Legal Representation For A Dog Bite in Arizona
On December 13, 2017, a Phoenix woman was simply walking down her driveway to check her mail box when she was suddenly attacked by two dogs, each part pit bull, who were owned by her neighbor. The woman suffered severe dog bite injuries to her arm and calf and had to be hospitalized. She may have suffered permanent nerve damage.
The inured woman, who was already struggling financially, expressed concern about how she would pay her bills. Due to her injuries, she did not know how long it would be before she could return to work.
The owner of the dogs was criminally charged with three misdemeanor counts of violating Phoenix’s leash law, which requires dog owners to keep their dogs confined to their own property or on a leash “not to exceed six feet in length.” It was reported that the dogs would be returned to the owner. Even if convicted on the misdemeanors, that would not automatically mean he would lose custody of his dogs.
The news did not report on whether or not the injured woman planned on suing her neighbor in order to collect for her damages, including her medical expenses and lost wages. She should also be able to collect for her pain and suffering and future medical care if she indeed suffered permanent nerve damage that might require ongoing treatment.
In another sad Phoenix case from December 2017, a volunteer at a dog kennel was found in an area where she had apparently been exercising a dog. She was covered in dog bites blood. She was rushed to the hospital where she died shortly after admission. The dog that attacked her was put to sleep.
The incident happened just a few days before Christmas, and less than two weeks before she and her husband were planning on celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Her husband said that she had been volunteering at the kennel for 12 years, and at least she was doing something she loved to do when the tragedy occurred.
Dog Bite Statistics
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports that every year, millions of people are bitten by dogs. In 2017, U.S. insurers paid more than $700 million in dog-bite related claims. At least 29,000 reconstructive surgical procedures were performed on those who were severely injured by a dog attack.
Across the nation in 2017, 39 people were killed by dog attacks. Two of those were in Phoenix. In addition to the Akita kennel volunteer, an 18-month old baby was killed by his father’s Rottweiler, a dog that had been the family pet for three years. The child’s grandmother was baby-sitting at the time of the attack.
Arizona Dog Bite Law
Arizona law holds dog owners strictly liable for their dogs that bite anyone when the person bitten “is in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog.” This is true whether or not the dog has ever been vicious in the past, or whether or not the owner knew of the dog’s propensity to bite.
Holding an owner strictly liable means that you do not have to prove the owner was negligent, or that the dog had ever bitten anyone before. All you have to prove is that:
- The owner’s dog bit you.
- You were in or on a place where you were legally entitled to be.
- You did not provoke the dog.
Provocation is presented in the law as a defense that can be raised by the dog owner. The statute reads: “Proof of provocation of the attack by the person injured shall be a defense to the action for damages. The issue of provocation shall be determined by whether a reasonable person would expect that the conduct or circumstances would be likely to provoke a dog.”
Although a defense, it is generally in the best interest of a person suing for damages to present evidence that the dog was not provoked.
Legal Representation for a Dog Bite in Arizona
You may think it is no problem to collect for your damages. You did not provoke a dog who bit you when you were in a location where you had a legal right to be. So, you may ask, why do I need an attorney? It is not as simple as it seems and an attorney can help you in several ways.
- Investigating and providing evidence that you were in a place where you had a right to be.
- Showing that you did not provoke the animal.
- Accumulating evidence to support your claim for damages. This includes receipts for medical bills, documentation of lost wages, and medical evidence that you may need future medical care including surgical reconstruction.
- Knowing how to calculate damages for your pain and suffering.
- Knowing how to present a compensation claim to the responsible person’s insurer. Dog bites are usually risks covered by a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy.
- Using negotiation skills to get you the best settlement possible from the dog owner’s insurer.
- Using trial skills to take the case to trial if the insurer or dog owner balk and refuse to offer a fair settlement.
If you bring a law suit against a dog owner, alleging the owner is strictly liable for the damages the dog bite caused you, you must file your action within one year of the date of the dog bite. If you miss that deadline, you can still pursue an action against the dog owner, but you will then have to prove the dog owner was negligent, and the negligence was the cause of your injury and damages.
It is much more difficult to prove negligence than it is to pursue an action under the strict liability standard. Also, you only have two years from the date of the dog bite to pursue action on a negligence theory. If you miss that deadline, you will lose forever your right to sue no matter how severely you were injured.