A Complete Guide to Legal Rights From Dog Attack Injuries

“Under Arizona’s dog bite statute, dog bite victims can hold owners liable even if the dog had never previously displayed aggression.”

Arizona law requires anyone that has knowledge of an animal bite to report the bite to animal control officers. Although most dog bites go unreported, hospitals generally follow the law by reporting dog bite injuries in Arizona.

A dog bite study was done during the five years between 2008 and 2012. The results were surprising:

  • Emergency room doctors treated 34,151 dog bites.
  • 2,358 people required hospitalization for dog attack injuries.

The number of dog attack wounds that required hospitalization increased during the study period by 139%. These injuries come with a significant financial cost. For example, the hospital stay for a dog bite injury costs about $17,000.

Here are the things that you should know about dog bite injuries and your legal rights after a dog attack.

Dog Bites

Dog bites can have varying degrees of severity and may cause different types of injury. A dog could nip you without even breaking the skin or they could tear your flesh and even break your bones.

Common Dog Attack Wounds

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the most common dog attack injuries reported by emergency rooms are:

  • Puncture wounds (40%)
  • Lacerations (25%)
  • Bruises and scrapes (6%)
  • Infections (1.5%)
  • Crushing injuries or amputations (0.8%)
  • Fractures or dislocations (0.4%)
  • The remaining ER reports did not specify the nature of the wound suffered.

Dog Bite Complications

Dog bites can result in serious physical injuries. However, they can also cause serious complications. The most common complications are below.

Infections

An urban legend says that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s mouth. This is false. Dogs carry different viruses in their bodies than humans do. This means that dogs and humans rarely transmit infectious diseases to one another.

But this does not mean that a dog’s mouth is clean. Dogs have bacteria in their saliva that can infect a wound.

When a dog bite punctures the skin, the bacteria from the dog’s mouth will likely infect the wound. Since you cannot clean a puncture wound as thoroughly as you can with an open wound, the bacteria in a puncture wound can grow and multiply, causing an infection.

Scars

When dogs bite, their instincts can take over. Anyone who plays tug-of-war with dogs knows that animals have ways to keep something that they want. A dog will instinctively put on the brakes, pull backward, and thrash its head.

When a dog bites you, these same actions can tear flesh. Even after doctors repair the flesh, a scar might remain. Facial scars, in particular, can cause considerable mental anguish for dog attack victims.

Rabies

 Dogs can catch rabies from many animals found in Arizona, including:

  • dogs
  • coyotes
  • raccoons
  • foxes
  • bats

Dogs transmit rabies through their saliva, so a dog bite from an infected dog can cause a rabies infection. Doctors cannot cure rabies and it almost always causes death. When a dog bite exposes you to rabies, you must start a regimen of five vaccines before the virus takes hold.

Death

While fatal dog attacks are rare, about 40 Americans die from dog bites every year. Death from injuries caused by dogs can occur for many reasons, including:

  • Severe bleeding
  • Shock
  • Neck injury
  • Punctured skull
  • Rabies

Legal Rights After Injuries Caused by Dogs

Many states rely on case law to establish a dog bite victim’s rights and what the victim must prove to recover compensation. But Arizona has two statutes that specifically cover the victim’s rights and the possible defenses for dog owners. 

Liability for Dog Bites

Most states either use negligence or strict liability to determine a dog owner’s liability for dog bites.

Negligence

Requires dog bite victims to show that the dog owner failed to take reasonable measures to prevent the dog attack. The victim must also prove the dog had a prior history of violence and that the owner was aware of the dog’s danger. In many states, this means that the dog’s first bite victim cannot hold the dog owner liable because the owner had no awareness of the dog’s aggressive tendencies.

Strict liability

Applies regardless of the dog’s prior history. Under strict liability, a victim can always hold the dog owner liable.

Arizona’s dog bite statute employs a strict liability standard. Under Arizona’s dog bite statute, dog bite victims can hold owners liable even if the dog had never previously displayed aggression.

Dog Owners’ Defenses

Unlike pure strict liability standards, Arizona dog owners have two possible defenses in a case.

  1. Place of the Dog Bite
    The dog bite victim must be in a public place or lawfully on private property when the dog bite occurs. Guests, invitees, and people doing their job — including meter readers and postal workers — can sue for dog bites.

    But trespassers cannot sue a dog owner for a dog bite. This means that “no trespassing” signs might have more effect in limiting a dog owner’s liability than “beware of dog” signs.

  2. Provocation of Dog
    Dog owners can also defend themselves against dog bite lawsuits if the victim provoked the dog. Provocation includes any behavior that would reasonably cause the dog to respond, such as poking the dog or trying to grab it.

Who Pays for Dog Bites?

In most cases, the homeowner’s insurance policy of the dog’s owner will handle dog bite claims. Specifically, homeowners policies usually have two forms of coverage: Property insurance and liability insurance. Property insurance comes into play when a disaster destroys the home.

Liability insurance protects policyholders from ordinary negligence claims, regardless of where they happen. Thus, a dog owner’s insurance policy will probably cover your claim even if the dog bit you while you were out at the park.

After a dog bite, you should get as much information from the dog’s owner as possible. This will allow you to contact the dog’s owner to file a claim against their insurance policy. If the insurer does not offer a fair settlement or the dog owner lacks insurance, you should consider hiring a dog bite lawyer to negotiate or litigate the case. Contact the team at Goodnow McKay for a free case review of your dog bite case.

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