Dog Bite Liability: Can A Dog Bite Victim Recover Money for Injuries?

Each day, thousands of people in the United States require medical care for a dog bite. In Arizona, dog bites are one of the most common causes of injury, and each year, courts award compensation to countless dog bite victims.

Arizona has several statutes that govern dog bites, including A.R.S. 11-1025-1027 on liability for dog bites and provocation. 

Arizona imposes “strict liability” on dog owners for dog bites, which means that dog owners are automatically liable for damages suffered by the dog bite victim, regardless of a history of viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of its viciousness. A.R.S. § 11-1025.

This is different than many states, which have a “one free bite” policy. In these states, the first time a dog bites someone, the owner may not be held liable for damages. In Arizona, there is no such policy—an owner can be held legally responsible no matter how many times the dog has bitten someone.

If someone who is not the owner of the dog is present and caring for the dog at the time of the attack, the caretaker and the owner may be jointly held liable for the victim’s damages.

Dog Owner Defense

A dog owner may defend against a dog bite claim if the dog bite victim provoked the dog. A.R.S. § 11-1027. The dog owner would have to prove that is what happened and caused the dog to bite, which is difficult to do. A dog bite victim's voluntary association with the dog or status as an expert in handling dogs will not suffice as a defense against dog bite liability.

How long does a victim have to sue the dog owner?

There are two timelines for statute of limitations for dog bites.  A statute of limitation is a legal term that means the amount of time (deadline) within which a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit against the responsible person (in this case, the dog owner). A claim brought pursuant to Arizona's dog bite statute is governed by the one-year limitations period in A.R.S. § 12-541, subsection 3. Murdock v. Balle, 144 Ariz. 136 (Ct. App. 1985). If a lawsuit is brought to the owner at any time within one year from when the victim was bitten, the owner may be held strictly liable.

For the common law negligence statutes, there is also a two-year statute of limitation. However, it’s strongly recommended that victims seek legal action as soon as possible within the one-year time frame in order to have a strong case under both strict liability and negligence.

How Much Money Do Dog Bite Victims Get Paid?

In a dog bite case there are medical bills and expenses that can often add up quickly. A dog bite claim can provide the victim with compensation including:

·         Future medical expenses

·         Pain and suffering

·         Loss of wages due to missing work

·         Miscellaneous costs

Generally, the insurance policy of the dog’s owner will pay for these losses and damages. Insurance policies that cover dog bites typically include renter’s insurance, landlord insurance, homeowner insurance or business insurance (if the attack occurred at a place of business).

A Lawyer’s Role in a Dog Bite Case

For victims, it’s important to discuss your case with an injury attorney before accepting any compensation. Without speaking to an attorney, you’ll have no way to determine whether an insurance company’s settlement offer is fair. Likewise, you should not try to reach a settlement with the dog’s owner himself. Representing yourself or your child in a dog bite claim is simply a bad idea.

If you or someone you care for has been bitten by a dog, please contact Quintana Law for a FREE consultation at (602) 418-0733. We are experienced in handling dog bite cases. We can help.