Dog Bite Lawyers
Scottsdale Dog Bite Lawyers
To some people, dogs are known as our “best friends.” To others, they are dangerous animals capable of causing serious injury and even death. Dogs have been known to not only attack strangers, but also people familiar to the animals. A dog attack can be vicious and the injuries severe. The injuries include puncture wounds, uneven lacerations, ligament damage, muscle damage, nerve damage, degloving injuries, among others. The results of a dog attack can leave the victim disfigured and with severe, life-altering, scars.
Emotional Injuries Caused by Dog Bites and Dog Attacks
In addition to the physical injuries, dog bite victims often suffer serious emotional trauma. This includes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and even depression. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Ed.), PTSD may be suffered by someone who directly experiences a traumatic event involving exposure to actual or threatened death or serious injuries. That person then has symptoms that may include “recurrent, involuntary and intrusive distressing memories of the trauma,” “recurring distressing dreams,” flashbacks, intense distress after exposure to something that triggers a memory of the event and even a physiological reaction (sweating, shallow breathing, increased heart rate) to triggering events.
Victims of dog bite attacks, who suffer from PTSD, typically will avoid any situation that may remind them of the traumatic event. This could include refusing to go anywhere where dogs are present. This even includes the homes of friends and loved ones who own a dog. In very severe situations, a dog bite victim may avoid going out in public all together for fear of being attacked by a dog or seeing one that would trigger a PTSD reaction.
Victims of a dog attack may also suppress the incident and be unable to recall important aspects of the attack. They may even blame themselves for the attack and have persistent feelings of fear, horror, anger, guilt or shame. When PTSD is severe, dog bite victims may lose interest in hobbies and other activities and detach themselves from friends and loved ones.
Someone who has been attacked by a dog, may also experience anxiety and depression. Anxiety includes the inability of the person to control worries about dog attacks and dog bites. These worries become so frequent that he or she may experience: fatigue, restlessness, concentration problems, muscle tension, irritability and sleep issues. Depression may also result from the injuries the person suffered. This is especially true with prominent scarring that makes the person feel insecure or changes their appearance. This is common with dog bite victims that have facial injuries. The depression can become long-lasting and debilitating.
Anyone who has suffered emotional injuries from a dog bite or dog attack, should seek out help from a qualified mental health professional. The dog bite attorneys at Scottsdale Injury Lawyers are here to help. We can refer you to highly-credentialed medical and mental health professionals who will help you cope with your injuries. We can also help you recover compensation for your injuries that will pay for the treatment you need and for the changes to your life the dog attack has caused. Contact us today at (480) 900-7390 or by email if you need help.
How Common Are Dog Bites?
An article published in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery reports that historically there are approximately 4.5 million dog bites each year in the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2019, the United States had an estimated population of 328.2 million people. This means that roughly 1 in 73 people was a victim of a dog bite.
According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly 1 in 5 dog bites results in medical treatment. Further, according to a report from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, more than 28,000 people had reconstructive surgery following a dog bite in 2019. Of the victims hospitalized, a past study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality revealed an average cost of $18,200 per hospital stay. This was approximately 50% higher than the average cost of a hospital stay for other injuries.
Sadly, the majority of dog bite victims are young children. In the most recent year reported by the Center for Disease Control, dog bites were a top 10 cause for non-fatal emergency department visits for children ages 1-4 and 5-9. This totaled nearly 80,000 emergency visits by children under 10 years old bitten by dogs across the United States. Dog bites were not a top 10 cause for non-fatal emergency department visits for any other age group.
The high number of dog bites and dog attacks suffered by young children makes sense. Young children do not have the experience and intelligence to recognize the warning signs of a dog that may bite or attack. Young children may not have been taught to never grab a dog’s tail or ears. Young children may not have been taught to be cautious of a dog that growls or that has his tails between his legs. Likewise, they may not know to allow a dog to smell them first or to respect a dog’s space until the dog no longer views them as a threat.
