DOG BITES IN PHOENIX ARIZONA  – “STRICT” LIABILITY IN ARIZONA

Dog bites in Phoenix Arizona can be painful, disfiguring and even disabling. Medical expenses for treatment can be extremely high. If you are the victim of a dog bite, here is a brief summary of Arizona law on the subject to help you understand your rights.

In Arizona, if you get bitten by a dog, the owner of the dog is liable to you for the damages you suffer if you were in a public place or lawfully at a private place when the bite occurred A.R.S. § 11-1025.  The statute does not apply to you if you were trespassing at the time of the bite.

WHAT ARE THE BASICS OF DOG BITES IN ARIZONA?

A dog owner’s liability under the statute is what is known as “strict liability.” That means that it doesn’t matter whether the owner was negligent with respect to the bite. It doesn’t matter whether the dog had an history of viciousness, or whether the owner had any knowledge of the dog’s viciousness. Some states have “one bite” laws may allow a dog owner to escape liability for the dog’s “first” bite. Arizona is not such a state.

Damages recoverable for a dog bite in Arizona include compensation for medical care and treatment  both past and reasonably probable to be in incurred in the future)  and for lost earnings  (to date as well as decreased earning capacity or power in the future). Recoverable damages also include pain and suffering, disfigurement and disability. In addition, you may be able to recover damages for the loss of enjoyment of life to the extent normally enjoyed before the injury, as well as for the impairment of the pleasures of marital and/or parent/child relationships.

WHAT IS THE LAW REGARDING DOG BITES IN ARIZONA?

The Arizona dog bite statute provides a defense to a dog bite claim if the owner can prove that the injured person provoked the bite.  A.R.S. § 11-1027. Provocation is to be determined by “whether a reasonable person would expect that the conduct or circumstances would be likely to provoke a dog.” So if you were poking or otherwise abusing the dog before the bite, probably no recovery for you.

 If you are bitten by a dog, take at least the following steps:

  • Seek immediate medical attention. Dogs and other animals carry bacteria in their mouths and on their teeth. Infection can set in quickly. Even if the bite does not appear to be too severe, you should get checked out to try to stay ahead of infection. Severe bites may require sutures and even surgery. Then there is the consideration of rabies. Obviously you don’t want to delay examination and treatment.
  • Report the bite to Animal Control. Arizona law requires “any person having direct knowledge” of a dog bite to immediately report the incident to the county enforcement agent. As the victim, you are a person having direct knowledge. In Maricopa County you can report dog bites to Animal Care and Control at (602) 506-PETS (7378). If the dog has not been vaccinated against rabies, then it must be impounded and quarantined for at least ten days in a county pound, or at a veterinary hospital at the owners’ expense. If the dog has been vaccinated, then it still must be quarantined for at least ten days but it may be quarantined at the home of the owner.
  • Report the bite to the police. Arizona law imposes potential criminal penalties on the owner of a dog “that the owner knows or has reason to know has a history of biting or a propensity to cause injury or to otherwise endanger the safety of human beings without provocation or that has been found to be a vicious animal by a court of competent jurisdiction” if the dog attacks or injures a human being while unconfined and unleashed. The law also imposes potential criminal penalties on an owner who fails to take reasonable care to prohibit such a dog “from escaping to the outside of a residence or enclosed area, yard or structure.” A.R.S. § 13-1208. Informing the police will enable them to conduct an appropriate investigation of the dog.
  • Document the occurrence. Assembling documentation of the dog bite as soon as possible after the bite will be a great help in pursuing a potential claim against responsible individuals. It’s best to gather evidence while it’s still fresh after the occurrence. Make notes and take photographs of scene of the bite, the dog if possible, and your injuries. Make note of the date, the time of day, any witnesses to the bite or to the aggressive nature of the dog, and anything else you think may be relevant to the occurrence. Of course, your medical records should be available though your provider[s].
  • Consult with a dog bite lawyer. As is typically the case, there are many nuances and provisions of the law that are beyond the scope of this blog post, but may have bearing on your dog bite claim. Consult a lawyer who practices dog bite law for a better or more detailed explanation of your rights and of a potential claim.

Dog bites are serious business, and should be treated that way. If you are the victim of a dog bite, don’t delay in seeking help, first medical, then legal. Call us at 1.833.383.4448 (1.833.DTF.IGHT)