Hastings & Hastings has been serving accident victims in Arizona for over 35 years. It is our mission to help accident victims begin the process of putting their lives back together. Experiencing an accident is one of the most stressful events a person can go through in their life. Accidents have the potential to disrupt everything. At Hastings & Hastings, we believe accident victims should focus on recovery. For this reason, they need someone by their side who can handle the complex matters surround an accident, such as pursuing legal action and recovering a settlement.
As an accident victim, it is important to look into your legal options in a timely manner. In law, there is a concept known as “statute of limitations.” In Arizona, the statute of limitations regarding most personal injury cases is two years. That means you must file a lawsuit within two years of experiencing an accident. If you fail to do so, the statute of limitations expires, and you lose the ability to pursue legal action.
The statutes of limitations regarding dog and animal bites is shorter than that of most other personal injury matters. In Arizona, the statute of limitations for a dog bite case is one year. This means you have half the time to pursue legal action following a dog bite than you do for typical injury claims. At Hastings &Hastings, we have the legal experience, knowledge, and infrastructure necessary to ensure that your dog or animal bite case is handled if a swift and effective manner.
In today’s blog, we will discuss some basic information regarding animal and dog bite cases such as the difference between “strict liability” and the “one bite” rule. We will also go over specific Arizona laws regarding dog bites and discuss how liability functions in a dog bite case.
One-Bite vs. Strict Liability
Laws regulating dog bite cases vary from state to state. The primary difference comes down to whether or not a state is a “one-bite” state, or has strict liability rules for dog bite cases. Before we go any further, we will illustrate the differences between these two concepts.
One Bite Laws: Currently, 18 states use one-bite liability. Under one-bite liability laws, a dog owner will not be held liable for a dog bite or attack unless they had prior reason to believe that their dog was dangerous. Often this is interpreted as, “dogs get one free bite,” or, until a dog bites someone for the first time, the owner could not possibly have known that the dog was dangerous. While the spirit of this interpretation is correct, the laws are much more nuanced than that.
Essential, under one-bite laws, and theowner will not be held liable until they have aconcrete reason to believe that their dog is in some way dangerous. If they know that their dog is dangerous, they will be held liable for any bites, attacks, or injuries caused by their dog. There are many factors which can be used to determine that a dog is dangerous.
- Previous Bites
In one-bite states, a single dog bite will put the owners own notice. They will be held negligent for any bite after the first as they now possess the knowledge that their dog has a history of biting. Some courts have ruled that a puppy who playfully nips someone is not considered dangerous, thus puppy bites will may not put an owner on notice for dangerous behavior.
- Barking/Aggressive Posturing
An owner will be considered placed on notice if their dog barks, growls, or snaps at individuals who come near it in public as this is deemed aggressive and dangerous behavior. If a dog has ahistory of such behavior, it can be assumed that he has the potential bite, someone.
In some states, specific breed such as pit bulls have been defined by law as “dangerous.” An owner of a dog who falls into this category in a one-bite state may be considered liability for a bite even if it is the dog’s first.
- Jumping on People
A large dog jumping on someone can cause major injuries. If an owner knows that an overly playful or exuberant dog has a habit of jumping on people, they may be held liable for any injuries their dog causes.
The scenarios in which a dog can be considered dangerous or prone to biting are by no means limited to these four.
Next, we will look into strict liability laws for dog bites.
Strict Liability Laws: 32 states, including Arizona, have enacted dog bite statutes which have put into place strict liability for dog bites. Under strict liability, an owner will be held liable for a dog bite even if their dog has no history of aggressive or dangerous behavior. This means that a dog owner will be held liable the first time their dog bites or injures someone.
Each state with strict liability for dog bites has its own dog bite statute. The statute here in Arizona, which appears in section 11-1025 of the Arizona Revised Statutes reads as follows:
The 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.
Under the statute, the owner of a dog will be held liable for a dog bite if the bite occurred in a public location or in a private location in which the victim was lawfully allowed to be. This means that a dog owner may not be held accountable for a bite if the victim was trespassing or otherwise illegally in a private location.
The owner may also be free of liability in a scenario in which the dog was provoked in some way. In determining whether or not a dog was provoked, courts look at whether or not something happened to the dog. For example, though provocation would typically be considered teasing, abusing, or taunting a dog, an individual who inadvertently steps on a dog that they did not see, thus prompting a bite, may be considered to have provoked the animal even though they did not do so intentionally.
While provocation is most often employed by the defense, it is not uncommon for a plaintiff in a dog bite case to have to prove that provocation did not happen. Often, this necessitates the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney.
Settling a Dog Bite Claim
An essential element in reaching a settlement in a dog bite case is proving actual harm to the victim. If a victim was bitten but no real harm was done, they will have difficulty reaching a settlement. If they cannot reach a settlement, the case will go to trial where the decision will be left to a jury.
Even if a victim received minor harm, a case could be made that they experienced pay and suffering. Calculating the value of pain and suffering in a settlement can be a difficult and inexact science. Both parties look at similar dog bite cases which have occurred in the past to estimate value.
Final settlements also account for medical bills, lost wages, lost earning power, and other concrete damages.
Dog bite cases here in Arizona often come down three things:
- Proving that there was no provocation
- Proving actual harm
- Establish the value of a settlement
Doing these things requires the assistance of a legal professional who has experience handling dog bite claims. A personal injury attorney with extensive knowledge of Arizona’s dog bitestatutes, as well as the history of dog bite settlements, will be well equipped to help a dog bite victim receive the financial compensation they deserve for suffering their hardship.