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.

Over the five years between 2008 and 2012, this dog attack injury study examined dog bites and found the following results:

  • Emergency rooms treated 34,151 cases of dog bites.
  • A total of 2,358 people were hospitalized as a result of dog attacks.

The number of dog attack injuries 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.

When you have suffered an injury caused by a dog bite, there are a lot of things to consider. However, knowing and understanding your legal rights is the best protection you can have when dealing with such an incident.

Dog Attack Injuries Vary In Severity

A dog bite may have varying degrees of severity and may cause a variety of different types of injuries to the victim. A dog, for example, could bite you without even breaking your skin, or they could tear your flesh and even break your bones. It can be overwhelming to know what to do after being bitten by a dog. If your dog bite injury is severe, a dog bite lawyer can help you determine your legal options to recover damages as soon as possible.

The Most Common Dog Bite 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.

Common Complications From Dog Attack Injuries

Physical injuries caused by dog bites can be severe, but there are also serious complications that can result. Below are the most common complications of dog bites.


The urban legend that dogs have cleaner mouths compared to humans is false. Dogs carry different viruses in their bodies than humans do. Dogs have bacteria in their saliva that can irritate wounds, so this does not mean that their mouths are clean. Infection may result from bacteria that multiply and grow in punctures since they cannot be cleaned as thoroughly as open wounds.


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 is transmitted through saliva, so a dog bite can result in rabies. Rabies cannot be cured by doctors, and it sometimes causes death. If you are exposed to rabies from a dog bite, you will need to take a regimen of five vaccinations before the virus takes hold. In Arizona, there are a wide variety of animals that can transmit rabies to dogs, such as:

  • Dogs
  • Coyotes
  • Raccoons
  • Foxes
  • Bats


A fatal dog attack is a rare event, but about 40 Americans die from dog bite injuries each year. Dog bite injuries can occur due to a variety of reasons, including:

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

Liability For Dog Bites And Your Legal Rights

Arizona has two statutes that directly address the fundamental rights of the victim and the possible defenses that can be brought forward by a dog owner in order to obtain compensation for a dog bite injury.

* Owner 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.

The Most Common Defenses Used by Dog Owners

Arizona dog owners have two possible defenses to a dog bite lawsuit that are unlike pure strict liability standards that exist in other states.

The Location Of The Injury

A person can file a claim for dog bites if he or she is in a public or private place at the time of the incident. Guests, invitees, and people doing their job — such as meter readers and postal workers — can all file a claim.

It should be noted, however, that trespassers cannot sue a dog owner if a dog bites them. This means that “no trespassing” signs have a greater effect than “beware of dogs” signs in limiting a dog owner’s liability.

Provocation of the Dog

A dog owner can also defend themselves against dog bite lawsuits if the victim provoked the dog. Provocation includes any action that would cause the dog to respond, such as poking or grabbing the dog.

Who is Financially Responsible for a Dog Bite Injury?

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.

It is important that you gather as much information as possible about the dog’s owner, so that you can seek compensation from their insurance policy in the event of a dog bite.

If the insurer does not offer a fair settlement or the dog owner lacks insurance, you should consider hiring Goodnow McKay to negotiate or litigate the case.

The Bottom Line Regarding Your Legal Rights

According to Arizona law, the owner of a dog is strictly responsible for any damages that the dog causes, so you are likely to receive financial compensation. Those injured by an aggressive dog should get in touch with an experienced dog bite attorney as soon as possible.

Request a free consultation to learn more about your legal rights and options. There’s no fees or risk to inquire about your circumstances. Contact us today and let us help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.