A Dog Bite Lawyer’s Guide to Legal Rights in Arizona

“It’s important to consider that there are factors that influence what rights you have, including exceptions and defenses.”


Arizona dog bite lawyers in the Phoenix area and beyond receive many questions about dog bite law, and more importantly, dog bite victim rights. Dog bites are very common in the United States and they’re often the subject of personal injury claims here in Arizona.

Here at Goodnow Mckay, we focus solely on personal injury claims and have lawyers for dog bites with extensive dog bite experience. And in our experience, helping dog bite victims understand their basic legal rights can help them tremendously with their claim and a potential lawsuit.

Your Rights Under Arizona’s “Strict Liability” Rule for Dog Bites

Arizona is a strict liability dog bite state. This means that under the Arizona dog bite law, ARS 11-1025, dog owners are responsible for the injuries their dogs inflict in an attack “regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of its viciousness.”

The strict liability rule makes it easier to recover damages for dog bite injuries. This often discourages dog bite victims from hiring a dog bite lawyer. If you’re considering not hiring one, it’s important to consider that there are factors that influence what rights you have, including exceptions and defenses.

A dog bite lawyer can help you navigate through some of these complexities. Below are some examples of things that can influence liability.

› Trespassers Beware

The strict liability dog bite rule does not apply when the person is trespassing on private property.

You’ll notice that under Arizona’s strict liability law, the person has to be “lawfully in or on a private place.” Under ARS 11-1026, a person is lawfully in or on private property when they’ve been invited, when they’re a guest, or when they’re on the property to fulfill a duty imposed by law. For example, a police officer conducting a wellness check is lawfully on the property even though they’re not a guest.

› Provoking a Dog as a Defense

A dog owner can defend themselves against legal responsibility for a dog bite if they can show proof that the injured person provoked the attack.

› The Special Case of Police Dog Bites

Dog bite lawyers are often contacted by dog bite victims who were bitten by police dogs.

Although police dog bites are gruesome and usually very serious, Arizona has an exception to dog bite strict liability rule in cases involving police dogs. Under Arizona law, when police or military dogs injure a person while in the course of apprehending a suspect, investigating a crime, executing a warrant, or in the defense of a police officer. This exception does not apply to bystanders.

How Much Time You Have to File a Dog Bite Lawsuit

As with any kind of legal issue, it’s very important to know what the statute of limitations is for your legal claim. A statute of limitations is the official deadline by when you need to file a lawsuit against the person or company that has injured you—which in the case of a dog bite, would be the dog owner.

Attorney Chris Goodnow, a Phoenix dog bite lawyer and a founding member of our firm, warns that many clients think that if they file a claim with the correct insurance company, they don’t need to worry about the statute of limitations. This is incorrect. An insurance claim does not satisfy the statute of limitations for a legal claim, or lawsuit. Unfortunately, some dog bite victims who have waited too long to file a lawsuit or contact a lawyer have lost their right to any recovery.

Under ARS 12-541, the statute of limitations for a dog bite is one (1) year from the date of the incident. This means that you need to file your case with the court within a year of being bit. There is a 2-year statute of limitations for common law claims, which are claims that are NOT made under the Arizona dog bite statute.

Additionally, if the claim involves a government entity a notice of claim must be given to the appropriate agency within 180 days of the date of the incident, or else the claim is barred forever. Still, dog bite lawyers in Phoenix will generally always advise injured parties to file their claim as soon as possible, and definitely within a year.

Where The Bite Occurred Will Impact Your Claim

Where the dog bite happens can have a big impact on your case, especially when it comes to insurance coverage. It can also impact who you and your dog bite attorney can sue to recover money for your injury.

› Dog Owner’s Home

It is very common for dog bites to happen at someone’s home. Most homeowners will have home insurance that covers dog bites. If this is the case, you’ll want to file a claim with their homeowner’s insurance as soon as you know the name of the insurance company.

› Public Property

If the dog bite happens on public property, then homeowner’s insurance will still apply unless there is a specific exemption on the insurance policy. In these cases, it’s important to get the dog owner’s personal information. Personal information includes their name, phone number, and other contact information. Although less popular than home insurance, some pet owners do carry pet insurance that covers dog bites.

Depending on the circumstances, the dog owner may have been violating leash laws or other animal control rules. It’s important to note where you were and how the dog bite happened because violations of these laws can help your case. If you’re not sure what rules apply, there are many dog bite lawyers in Phoenix who are well versed in the various dog bite laws that apply in the city.

“As with any kind of legal issue, it’s very important to know what the statute of limitations is for your legal claim.”

› Apartment

In Arizona, renters are not legally required to carry renter’s insurance, however, landlords often do. These policies also sometimes cover dog bites. You will want to find who the dog owner’s rental insurer is if you need to file a claim.

Landlords may also be responsible for injuries caused by a dog bite depending on the circumstances. You’ll notice that many landlords will prohibit certain kinds of dog breeds or mixes as a way to try and lessen the chances of having to deal with a dog bite lawsuit against the rental company.

Your Right to Damages

In personal injury claims, dog bite victims are entitled to compensation for their injuries. This compensation is called “damages” in legal terms. Damages include economic, non-economic, and statutory damages.

  • Economic Damages

    Economic damages are usually the easiest to calculate. They include medical bills, other treatment bills, transportation for medical treatment, lost income including lost future income, and other costs that resulted from the dog bite.

  • Non-Economic Damages

    Non-economic damages are often called pain and suffering damages. They include compensation for the physical and mental pain a dog bite victim had to endure because of the bite.

  • Punitive Damages

    Punitive damages are available in dog bite cases when the owner either intended to have the dog bite the injured person, or were reckless and careless in the training or handling of the dog. For example, punitive damages may be appropriate in a case where the dog owner trained the dog to attack people, even if the dog owner didn’t specifically direct the dog to attack the person injured.

When to Hire a Dog Bite Lawyer

Those bitten by someone else’s dog should find a dog bite lawyer in their local area as soon as they can. Even if you don’t plan on hiring a lawyer, having an initial consultation with a lawyer specializing in dog bites can help you avoid missing a deadline or a detail that might make your claim more complicated than you’d originally thought.

It’s generally easy to find an Arizona animal and dog lawyer, but since dog laws exist at the county and city level, you’ll want to make sure your dog bite attorney is local to where the dog bite occurred.

Contact Dog Bite Lawyers Goodnow McKay

Here at Goodnow Mckay, we have offices in both Phoenix and Prescott. Our law firm practices only personal injury law, and we have extensive experience in Arizona dog bite cases. Contact us today for a free dog bite claim consultation.

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