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Personal Injury Areas of Practice: Dog and Animal Bites

April 14, 2016 Hastings and Hastings

Welcome back to our four-part series on a few of the primary areas of practice in personal injury law. It is important to note that representation at Hastings & Hastings is by no means limited to these four specific areas of practice. Simply, these are four areas of practice from which people often ask us questions.

So far, we have discussed three areas of personal injury law: slip and falls, car accidents, and wrongful death lawsuits. To learn more about each of these topics, simply visit the blogs that we have already posted.

Today, we are going to be moving into new territory. We are going to be discussing the legal implications of dog and animal bites and what your rights are as a bite victim.

Strict Liability v. “One Bite”

Depending on what state you live in, dog bites are typically ruled under one of two different ways: by strict liability, or by the “one bite” rule. Under the “one bite” rule, owners will not be held liable for an injury caused by their dog the FIRST time their dog hurts someone IF they had no reason to believe their dog was dangerous. Arizona is a strict liability state. With strict liability, the owner is held responsible for the dog’s actions even if they never had reason to believe it was dangerous. The statute reads as follow:

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.”

– Ariz. Rev. Stat. §11-1025

Of course, there are always caveats. The one exception to strict liability would come into play if the plaintiff provoked the dog or animal in any way. Provocation could include teasing, touching or harming the dog in any way. In some cases, provocation has been found to be unintentional. If a plaintiff accidentally steps on a dog’s paw, causing the dog to bite, this could be considering unintentional provocation.

Hiring a Legal Professional

Hiring a legal professional for support in a dog bite case is often very important. In many dog bite cases, the plaintiff will be asked to establish that provocation did not occur. Without in-depth legal knowledge and experience, this can often be difficult. A legal professional can help clearly establish the case, and illustrate the exact circumstances surrounding the dog bite.