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Preventing and Dealing With Dog Attacks

Dec 13, 2019

Arizona is the perfect place for dogs due to the year-round beautiful weather and numerous community dog parks.  There are more than 76 million dogs in America, and plenty of those reside in Arizona. According to the statistics of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, on average, 4.5 million people are attacked by dogs every year, and one out of five of those cases need medical attention. There have been certain cases in which dog bites led to the death of innocent victims.

Unfortunately, the strong presence of dogs in our State presents more opportunity for negative interaction, whether it be growling, jumping on, or biting.


Dog Bite Prevention

Children and male adults are most likely to be attacked by dogs, but it is important to know how you can prevent dog attacks at any age:

  • Do not approach a dog when the owner is not around
  • Do not go near an unknown dog
  • Do not approach an injured dog by yourself; call for help
  • Do not approach a dog that is sleeping, nursing, or eating
  • Do not ever turn your  back and run away from a dog if it is barking at you
  • Never provoke a dog

Beware of the Shortened Statute of Limitations for Dog Bite Claims

There are two legal theories under which you might bring a claim for a dog bite or attack.  One is “strict liability.”  This renders the owner responsible for the damages caused merely by ownership of the animal.  The second theory is one of negligence.  A strict liability claim must be brought within one year of the attack in the State of Arizona.  A negligence claim must be brought within two years.  Generally speaking, both claims should be brought at the same time in order to preserve the best opportunity to recover your damages for the dog bite.

Regardless of the circumstances, if you suffer injury from a dog bite or attack in Arizona, the dog’s owner will be responsible for the animal’s misbehavior unless you did something to provoke the dog.  This is known as strict liability.  Strict liability means the dog owner is legally responsible for damages even if they didn’t do anything negligent.  Mere ownership of the dog will subject them to legal liability.

Provocation is a defense to strict liability claims.  Even if you did not intend your action to provoke the dog to bite or attack, a jury could find that your action would normally provoke a dog. For example, placing your hand near its mouth while eating; abruptly waking the dog from sleep. What may seem like innocent actions may be deemed provocation, and excuse the owner from strict liability for the damage caused.

If you cannot show ownership of the dog, or you have not complied with the one-year statute of limitations within which to bring the lawsuit under a strict liability theory, you may still have a claim for negligence against the owner, or the person who had control over the animal.  A person is negligent when their actions fall below the standard of a reasonable person.  For example, letting the dog off the leash, or out of the yard.  Or taking a dog known to be nervous around other dogs to a dog park.  These are acts of negligence that might render the person in control of the dog liable for damages, even if they aren’t the owner.

A dog owner might also be held liable for punitive damages. These are damages designed to punish the dog owner, and deter other dog owners from keeping dangerous animals, or allowing them to potentially harm the public.  Owning a dog that has previously bitten, or is known to be aggressive can subject the owner to punitive damages.

Rental or Homeowner’s insurance policies will typically cover a dog owner for damages caused by their dog, even if the bite or attack did not occur on the premises of the insured’s home.

What to do After Being Attacked by a Dog

Any time you are attacked, bitten or injured by a dog, seek immediate medical attention. Find out if the dog was up to date on its vaccinations, especially for rabies. If not, you may be required to go through rabies vaccinations.

Next, contact an experienced personal injury attorney in Arizona who will assist you in determining whether there is available insurance coverage for the dog owner, and what specific damage claims can be made. If you are a dog bite victim and have suffered severe injuries, it is your right to be compensated for those injuries. It is important to act quickly due to the shortened statute of limitations for strict liability claims.  If you wait too long to file a personal injury claim,  you may lose your right to obtain compensation altogether, but at a minimum, waiting beyond one year will make liability much more difficult to prove.

Contact an Experienced Arizona Dog Bite Attorney Today

Make sure that you know your rights, and that you protect your claims from expiring because you didn’t act quickly.  Contact the attorneys at Wattel & York today to schedule a consultation.

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