. This doctrine would apply if it can be shown that the owner or person caring for the dog violated an Arizona statute enacted for the public's protection and safety.
Arizona's Short Statute of Limitations
If you or a loved one were injured due to a dog bite or attack, you need to be aware of the very short deadline, referred to the statute of limitations, that you have to file your lawsuit in Arizona. There are two different time periods you must follow depending on the claim you are pursuing.
You would have one year from the date of the dog bite to pursue your claim under our state's strict liability laws. You would have two years from the date of the attack to pursue a claim for negligence. To ensure that you comply with the statute of limitations, you need to retain an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after a dog bit you.
Did you or a family member suffer injuries from a dog bite or dog attack? The knowledgeable and dedicated personal injury attorneys at Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC are here to explain your options to you and fight for the compensation you deserve. Download our free book, Injured in Northern Arizona: What Happens Next Is Up to You, to start learning about your rights. Then call our Flagstaff office or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation today.