If you suffered an injury from a dog bite in Phoenix or the surrounding area, you have the right to hold the guilty party accountable. Contact the Phoenix dog bite lawyers at Begam Marks & Traulsen, P.A., for a free and confidential case evaluation. We can help you secure compensation for serious injuries or those of your children after a dog attack.
Our Phoenix personal injury lawyers serve Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, the Greater Phoenix Area and throughout Arizona.
Who Is Liable for My Dog Bite?
Dog bite liability is more complicated than liability in other personal injury cases because you cannot hold the attacker responsible for the incident. To receive compensation, the injured person needs to show the dog attack caused his or her injury and that the injury occurred when he or she was in a public place or lawfully on private property. People who are lawfully on private property are guests or visitors who have permission to be there. For example, the law allows mail carriers to be on a person’s private property; if they suffer dog bites on the property, the dog owner may be liable.
The dog bite victim also must show the pet owner was reckless or negligent. For example, if the dog owner was walking the dog on a leash in a public park and was not paying attention to the dog, giving it the opportunity to bite someone, the owner was negligent and could be liable.
Arizona Dog Bite Liability
Arizona is a strict liability state, meaning the owner may be liable even if he or she did not know the dog was aggressive or violent. Under this strict liability statue, the dog does not need to have previously bitten someone for the owner to owe the dog bite victim compensation.
What Damages Can I Recover after a Dog Attack?
If the courts determine the defendant’s actions caused your injury, they may award you certain types of damages – or financial compensation.
The first type is reimbursement for medical bills. The court considers medical expenses the cost of any medical attention you currently need or will need in the future. Medical expenses following a serious dog attack may include plastic surgery, skin grafts, reconstructive surgery.
The defendant may also have to compensate you if the dog exacerbated a pre-existing medical injury or condition. For example, if a dog knocked you down and you have a bad back, the defendant would be responsible for your medical expenses, even though you already had the injury prior to the incident.
Pain and Suffering
The court may also award you damages for pain and suffering, which covers any change in overall quality of life. Pain and suffering address physical, mental, and emotional trauma. If you develop a deep fear of dogs or post-traumatic stress disorder, for example, the defendant may have to compensate you for the trauma. Some of the factors that the court or Phoenix dog bite attorneys may consider when deciding the monetary amount of pain and suffering include:
- Multiplying total medical bills and lost earnings by between 1.5 and four
- Whether the attack permanently disfigured the victim
- Age of the victim
- Evidence of the need for future medical treatment
Some serious injuries cause strain on personal relationships, especially between spouses. If your injury is impacting your relationships, the defendant may need to compensate you for loss of consortium, which includes loss of intimacy and companionship.
You may also receive compensation for lost income. The court could include any wages that you lost because you needed days off work or a difference in earning potential that reduced your overall salary after the incident.
In certain cases, the court may also award punitive damages. Unlike the other types of compensation, punitive damages focus on punishing the defendant rather than compensating the victim – though the victim is the recipient of the damages. If the court determines the defendant knew he or she was acting recklessly and believes he or she deserves more punishment, it may order the defendant to pay punitive damages.
If you lost a loved one due to an animal attack, you may be able to recover damages for funeral expenses.
What is the Statute of Limitations in Arizona?
The statute of limitations is the deadline by which you must file your dog bite claim, or else risk the courts refusing to hear your case. It’s very important to adhere to your statute of limitations for any personal injury cases. Time limits vary based on your state and the type of claim you wish to file. You have two years from the date of your animal attack to file a personal injury claim in Arizona. After your two-year deadline passes, you generally won’t have the right to seek damage recovery.
If your dog-related case only involves damaged property, you still have two years from the incident to file. In very limited cases, the Arizona courts may agree to extend someone’s deadline. These scenarios are most common in cases involving young children or ongoing criminal cases involving the same incident. Ask a dog bite lawyer for your specific deadline in Phoenix. Then, act quickly to make sure you don’t miss your opportunity for financial recovery.
What Kind of Insurance Is Involved in a Dog Bite Case?
