In a case just this summer, a 67 year-old Valley woman was viciously attacked when she was visiting a friend. The two friends were walking together across the friend’s driveway when the dog attacked her, biting a chunk out of the victim’s ankle, knocking her to the ground. She claimed it was 20 minutes before help came all the while she was writhing on the ground as the dog pulled out her hair, bit off her ear and caused other serious injuries. The injured woman now references the dog owner as her “former” friend.
Dog Bite Injuries Statistics
Dog bites are more common than you might think.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports that every year in the U.S., more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs.
The Phoenix New Times published statistics which show that between 2008 and 2012,
more than 34,000 Arizonans received emergency room treatment for dog bites. Approximately 2,300 of those were hospitalized.
What to do if Bitten
Being bitten by a dog is a frightening experience, but there are some important steps you need to take after a dog bite.
Arizona Dog Bite Law
According to Arizona dog bite law, owners of dogs are strictly liable for injuries inflicted by their dogs without victims needing to prove negligence. The only caveat is that the victim must be in a public place or a private place where they have a legal right to be. A private place includes the property of the owner of the dog. It does not matter whether or not the owner knew the dog was vicious or whether or not it had ever bitten anyone else in the past.
Right to be on private property: The dog bite statute states that a person who is invited to be on the property or is a guest has a right to be on the property. Also, a law enforcement officer who is on private property to enforce the law is rightfully on the property. Individual municipalities may expand on the law and give others the right to be on private property for purposes of holding owners strictly liable for the bites their dogs inflict on others.
In our two examples, both victims were in a private place where they had a legal right to be: The young boy was at his babysitter’s house and the 67 year-old woman was visiting a friend. In both cases, they were on the property of the owner of the dog that bit them.
Owners are also liable when their dogs are in a public place and bite someone. In addition, there are laws requiring dogs to be on a leash when in a public place. The only exception is if the dog is unleashed at a public dog park.
Strict Liability for a Dog “At Large.” Dog owners are strictly liable for injuries inflicted by their dogs who are “at large,” which means running free. Recently, a 14-year old boy on a skateboard was holding the leash of his pit bull who was pulling the boy along a public sidewalk. A teenage girl across the street was walking her leashed Labrador. The Labrador broke off his leash, ran across the street and attacked the boy and his dog. The boy received multiple and serious wounds on his hands. Although it may seem clear that the dog that broke off its leash was “at large,” it may take the assistance of a personal injury lawyer to prove it.
Defense to the Strict Liability Statute
The dog bite statute allows for an owner to avoid liability if the owner can prove that the victim provoked the dog. They must also prove that the victim knew or reasonably should have known the act would provoke the dog. This is the issue some have raised in the case of the young boy attacked at his baby sitter’s home. Is it reasonable to expect a four-year old to know that his act of taking a dog’s bone would provoke an attack? A dog bite lawyer will know how to help with issues like this.
When You Need a Dog Bite Attorney
Although the dog bite statute seems straightforward, there are many ways in which a dog bite attorney can assist you in collecting and maximizing the damages to which you are entitled. Dog owners often work to find ways around the statute or to claim the dog ws provoked. Some ways attorneys may help dog bite victims include: