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Dog Bite Lawsuits: What You Need to Know

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According to the ASPCA, 44 percent of American households own pets. This adds up to 78 million dogs in US homes today. With the joy of owning a dog comes considerable responsibility for its care. Understanding your legal responsibility for maintaining safety for others around your family pets can save a dog owner heartache and considerable money. If you are unaware of the laws, it is possible you could be putting yourself in harm's way with regards to risk and liability.

Arizona imposes strict liability for dog bites squarely on the dog owner when their pet bites another person. As outlined in Arizona Revised Statutes section 11-1025, this liability is in place even when the dog is on its owner's property when the dog bite occurs. This means any damages the person who was bitten suffers are the owner's responsibility. For example, if a delivery person is obtaining a signature from a customer at the home and is bitten, or a social visitor is bitten at a home, the dog owner is liable for damages.

A Dog's History Doesn't Matter - The Owner is Liable

A dog owner whose dog has always displayed friendly behavior may believe his or her dog will never bite anyone--stranger or friend--and will often fail to restrain the dog around guests or workers in the home. Should their pet suddenly become vicious and bite someone, the former disposition of the dog does not matter. The owner remains liable.

Naturally, when a person is walking his or her dog, the same rules apply. The owner is expected to maintain control of his or her dog. Even when the owner has responsibly restrained the dog and has followed common sense and Arizona laws with regards to controlling the animal in a public place, if the dog acts out, the owner will still be liable for any damages the dog causes.

What Does "Provoked" Mean and Can You Prove It?

The only instance where a dog owner may successfully win a lawsuit filed against him in dog bite incident is when the dog is provoked prior to the bite. According to  Arizona Revised Statutes section 11-1027, if the dog owner can prove that the dog attacked because the person bitten had acted with conduct that any reasonable person would expect the dog to react aggressively to, the courts could rule in the owner's favor.

One instance where a dog owner is NOT liable is when a dog bites a child who lives in the same home as the dog. For example, if a child is bitten in the family home, even if the dog belongs to another family member living in the home, the owner is not liable according to ARS Section 11-1025.

Any dog owner who understands these strict Arizona statutes for liability is unlikely to allow their dog to run at large. Yet many dog owners are not aware of the statutes or of their responsibility. If a dog escapes a home and injures someone, or causes damage, Arizona Revised Statutes section 11-1020 clearly outlines that the dog owner or whomever is responsible for the dog when it is at large is fully responsible, regardless of whether the owner allowed the dog to run at large or whether the dog escaped an enclosure.

Beware of the Unusual 1-Year Statute of Limitations

There is a one-year limitation on Arizona's dog bite statute. When someone is bitten, perhaps by a dog that is owned by a family friend or relative, there may be reluctance to seek damage relief. If the bite is serious or other complications arise causing financial hardship or pain and suffering, the victim may eventually become more motivated to seek damages. Acting within that one-year time frame to collect damages is critical.

Often, a dog owner's homeowner insurance policy is expected to cover damages when the family dog bites someone. However, like with most claims, insurance companies will not always automatically pay. Unfortunately, insurance companies are experts at reducing the amounts they will pay and will take whatever action is necessary to pay as little as possible. When you are seeking damages and you must deal with an insurance company, having legal representation to secure the highest compensation you are owed is extremely helpful.

If you Have Been Bitten - Call Us Today

If your dog has been involved in a dog bite incident or you have been bitten by someone's dog, we can help. Our law firm offers experienced dog bite attorneys who are available to help you and your family. Our firm will make sure the person responsible for your injury is held liable and that you receive relief from the damages the injury caused. Time is of the essence. Don't wait. Contact our offices today for more information about your dog bite injury.

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West, Longenbaugh and Zickerman P.L.L.C.

310 S. Williams Blvd
Suite 250
Tucson, AZ 85711

Phone: 520-518-3781
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