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Dog Bites

A Dog Bit Me In Arizona. Now What?

In Arizona, the dog’s owner is held responsible for the first bite, no matter the breed. Some common questions include whether a dog gets “one free bite”, whether the dog’s breed matters, or whether the owner had knowledge the dog would bite. In Arizona, the answer to all three questions is “no.” Arizona law provides “[t]he owner of a dog which bites a person when the person is in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of its viciousness.” Arizona Revised Statute 11-1025 (A). This type of law is known as ‘strict liability’ meaning the owner’s knowledge or mental state plays no role in deciding his liability (legal responsibility). Thus, if a dog injured you with a bite, it does not matter that the dog never bit anyone before, it does not matter the dog’s breed, and the owner’s knowledge does not matter either. Now, if the owner intentionally made the dog bite you, that is a whole different scenario of intentional torts. Here, with the common dog bite, the owner will most likely be held responsible for your injury and you should discuss your legal options with an attorney who regularly handles personal injury cases.
In Arizona, the dog owner will not be responsible if the injured person was trespassing or In Arizona, the only defenses to a dog bite is that the injured person trespassed, or provoked the dog. The statute discussed above requires the person to be in a “public place or lawfully in or on a private place”. Thus, if you are not lawfully allowed to be where you were bitten, ie trespassing, the dog owner has a valid defense. Arizona law also provides “[p]roof of provocation of the attack by the person injured shall be a defense to the action for damages.”

Arizona Revised Statute 11-1027. Here, the court system determined that the “common law defenses of contributory negligence and assumption of risk superseded.” Massey v. Colaric, 151 Ariz. 65, 725 P.2d 1099 (1986). This means, the dog owner cannot argue that the injured person assumed the risk such as coming towards the dog or offering a hand to the dog. The only valid defenses are if the injured person was trespassing or if the dog owner can prove that the injured person provoked the dog. In Arizona, the bite victim has one year to file a lawsuit or settle a claim.
Another question is how much time an injured person has to hold the dog owner responsible. Arizona law provides, “[t]here shall be commenced and prosecuted within one year after the cause of action accrues, and not afterward, the following actions… (5) Upon a liability created by statute. Arizona Revised Statute 12-541. Dog bite liability falls under this time limitation. Thus, an injured person has one year from the day of the bite to either file a lawsuit or settle a claim.
To properly investigate and build your case in this very short time span, you should speak with an attorney who regularly handles personal injury cases.

We hope this brief overview has given you a glimpse into your options after a dog bite. This article is only a starting point however, and has not discussed many topics such as what money damages to expect, how to find the defendant’s insurance policies, or other potential common law actions with a two-year statute of limitations. If you or a loved one is the victim of a dog attack, we advise talking with an experienced personal injury law firm. Call us today at Accident Law Group and sit down with a licensed and experienced personal injury attorney for a free initial consultation.