According to the most recent research by the Arizona Department of Health Services, there are approximately 35,000 visits to emergency rooms in Arizona due to dog bites per year. Of these visits, approximately 2500 require inpatient hospitalization or an overnight stay. Like the national statistics, children under 14 years old represent close to 1/3 of the emergency room visits due to a dog bite or attack. Specifically, children ages 5-14 make up 22% of the visits which is nearly double any other age group.
The Arizona Department of Health Services research also shows that the number of emergency room visits for dog bites is highest in Maricopa County followed by Pima County. However, Maricopa County leads by far with nearly four times the visits of Pima County and nearly 15 times the number of visits of any other County. The research also shows that the majority of Arizona dog bites occur at someone’s home.
If you have been bitten by a dog, the dog owner or person responsible for the dog may be liable for your injuries. The experienced attorneys at Scottsdale Injury Lawyers can review your case and determine whether you are entitled to compensation for the injuries you have suffered. Please call us at (480) 900-7390 for your free consultation.
What to Do If You Have Been Bitten by a Dog
While it is important to consult with an attorney, there are other critical steps that should be taken. These include the following:
- Stay calm and get yourself to safety
- Check on the safety of any loved ones in the area
- Attempt to control the bleeding and clean the wound
- Dial 911, go to the emergency room and/or schedule an appointment with your primary care physician as soon as possible
- Report the dog bite to animal care and control
- Isolate the dog if you can do so safely
- Document the details of the dog bite incident, including the location of the dog attack, the residence of the dog, the name of the dog’s owner, the breed of the dog, the dog’s size and color, whether the dog was wearing a collar and tag with identifying information, whether the dog was licensed and any history of the dog attacking other people or animals
- Write down the names, telephone numbers and addresses of any witnesses
- Take photographs of the dog bite injuries and of the dog
- Retain documents of all treatment for injuries from the dog bite
- Keep the clothes you were wearing at the time of the dog bite and do not wash the clothes, especially if they show signs of the dog attack such as bite marks or dirt, rips or tears from a struggle
- Speak with a Scottsdale dog bite lawyer before you talk with anyone from an insurance company
Dog Owners Are Strictly Liable for Dog Bites in Arizona
Under Arizona law, a dog owner may be strictly liable for a dog bite. The Arizona law that provides this is Arizona Revised Statute § 11-1025. Strict liability means that the dog owner is responsible simply because the dog bite occurred. In other words, the dog owner can be held responsible regardless of his or her mental state. No showing of intent or negligence is required. In other states, the victim of a dog bite may be required to show that the dog owner was unreasonable in the handling of the dog or knew that the dog was vicious. This is not the case in Arizona. Arizona provides strong protections and gives important rights to victims of dog bites.
In the Arizona case of Murdock v. Balle, the court confirmed that a dog owner is liable under the strict liability dog bite statute regardless of the fault of the dog owner. One year later, in Massey v. Colaric, the court again held that a dog owner is responsible for a dog bite even if the owner had no knowledge that the dog was vicious. As explained below, the person bitten only needs to show that he or she was lawfully on private or public property and that they did not provoke the dog.
“Arizona provides strong protections and gives important rights to victims of dog bites.”
Pursuant to A.R.S. § 11-1025, a dog owner is responsible to pay for the harm caused by a dog bite if:
- The victim of the dog bite was bitten on public property; or
- The victim of the dog bite was bitten while lawfully on private property
The one defense available to a dog owner, who would otherwise be responsible under the law, is to show that the injured person provoked the dog. Examples of this are discussed below.
However, Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 11-1025 does prohibit a lawsuit by a person who was attacked by a military or a police dog in the following circumstances:
- The dog bite occurred in response to harassment or provocation of the dog
- The dog bite took place while the dog was helping to hold or apprehend a suspect
- The dog bit the person during a criminal investigation
- The dog bite happened while an officer was executing a warrant
- The dog was defending a police officer or another individual
What Does it Mean to Be a Dog’s Owner?
