We at Select Law, have plenty of canine family members that faithfully wait for us at home. No matter how tough our day at work, we know we can expect a wagging tail, a lick on the face and plenty of affection once home. This article was written by a dog-friendly attorney in a dog-friendly firm.
On occasion, a man’s Best Friend can become another man’s nightmare. You are out for a walk in your neighborhood when you are charged by a dog. All you can see is a set of sharp teeth coming at you. He sinks his teeth into your leg, knocks you down and bites you again on your face. After a trip to the emergency room to get stitched up and a few follow up visits with your doctor, your wounds have healed. Nevertheless, you are left with permanent scars to your face and leg.
You don’t know if this dog had a propensity for viciousness or whether it had a friendly disposition. As far as A.R.S. Section 11-1025 is concerned, it doesn’t matter. According to this statute, the owner of a biting dog is strictly liable for the victim’s injuries regardless of whether the dog had an aggressive history. Thus, no dog gets one free bite in Arizona pursuant to this statute.
The liability of an owner extends to a victim who is bitten while in a public place or even on private property, including on the owner’s property, so long as the victim is there lawfully. Clearly, the owner is responsible when you are attacked while out for a walk on a public street. Likewise, if you are invited onto the owner’s property or you are performing your duties as a postal worker, delivery person or repair person, the owner is strictly liable for the biting actions of his dog.
A child, bitten by his neighbor’s dog after climbing a fence to enter the neighbor’s yard to retrieve a ball, was considered a trespasser and, therefore, not entitled to successfully employ this strict liability statute. Hartsock v. Bandhouer, 158 Ariz. 591 (1988). In a different factual scenario, a groomer, bitten while working in a pet hospital, was considered to be lawfully in a private place and able to take advantage of the statute. Mulcahy v. Damron, 169 Ariz. 11 (1991).
The sole defense to a strict liability dog bite action is when the victim provoked the dog. A.R.S. Section 11-1027. Provocation might include teasing the dog, taking his toy or food away, hitting or reprimanding him, or unlawfully entering property which contains the dog.
There is a one-year statute of limitations to pursue this strict liability action. If your lawsuit is filed after the one-year deadline but before two years, you must then show that the dog had a propensity for viciousness and that the owner knew about such propensity or should have known about it. Clearly, it is much safer to file suit before the one-year deadline as the victim’s burden of proof is much easier to meet.
Now lets get back to the injuries you sustained. Your hospital bill wasn’t terribly expensive and your health insurance took care of most of it. You figure your case can’t be worth very much because you had minimal medical treatment. Take a look in the mirror and check out that scar on your face or body. The attorneys at Select Law work closely with plastic surgeons who consult with our clients and provide valuable narrative reports detailing corrective surgeries and the cost thereof. These reports are worth their weight in gold in your dealings with insurance adjusters, arbitrators and jurors, regardless of whether you get the recommended treatment or not. All of a sudden, you realize that your damages are, in fact, rather significant.
Say your dog has never bitten anybody. She is sweet and playful, but just happened to get a little overzealous with my neighbor. Again, it doesn’t matter, so long as your neighbor was on public property or legally on private property and didn’t provoke your dog. Now what?
Most likely Animal Control will investigate the incident, make sure your dog’s rabies shots are up to date and, if necessary, quarantine your dog. Now it’s time to contact your homeowner’s insurance carrier. You tell them that your pet, a Rottweiler, bit your neighbor. They review your policy and read a clause to you that states, we will not indemnify you for any injuries to property or person inflicted by a Chow, Akita, Doberman, Pitbull, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Rottweiler, Presa Canarias, Wolf Hybrid or any mix of these. You are shocked to realize that you will be paying your neighbor’s substantial personal injury settlement out of your own pocket.
These days, more and more homeowners’ policies are including exclusions of coverage for one or more of the above-referenced breeds. There are still many policies, however, that have no such exclusions but do either cancel or rate coverage after your dog’s first aggressive incident. Check your policy language now before it is too late. And keep Rover under control in public and in the privacy of your home.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a dog bite or attack incident, reach out to the experienced lawyers at Select Law. With our extensive experience in the legal field, we know what it takes to win your case. Call us at (425) 891-6691 | (425) 891-6691 to arrange your FREE CONSULTATION with an experienced attorney (in person, phone, zoom or your residence/hospital)
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