According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, around 38 percent of the households in the U.S. have at least one dog. In Arizona, where there are around 2.643 million households, that means there are more than a million dogs in the state. While dogs provide important emotional benefits for their human owners, thousands of people are injured each year in Arizona due to dog bites. Many of these bites will require medical attention and can result in long-lasting impacts, such as scarring and further health issues resulting from infection.
Arizona dog owners owe a duty of care to others. A duty of care refers to the reasonable actions that a dog owner would take in order to avoid causing injuries to others. Here is a look at Arizona’s dog bite laws and the duty of care that dog owners have in this state.
Arizona’s Strict Liability for Dog Bites
All states in the U.S. have animal control laws, including laws providing for compensation for those who are injured when they’re bitten by someone else’s dog. Some states have what is known as a “one bite rule” concerning dog bites. What this means is that the dog’s owner is only liable for compensating others for the expenses and impacts of injuries caused by their pet if they had reason to know the dog was capable of being aggressive. Essentially, a dog in a “one bite rule” state could bite someone once without the owner being liable.
Other states, including Arizona, have a strict liability rule for dog bites. What this means is that the dog’s owner is responsible for compensating the injuries of those injured by their animal, regardless of whether they knew or had reason to know the dog was capable of being aggressive.
What the Dog Owner’s Duty of Care Is in a Strict Liability State
In Arizona, a dog bite victim does not have to prove that any specific negligence on the owner’s part resulted in the bite. They merely have to prove that their injury was caused by a dog bite and that they were in a public place or legally in a private place when the bite occurred. Because dog owners are strictly liable for injuries caused by their pet, they must take reasonable actions to prevent these injuries from occurring, otherwise known as a duty of care. This duty of care includes:
- Licensing the dog in the city or county where the owner resides and ensuring that all dogs are vaccinated for rabies by the time they are 20 weeks old and yearly thereafter. Dogs on leashes off their owner’s property must have their rabies vaccination tag affixed to their collar or halter.
- Observing the leash law. Arizona requires dogs that are not inside their owner’s homes or enclosed in their yard to be on a leash.
- If a dog has not previously been aggressive but bites someone on public property or who is lawfully on private property, the owner faces a misdemeanor charge for not preventing the bite.
- If the owner of a dog that has previously bitten fails to contain their dog in their home or enclosed area in their yard, they can be charged with a misdemeanor even if the dog does not bite anyone upon escaping the home or yard.
- A person who knowingly or deliberately causes a dog to bite someone can be charged with a felony.
It should be noted that this duty is only in place if the bite occurs on public property or while the victim is lawfully on private property. There are exceptions to Arizona’s strict liability rule when a dog bites someone while in the line of military or law enforcement duties, when someone has provoked the dog, or when someone is trespassing on the dog’s owner’s property.
The Process of Seeking Compensation for a Dog Bite Injury
Dog bite claims are generally filed against the dog owner’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. Upon receiving the claim, the insurance provider who services the policy will assign a claims adjuster to evaluate the claim and determine how much compensation is owed to the claimant (if any). The insurance provider can choose to either pay the full value of the claim, deny the claim, or offer to settle the claim out of court for less than its established value.
If the insurance provider does not compensate the dog bite claim, it can be filed as a personal injury lawsuit in civil court. While most types of personal injury claims in Arizona have a two-year statute of limitations, the state’s dog bite laws call for a one-year statute of limitations on claims. Failing to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations will usually result in a loss of the claimant’s right to use the court process when seeking compensation for the expenses and emotional impacts of their injury.
While it would seem that a claim against someone who is strictly liable for injuries caused by their dog would be an easy matter, these claims are often complex due to the tactics insurance companies use to avoid paying on claims and the rigid requirements of the legal process. An experienced dog bite injury attorney can provide a number of services to make this process easier, including managing communication with the insurance provider and managing the timeline of the claim.
Contact an Arizona Dog Bite Lawyer at Feller & Wendt
Dog bite injuries often result in infections and scarring that can be life altering or even life threatening, in addition to producing psychological damage that can take a long time to heal. The experienced legal team at Feller & Wendt is dedicated to working tirelessly to ensure that their clients have the compensation they need after being injured.
We would like to listen to your story and understand how you became injured. We can answer the legal questions you have about your case and tell you more about the process and the services we can provide to help you as you seek compensation for a dog bite injury in Arizona. For your free case evaluation, contact us online or by calling (480) 702-2277.