For purposes of Arizona’s dog bite law, A.R.S. § 11-1025, it is important to remember that only a dog’s owner is liable for injuries. An “owner” is defined by A.R.S. § 11-1001 as a person who keeps a dog more than six days in a row. What it means to “keep” a dog was recently defined by the court in a case called Spirlong v. Browne. In that case, the court explained that to keep a dog means “to exercise care, custody, or control of a dog.” Whether a person is considered a dog’s owner would normally be a question for a jury to decide. The following factors could be considered in making this determination:
- Whether the person provides the dog its food
- Whether the person cleans up after the animal
- Whether the person administers any medications
- Whether the person takes the dog for walks
- Whether the person otherwise treats the dog as a member of the family
The Requirement of Lawful Presence on Private Property
Under Arizona’s dog bite law, a dog owner is liable when the person bitten is in a public place or is lawfully on private property. Private property would include the property of the dog owner. Arizona Revised Statute § 11-1026 defines lawful presence to include the following:
- A guest
- An invitee
- A person performing a duty pursuant to state or federal law
- A person performing a duty according to a municipal (city or county) ordinance
It is important to remember that a dog owner is liable to a victim who is legally on private property. This means that Arizona’s strict liability statute may not allow a trespasser to recover for injuries from a dog bite. As a result, if you were trespassing on a property with visibly posted “no trespassing” signs, you may not be able to recover compensation from the owner for your dog bite injury.
Examples of Strict Liability Under Arizona’s Dog Bite Law
An owner of a dog that bites someone in a public place is responsible for the harm suffered. This could include the following scenarios:
- A dog bite in a public park
- Someone bitten while walking on a public sidewalk
- The victim of a dog attack at a public beach
- A dog attack in a public government building
- A dog bite at a public school
- Someone bitten by a dog on the street
Likewise, the owner of a dog is liable to someone legally present in or on private property. Examples of potential dog bite victims include:
- A house guest bitten at the house of a dog owner
- A person bitten at their own home by the dog of a guest
- A postal worker
- A person lawfully on the property to do business
- A delivery person
- A person on the property to install internet or cable
- A person with the electric or gas company
In addition, the owner of a dog is responsible if someone is bitten by his or her dog on private property that is open to the public. This could include:
- A dog attack in a retail store or shopping center
- A dog bite in a restaurant or bar
- Injuries caused by a dog on a University or College Campus
- A dog bite in a parking lot
- A dog attack in an office building or commercial center
In the Arizona case of Mulcahy v. Damron, a dog owner was liable to a dog groomer who was bitten by the owner’s dog. It did not matter that the dog was entrusted to the pet hospital where the dog groomer was working.
In one other example, personal to the attorneys at Scottsdale Injury Lawyers, a young girl was taking piano lessons at the home of a teacher who owned a dog. One evening, the girl’s mother dropped her off for a piano lesson. The teacher had forgotten to tell the mother that the teacher was going to be late getting home for the lesson. When the girl went into the home, the dog viewed the girl as an intruder and bit her. The dog bite was serious, and the girl had to be taken to the emergency room. Fortunately, the girl survived. Under Arizona law, the dog owner would be liable for the damages suffered.
Provoking the Dog as a Defense to Arizona’s Strict Liability Dog Bite Law
The only defense to Arizona’s strict liability dog bite law is provocation. Provocation means that the person who was bitten provoked the dog or did something irresponsible that caused the dog to attack. The defense of provocation is found in A.R.S. § 11-1027. Provocation is a valid defense if “a reasonable person would expect that the conduct or circumstances would be likely to provoke a dog.” This is a question to be decided by a jury in court. One Arizona case that discussed what might amount to provocation is Massey v. Colaric. In Massey, the court mentioned the following actions that could provoke a dog:
- Kicking the dog
- Hitting the dog
- Teasing the dog
Another helpful Arizona case about provocation is Toney v. Bouthillier. According to the court in that case, even a very young child is capable of provoking a dog. In addition, the provocation can be intentional or unintentional. One example of unintentional conduct is something as innocent as accidentally stepping on a dog’s tail. This was the fact scenario in a 1976 Michigan Supreme Court case titled Nicholes v. Lorenz. The Arizona court in Toney v. Bouthillier acknowledged that this could amount to provocation.