Medical treatment for a dog or animal bite can cost thousands of dollars. If someone else owned the dog that bit you, you may be wondering who will pay for these expenses. Under Arizona law, a dog is technically a piece of property, so renters or homeowner’s insurance will generally cover dog bite damages. You will seek damage recovery from the pet owner’s home insurance company. If the dog owner doesn’t have insurance, your own insurance policy may cover your damages. Some homeowner insurance policies only cover dog attacks on the owner’s property and some do not cover certain dog breeds, such as Rottweilers, pit bulls, or German Shepherds. To learn more about your options for compensation following a dog attack, speak with a qualified injury lawyer about your dog bite claim.
Negotiating with an insurance company regarding an animal attack incident isn’t easy. The insurance company has the funds to compensate you, but it typically won’t do so without a battle. Insurance companies can try many different tactics to take advantage of claimants and offer minimal amounts. The best way to stand your ground is with help from a Phoenix dog bite attorney. Our dog bite lawyers can help you navigate insurance claims, communicate with claims adjusters, and fight for fair compensation based on the circumstances.
What to Do If Attacked by a Dog
Between 2008 and 2012, Arizona hospitals saw 34,151 emergency room visits for dog bite injuries. Though dogs are usually loyal companions, some can be dangerous. Deadly attacks rarely happen, but dogs commonly try to intimidate or bite strange people in their territory. If you regularly jog, walk or ride a bike, you should know how to respond if confronted by an aggressive dog.
First, some canine psychology. Assertive dogs can become more aggressive if they think they are being challenged, it is generally best to avoid making direct eye contact and do not shout at the dog. The best thing you can do is to remain calm. Never run away from an aggressive dog. Doing so can trigger its “prey” instinct and cause it to attack. Also, try not to act frightened.
In the event a dog does attack you, our Phoenix dog bite attorneys recommend keeping the following tips in mind:
- Protect your most vulnerable areas (face, throat, and chest).
- If you are knocked down, roll into a ball.
- Do not pull away, since this will make bite worse.
- If possible, distract the dog with a piece of clothing or other item.
After an Animal Attack
After a dog attack, be sure to get medical attention, contact the police and try to identify the dog owner. Under Arizona law, dog owners have a responsibility to keep their pets from harming other people. If they fail to do so, they are negligent and can be liable for all damages caused by the attack.
Seeking legal advice immediately from an experienced lawyer is critical. While you generally have two years after the bite to file a common law negligence claim against private dog owners, if you file the action within one year, the private dog owner is strictly liable. That means you do not have to prove that the pet owner did anything wrong, just that the dog bit you.
Our dog bite attorneys have successfully handled many dog attack cases, making sure that bite victims receive fair compensation for medical costs, lost wages, trauma counseling, property damage and, in more serious cases, permanent disfigurement.
Timeline of a Dog Attack Case
Each dog bite case in Phoenix is unique, but most follow the same or similar processes to go from the initial filing of the claim to a successful settlement or verdict. Learning what to expect can help you and your family prepare for the legal journey that may lie ahead. Talk to a qualified Phoenix dog attack attorney for case-specific information, processes, and timelines. In the meantime, here’s a general outline of what to expect:
- First week. The actions you take in the first days following your injury are very important. Seek medical help right away after being bitten by an animal. Preserve evidence such as photographs of the scene, the dog owner’s name, and your medical bills and records.
- First month. Once you get medical treatment, discuss your rights and opportunities with a dog bite lawyer in Phoenix. A free consultation can give you all the steps and information you need to move forward with a claim.
- Months three through six. In the ensuing months, you’ll write and submit your demand letter, file a lawsuit, and wait for the defendant’s response. Quick cases can come to successful settlements in this amount of time. Others may take longer, especially those that require a trial.
Your complete case could take 12 months or longer, depending on your situation and unique goals. If you want to close your case as quickly as possible, even if that means settling for less than you could potentially get with a trial, your case can move much faster. If, however, your main goal is to maximize compensation, your lawyer may need to spend the necessary time to take a case in front of a judge and jury.
How a Dog Bite Attorney Can Help
Arizona dog bite laws are complicated. If you are pursuing a dog bite injury claim in Phoenix, it is important that you have an experienced dog bite attorney by your side. The team of Phoenix personal injury lawyers at Begam Marks & Traulsen, P.A., have been working with bite victims for more than 60 years. Contact our law firm for a compassionate and determined team that will fight for you and your rights. We offer free consultations to dog bite victims.