Dog Lawsuit – Can You Sue the Owner of a Dog that Bites?
Not every dog is “all bark and no bite.” Are you considering a dog lawsuit due to a bite? You’re not alone. In fact, per CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) data, more than 4.5 million dog bites occur annually in the U.S., with many of them resulting in injury. In Arizona specifically, dog bite injuries are not only common, but can also yield serious legal implications for those involved. Whether you are a dog owner or a victim who suffered a dog bite injury, it’s important to understand what state laws are in place and how they affect your rights.
Is the Dog Owner Always Liable?
One of the most common questions that arise in a dog lawsuit is, “Can I sue the owner, and will I win?” Although Arizona dog bite laws are considerably stringent compared to other states, the answer to this question is not black and white. Instead, the totality of circumstances must be examined before determining liability and the likely outcome of a dog bite suit.
Generally speaking, Arizona statutes that govern dog bite incidents almost always ascribe blame to the dog owner, regardless of the level of knowledge or involvement the owner had in the attack. Additionally, liability can extend to include individuals to whom the dog was entrusted at the time of the attack, which could include a family member, friend, or hired dog walker. Some dog owners mistakenly believe that they are only at fault if the dog bite occurs on their property. On the contrary, the dog owner is held accountable for the attack if it takes place on public or private property outside of the owner’s residence, given that the victim’s presence on the grounds is legal and not an act of trespass or intrusion.
Furthermore, if an unleashed dog escapes or strays from his enclosed yard and attacks someone unbeknownst to the owner, the owner is still considered the liable party and is not absolved of responsibility by being unaware of its occurrence.
Limitations and Dog Owner Defenses
With Arizona dog bite laws appearing to overwhelmingly favor the victim and reproach the dog owner, suing the owner seems like a guaranteed win, right? Not always. Let’s explore possible defenses raised by the dog owner that can prevent a victim from recovering damages in a dog lawsuit.
Per Article 11-1027, a dog owner is not considered liable if it is proven that the victim in some way provoked the dog, inciting an attack that would have otherwise not occurred. For example, if the victim prodded, poked, agitated, or did anything else that would constitute provocation by a reasonable person’s standards, the burden of liability would be removed from the dog owner. Additionally, if the victim suffered an attack while committing an illegal act such as trespassing or blatantly disregarding signage that warns of a dog on the premises, the judge and jury may repudiate the victim’s claim and maintain that the dog owner is not liable for the injury.
Finally, anyone seeking to file a claim in a dog bite injury case must be mindful of time. For a dog owner to be held accountable under the state’s strict liability laws, a suit must be brought about within a year of the attack or risk having the case dismissed altogether.
Dog Lawsuit Protect Your Rights
Although dog bite injuries are common in Arizona, it’s ill advised to navigate through the claim process alone. Whether you are a victim seeking compensation or a dog owner in a position to defend against a claim, it’s prudent to consult with an experienced attorney immediately. To have your dog lawsuit evaluated, contact us today for guidance on determining the best course of action to protect your legal rights.