Responsibility for a Dog at Large
Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 11-1020 applies to dogs “at large.” It imposes liability under circumstances that may not be covered by A.R.S. § 11-1025. Importantly, Arizona’s at-large dog attack statute also provides for strict liability. Potential distinctions between the application of the two statutes include:
- The manner in which the person was injured (bite vs. other attack)
- The types of damages (property vs. personal injury)
- Person responsible for the injuries
- Location of the dog during the attack
First, A.R.S. § 11-1020 applies generally to an “injury” caused by the dog, while A.R.S. § 11-1025 covers only a dog “bite.” Second, the at-large statute protects against not only injury to the person, but also against property damage. Third, under A.R.S. § 11-1020, either the dog’s owner or anyone responsible for the animal is liable for the injuries and damages inflicted. Finally, under the at-large statute, the dog must in fact be at-large. A dog is considered at large under A.R.S. § 11-1001 when it is not restrained by a leash nor confined by an enclosure. This means that the following individuals may be liable under the at-large law:
- A dog owner or person responsible for a dog, whose dog escapes the owner’s property and attacks another person
- A dog owner whose dog pulls away from their control while on a walk
- A hired dog walker who is responsible for the dog at the time of the attack
- A person who steals a dog, which then bites another person
- The dog owner whose dog spooks a horse, which throws its rider to the ground – Massey v. Colaric
The stolen-dog scenario was addressed in the Arizona case of Johnson ex rel. Johnson v. Svidergol. In that case, the parents of the child who was bitten attempted to hold the dog owner liable. What made the case so unique was that the dog had been stolen prior to the attack. The court pointed out that the law used the word “or” and explained that either the dog owner or someone responsible for the dog could be liable for the injuries caused. In other words, the dog owners in the case were not necessarily the persons responsible for the dog after it was stolen. As a result, the person who stole the dog could instead be the one liable for the injuries suffered.
Since A.R.S. § 11-1020 discusses injuries caused by a dog, not necessarily a bite, there are several scenarios that could apply. For example,
- A dog that collides with a person causing that person to trip and fall
- A dog that runs in front of a cyclist causing that person to crash
- A dog in the road that leads to a car accident
- A dog that jumps on someone causing an injury
- A dog that lunges at someone causing an injury
- A dog that spooks a horse causing its rider an injury
- A dog that scratches with its claws causing an injury
There are two additional points to keep in mind when considering Arizona’s strict liability at-large dog attack statute. First, provoking a dog is again the only defense. Second, lawsuits may not be brought against governmental agencies for injuries caused by an at-large military or police dog, just as they may not be brought for a dog bite by a military or police dog under A.R.S. § 11-1025.
Dog Owners May Also Be Responsible Under Common Law Theories of Liability, Including Negligence, Assault and Battery
The Arizona dog bite and at-large laws discussed above impose strict liability on the statutory owner or person responsible for the dog. However, the case of Murdock v. Balle makes clear that a dog bite victim can still pursue other theories of recovery. The court in Murdock explained that a common law theory of recovery against a dog owner was distinct from the dog bite statute. Under the common law theory of liability for an injury caused by an animal, a dog owner is liable “if the owner knew or had reason to know of their animal’s vicious propensities.” This is commonly shown by presenting evidence that the dog had previously bitten or attacked someone.
Sadly, all too often this is the case. Our firm encounters very few dog bite cases, where the dog had not bitten before, tried to bite before or otherwise showed vicious tendencies. A dog bite victim may also hold a dog owner liable under a general negligence theory when the owner fails to properly supervise or control the dog.
