Claims for dog bits can be emotional for the dog owner and the injured party, often leading to very heated and impassioned legal arguments. Many dog owners treat their dogs like family and will deny any aggressiveness by their pet – whether maliciously or simply because they can’t imagine their precious Rover being mean.
If you find yourself in this situation, the personal injury lawyers at Nuñez & Associates can guide you through the precarious process of filing a claim against a dog owner and getting the compensation you deserve for your injuries. We’ll work hard to successfully negotiate with the homeowners insurance and reach a fair settlement so you can move on with your life.
Dogs are wonderful pets and have been domesticated animals for thousands of years. They come in dozens of breeds and perform valuable services for the disabled. But they can also be bred and trained for protection or fighting, or not trained at all. Consequently, thousands of people are injured, maimed and disfigured from dog attacks, many of which are from family pets and occur on a homeowner’s property.
Dog Bites Overview
Many people have been bitten by dogs, usually on the hand, but the numbers of people injured seriously enough to require medical care is astonishing. The following statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on dog bites and attacks should alert people to the potentiality of an attack and its aftermath:
- There are over 83 million dogs in the U.S. in over 56 million households
- 5 million people are bitten by dogs each year
- 50% of dog bites occur on the dog owner’s property
- Nationally, 30 to 40 people suffer fatal injuries each year; 35 were killed in 2015
- 368,000 people per year visit ERs due to dog bite injuries
- Around 27,000 people per year undergo reconstructive surgery from a dog attack
- Pit bulls and Rottweilers account for 73% of deaths attributable to dog attacks
Though most dogs are friendly and will not bite or attack unless provoked, it is never a good idea to approach an unknown dog or attempt to pet the animal without the owner’s knowledge and consent.
States are generally split over whether a dog gets one bite before liability is imposed on the owner. Arizona laws regarding dog and other animal attacks, with some exceptions, impose strict liability on an owner provided the following conditions exist:
- The victim was lawfully on someone else’s property or on public property
- The dog has an owner who is identified
- The victim sustained a bite or other injury from the dog
The dog’s owner need not be present for liability to attach. However, if the victim provoked the attack in some manner, the owner may have a defense. Whether the victim provoked the dog is a subjective determination for a jury or judge to discern. The test is whether a reasonable person would consider the act as a provocation. Throwing stones at or kicking a dog would likely constitute provocation while hugging a dog may or may not. Another defense is that the victim was trespassing at the time the dog bit the person.
If the dog injured a person in some other manner, however, such as by jumping up and knocking down the victim, strict liability law does not apply. In this case, the victim has to prove that the owner was negligent or failed to exercise reasonable care in preventing the incident. For example, if the dog was on public property and was not leashed, this can be evidence of a breach of ordinary care since state and municipal laws require that dogs be on a leash.
Dog Bite Injuries
Dogs have claws, powerful jaws and sharp teeth that can cause serious bodily injuries such as:
- Permanent scarring or disfigurement
- Muscle and tendon damage
- Broken bones
- Deep lacerations
- Loss of blood
- Infections including blood poisoning
- Wounds of the head, neck and torso
Stitches or reconstructive surgery may be necessary for many bite claims. For these victims, they may suffer lost wages and medical expenses along with emotional trauma. Some victims become disabled or may suffer a disfiguring injury that can require extensive and painful surgeries.
Many dog owners have homeowner’s insurance that can provide sufficient compensation for most dog bite claims, unless the injuries are catastrophic.