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Coronavirus Quarantine Results in Spike in Dog Attacks and Bites

Mar 27, 2020

Coronavirus Quarantine Results in Spike in Dog Attacks and Bites

Springtime means people are out and about enjoying the warm temperatures. Activity this time of year typically increases under normal circumstances, but with the coronavirus forcing people into quarantine mode, more people are taking the opportunity to walk their dogs just to get out of the house and their own yard.  Many of these people don’t routinely walk their dogs, which means their dogs are not socially adapted.

As more people venture out to walk their dogs, some of which are not used to being out of their own home or yard, there is a greater chance one may encounter an aggressive or otherwise nervous dog.  This can result in a dog biting or attacking somebody without provocation.

Dog bites can cause damage in many ways.  One might have minimal physical damage, yet suffer tremendous psychological damage.  In other cases, victims suffer from terrible permanent scarring which could require multiple surgeries.  The point is that while the pictures usually tell the story, when it comes to dog bites, that is not always the case.

If you or a loved one are the victim of a dog attack or bite, you should know your rights so that you can receive the compensation you deserve.  Specifically, you should know what legal responsibility the owner (or other person having control of the dog) has to you; what legal theories are available that will allow you to recover damages; how long you have to make the claim; and whether you can recover from the at-fault owner’s insurance.

Strict Liability

In Arizona, a dog owner is “strictly liable” for the damage caused by their dog.  This means that the owner does not need to know that their dog had a propensity to be aggressive or bite.  Simply owning the dog renders the owner responsible.


In other cases, someone may be in control of the dog, yet fail to restrain it such that it cannot hurt anyone.  They may have knowledge that the dog sometimes frees itself from a contained area, such as a yard.  If they fail to take measures to keep the dog confined to the home or yard, and the dog escapes and injures someone, this might be considered “negligent.” Examples of negligence might be leaving the gate open; leaving a door open; taking the dog off its leash; etc.  Negligence depends upon the facts and circumstances.

Punitive Damages

In some cases, a dog owner may have knowledge of a dog’s vicious nature.  For example, the dog may have bitten or attacked another animal or person in the past.  In that case, the owner may be penalized beyond the actual damages sustained by the victim. This is known as “punitive damages.”  Punitive damages are awarded to “punish” the owner of the dog for keeping an animal that they know is dangerous, and has a propensity to attack.  Public policy favors not allowing such animals to be turned loose on innocent persons who have no idea that the dog is dangerous.  Punitive damages serve to deter people from keeping and/or breeding these dangerous animals.

Statute of Limitations for Dog Bites

Those injured by a dog have the right to bring a claim to recover their damages. The time within which to bring the claim is limited by statutes.  The type of claim being brought will determine the length of time you have to make the claim.  Claims for damages due to a dog bite must be brought within one year for strict liability and two years for negligence.  The facts regarding ownership and control, and the circumstances in which the attack occurred, will determine which legal theory you will bring the claim under. It is critical that you speak with an attorney immediately after a dog bite or attack to determine which claims can be made, and which statute of limitation will apply.  Waiting too long can result in the denial of the claim altogether.

Homeowner and Renters Insurance

Many are unaware that homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies generally cover damages due to dog bites or attacks.  While some policies might exclude coverage for certain breeds of dogs, or limit the amount of coverage in some way, all policies address it in one way or another.  It is important to have an attorney review the insurance policy in question.  Even policy exclusions that appear to exclude or limit coverage might not be enforceable if the insured wasn’t aware of it, or the exclusion was counter to what they reasonably expected when they bought the policy.  In cases where the person at fault does not have insurance, other insurance may apply.  And it is also possible the person at fault has assets from which you can collect.  Always consult with an attorney before giving up on the claim.

Wattel and York have recovered tens of millions of dollars for their clients who were victims of dog bites and attacks. Call Wattel & York for a free consultation.

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