The doctrine of negligence per se may also be implicated. Under this legal principle, a dog owner is presumed to be negligent if a certain state law or local ordinance is violated. These could include violations of the following:
- The Arizona dog bite statute found at A.R.S. § 11-1025
- The Arizona at-large dog attack statute codified at A.R.S. § 11-1020
- A local ordinance prohibiting ownership of certain dog breeds
- A local ordinance requiring dogs to be kept on a leash
Finally, in the most disturbing cases, a dog owner may intentionally “sic” or order a dog to attack another person. This could give rise to a claim against the dog owner for assault and battery. This sort of intentional and willful conduct may also entitle the victim of the dog attack to punitive damages. Punitive damages allow a court or jury to award money to punish the wrongdoer.
How Long do I Have to File a Lawsuit After the Dog Bite?
Under Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 12-541, a person has one year to bring a lawsuit if liability is based on a statute. This means that a victim of a dog bite must file suit within one year of the attack to pursue a claim based on Arizona’s strict liability dog bite laws. These include what have been referred to as the dog bite statute, A.R.S. § 11-1025, and the at-large dog attack statute, A.R.S. § 11-1020.
On the other hand, a dog bite victim has two years to file a lawsuit against a dog owner under a common law theory of liability, such as negligence, for personal injuries suffered in the attack. This two-year window is provided by A.R.S. § 12-542, which applies to actions for “injuries done to the person.” It was previously argued that the two-year limitation period should also apply to a lawsuit brought under the strict liability dog bite statutes because of the personal injuries involved. However, the court in Murdock v. Balle left no doubt that strict liability claims brought under A.R.S. §§ 11-1020 and 1025 must be filed within one year of the dog bite.
“It is especially important that you contact an attorney prior to the one-year anniversary of the dog attack. If you fail to do so, you will lose the ability to pursue a strict liability claim and make the case much harder.
As such, if you or a loved one was injured by a dog bite or dog attack, it is important that you consult with a dog bite attorney as soon as possible. This will allow the attorney time to gather evidence, evaluate ownership and insurance, try to negotiate a settlement and file a lawsuit if needed. It is especially important that you contact an attorney prior to the one-year anniversary of the dog attack. If you fail to do so, you will lose the ability to pursue a strict liability claim and make the case much harder. You will then need to show that “the owner knew or had reason to know of their animal’s vicious propensities.” If that is not the case, then you may not recover any compensation for your dog bite injuries. Contact an experienced dog bite attorney at Scottsdale Injury Lawyers today by calling (480) 900-7390 or by submitting an email.
Does Scottsdale Have Any Local Dog-Related Laws?
Yes. Scottsdale has its own dog-related laws. The ordinances of the City of Scottsdale are referred to collectively as the Scottsdale Revised Code. Chapter 4, Article III, of the Scottsdale Revised Code covers the following topics:
- The general keeping of dogs within the City of Scottsdale
- Licensing, tags and records
- Dogs at large (also known as the leash law)
- Quarantine or confinement after a bite
- Reporting a bite
Below are the topics most relevant to a dog bite case and resulting personal injury lawsuit. However, you can find Chapter 4 of the Scottsdale Revised Code for a comprehensive review of Scottsdale’s local animal laws at the following: Scottsdale Revised Code, Chapter 4.
Sec. 4-39 of the Scottsdale Revised Code contains what is commonly referred to as the city’s leash law. Any dog not on the owner’s property must be on a leash that is no longer than six (6) feet long and must be under the physical control of the owner. If the dog is not on a leash, it is considered to be at large. Sec. 4-39 states that “[n]o dog shall be permitted at large.” Sec. 4-39 also provides several examples of when a person will be in violation of the ordinance. Examples of violations include the following:
- A dog off leash on public property
- A dog off leash on public streets
- A dog off leash on school property
- A dog off leash in a public park
Note that either the owner of the dog or a person acting on behalf of the owner is guilty of the violation.
There are exceptions under which a person will not be in violation of the ordinance, even though his or her dog is at large. These include:
- Dogs used to control livestock
- Approved dog racing
- Hunting dogs
- Kennel club dogs
- Dog obedience training classes
- Dog parks
Permitting a dog to remain at large can have serious consequences. For one, a violation of the ordinance can give rise to a negligence claim against the dog owner or person acting on the owner’s behalf. As discussed above, the violation can lead to a presumption of negligent conduct. Other consequences can be found in the ordinance itself, § 4-39, including:
- Apprehension and impoundment of the dog
- Issuance of a citation
- Conviction of a class 3 misdemeanor
- Putting the dog down
What Are the Most Dangerous Dog Breeds?
