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How Is Liability Determined in Dog Bite Injury Cases?

Posted on May 24, 2023 in

Every year, hundreds of victims of dog attacks get sent to emergency rooms for serious dog bite injuries. Each state has its own unique set of laws for dog bite injury claims to determine liability for these harmful incidents. Arizona has a strict liability dog bite law, meaning the owner of a dog that injures someone is typically responsible for paying for related damages.

Arizona’s Dog Bite Law

Arizona’s dog bite law is found in the Revised Statutes, Section 11-1025. This law states that the owner of a dog that bites another person is liable for damages suffered by the victim, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness. This rule will apply as long as the person bitten was in a public place or lawfully on private property (including the property of the owner of the dog). It does not apply to cases involving trespassers.

A strict liability dog bite law means that the owner of the pet can be held legally and financially responsible for injuries, property damage and other harm caused by a dog even without proof of negligence. Pet owners are held strictly liable regardless of whether they knew the dog might bite. This is different from states with one-bite rules, which require evidence that the dog had bitten someone or acted vicious prior to the incident, establishing a duty by the pet owner to take reasonable care to prevent a second or subsequent attack.

Other Grounds for Dog Bite Injury Claims

The strict liability law in Arizona makes it easier for victims to recover financial compensation for their injuries after a violent dog attack. Most victims do not have to prove pet owner negligence. However, it is also possible to base a dog bite injury claim on the legal theory of negligence, negligence per se or the one-bite rule (scienter).  

Negligence means that the owner of the dog failed to use reasonable care to prevent a foreseeable attack. Examples include allowing a dog to run at large, failing to properly control a known dangerous dog and failing to obey a mandatory leash law. These acts of negligence could lead to liability on the pet owner for a subsequent incident. If the owner violated a state or municipal law, this could be enough to prove negligence per se without requiring further evidence.

When Is the Dog Owner Not Liable for a Bite Injury?

Under Arizona law, a dog owner may not be liable for a bite injury if the dog was working as a military or police dog at the time of the incident. If the dog was investigating a crime, executing a warrant, defending a police officer, or helping to apprehend or hold a suspect, any bite injuries sustained by a victim will not be grounds for a dog bite injury claim. In addition, a pet owner may not be held liable for injuries suffered by a trespasser who was unlawfully on the premises.

How to Prove Liability in a Dog Bite Case

After a dog bite injury in Arizona, try your best to collect information and evidence that could be used to support your personal injury claim. Even if you use the strict liability law, it is critical to gather evidence of the pet owner’s liability. Strengthen your case with the following information:

  • Circumstantial evidence of prior complaints against the dog
  • Evidence of similar attacks or bite incidents in the past
  • Reports about the dog from Animal Control
  • Signed eyewitness statements
  • Photographs and video footage
  • Medical records and hospital bills (proof of your losses)

You may also need expert testimony to prove your dog bite injury claim. The pet owner’s property insurance company may try to deny liability and make it difficult to obtain the financial compensation that you deserve. In this case, contact an attorney for assistance.