Most people are not aware of the personal and legal implications of a dog bite. The immediate need for medical care is, of course, the top priority. But then what? Will there be a scar? Permanent injury or disfigurement? What happens to the dog owner? And the dog?
Statistically, dogs bite about 4.5 million Americans every year, half of them children between the ages of five and nine. Injuries often include one or more of the following: scars, nerve damage, abrasions, punctures, lacerations, crush injuries, tissue loss and avulsion, bone fractures, sprains and strains, disability and deformity, and life-threatening infections like rabies. Children are especially susceptible to facial scars and facial fractures.
Getting proper medical care and treatment is extremely important after a dog bite. At Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC, we know the best doctors and are happy to refer dog bite injury clients to the right providers for the best care.
The Legal Implications of Dog Bites in Arizona
In Arizona, dog bites are subject to strict liability. The dog owners are strictly liable for the bite victim’s injuries. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 11-1025(A).
Arizona law specifies that “[t]he 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 his viciousness.” § 11-1025(A). Importantly, the legislature defined “owner” as “any person keeping an animal other than livestock for more than six consecutive days.” A.R.S. § 11-1001(10).
In Arizona, dogs do not get “one free bite;” owners are held strictly liable for injuries caused by their dogs’ actions and liability is imposed without regard to an owner’s knowledge of the dog’s viciousness. Massey v. Colaric, 151 Ariz. 65, 725 P.2d 1099 (1986).
In sum, if an unprovoked dog bite occurs, the owner or keeper of that dog is civilly (and sometimes criminally) liable to the victim for damages. If the owner has homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, the damages may be covered by the insurance carrier.
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The statute of limitations for strict liability on a dog bite is one year in Arizona. It is essential that you take action as early as possible to preserve all evidence and file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations.
The dog bite owner/keeper can be criminally prosecuted under several city and county codes. Criminal restitution may be available in the criminal case. However, it is critically important to file a lawsuit and/or initiate a claim with the insurance carrier who will be paying the damages to the dog bite victim.
Other damages may become known soon after the dog bite. Emotional harm; fear of dogs; and other emotional and psychological consequences are common. These harms and damages, in addition to the physical injuries, can lead to a serious insurance claim. We would be honored to aggressively pursue your dog bite claim.
Contact us for a free evaluation of any dog bite case.