A past study by the Center for Disease Control found the Pit Bull Terrier, the Rottweiler and the German Shephard, in that order, to be the three deadliest breeds. More recent statistics reported by dogsbite.org showed that the Pit Bull was still responsible for the most deaths in the United States, accounting for nearly 70% of all fatalities in 2019. However, other breeds not generally considered dangerous have been associated with fatalities. For example, the Labrador made the same top-10 list in 2017 and the Boxer breed did as well in 2019.
Should I Report a Dog Bite Incident?
Yes, you should always report a dog bite incident. Under § 4-40 of the Scottsdale Revised Code, a dog bite must be reported to the Maricopa County Animal Care and Control. The Animal Care and Control website provides an online form to submit information about a dog bite or attack of a person. This form can be found here: Maricopa County Animal Care and Control Form Center.
The Maricopa County Animal Care and Control can also be contacted at (602) 506-7387.
What Damages Can I Recover?
Victims of dog bites are entitled to compensation as in any other personal injury lawsuit. The types of damages are generally broken down into what are referred to as economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages include the following:
- Past medical care
- Future medical care
- Lost past income
- Decreased ability to earn income in the future
- Property damage
Under Arizona law, noneconomic damages include:
- Nature, extent and duration of the injury
- Pain and suffering
- Post-traumatic stress
- Emotional disturbance
- Disability or disfigurement
- Loss of enjoyment of life as it was before the dog bite
- Losses, such as love and affection, related to the marital or a parent-child relationship
Who Will Pay for My Injuries?
In a car accident case, the at-fault driver is legally required to carry liability insurance. In a dog bite case, the most likely sources of insurance will be the following:
- A homeowner’s policy
- Renter’s insurance
- A commercial liability insurance policy (if the bite occurred at a business)
One thing to be aware of is that some policies may exclude certain breeds, e.g., pit bulls, from coverage. In addition, insurance coverage may be denied if the owner of the dog failed to notify the insurance company that he had a dog or materially misrepresented information regarding the dog when he obtained the insurance policy. If that is the case, or if no insurance coverage otherwise exists, the attorneys at Scottsdale Injury Lawyers can help you investigate whether the responsible party has personal assets that may be available to compensate you for your losses.
Contact the Scottsdale dog bite attorneys at Scottsdale Injury Lawyers
Unfortunately, our “best friend” can become our worst enemy. However, under Arizona law, you may be entitled to compensation for all of your injuries. The Scottdale dog bite attorneys at Scottsdale Injury Lawyers can help you recover a fair amount to compensate you for everything you have been through. Contact us at (480) 900-7390 for a free consultation. A skilled personal injury attorney is available now to discuss your case and help determine your right to recovery.
About the author: The content on this page was written by Scottsdale personal injury attorney and civil rights lawyer Tony Piccuta. Piccuta graduated with honors from Indiana University-Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, Indiana (Ranked Top 40 US News & World Report 2020). Piccuta took and passed the State bars of Arizona, California, Illinois and Nevada (all on the first try). He actively practices throughout Arizona and California. He is a trial attorney that regularly handles serious personal injury cases and civil rights lawsuits. He has obtained six and seven figure verdicts in both state and federal court. He has been recognized by Super Lawyers for six years straight. He is a member of the Arizona Association of Justice, Maricopa County Bar Association, Scottsdale Bar Association, American Association for Justice, National Police Accountability Project and Consumer Attorneys of California, among other organizations.
Disclaimer: The information on this web site is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The information on this page is attorney advertising. Reading and relying upon the content on this page does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, you should contact our law firm for a free consultation and to discuss your specific case and issues.
 https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/pets/dogs.html (under healthy people tab)