“Must love dogs” – It’s an oft-used qualifier in online personals, and why shouldn’t it be? “Man’s best friend” can be loyal, helpful, playful, and a source of comfort during stressful times. However, on rare occasions, dogs can be dangerous, especially to people with whom they are not familiar. Unfortunately, dog bites happen and when they do they can be severe. After dog bite victims has recovered from their injuries there will no doubt be questions on how to move forward:
- What legal remedies are available to me?
- What if the dog owner had a “Beware of Dog” sign on their fence?
- What if I was bit while delivering a package?
- How much time do I have to file a lawsuit?
- What does the law say about dog bites in Arizona?
In the sunshine state, there are two timelines for the statute of limitations for dog bites. The dog bite statutes, A.R.S. 11-1025 through 11-1027, have a one-year statute of limitations from the time of the bite. Section 11-1025A states:
“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.”
In other words, it doesn’t matter if the dog showed zero signs of violence before the incident, or if the owner was blissfully unaware of those signs: The liability lies with the owner. If a claim is brought to the owner at any time within the one year, the owner may be held immediately liable. For the common law negligence statutes, there is a two-year statute of limitation.
There are a few caveats to a dog owner’s liability under the statute. First, the potential plaintiff must be on the private property legally; meaning trespassers are unlikely to prevail in court. Second, if the victim provoked the dog prior to the bite, assignment of liability is less likely. With the exception of encounters with police dogs, where cameras are likely to be present, demonstrating that a victim provoked a dog can be a tall order for dog owners.
What if the owner plainly displayed a “Beware of Dog” sign on the property? Arizona case law has determined a warning sign changes little in terms of the dog owner’s responsibilities toward the public. As long as the victim was invited onto the property, the dog owner bears responsibility for the dog’s actions. This applies to delivery workers as well—who enjoy the implied right to enter the premises during the course of their duties and are thus considered explicitly invited guests under Arizona law.
Dog bite victims may be reluctant to pursue legal action because the owner is a neighbor or host. It is a normal human impulse to avoid confrontation, and the victim might even harbor fears of retribution from the owner. No one wants a bad relationship with their neighbors. We understand the apprehension and can walk a client through all their options including those that do not involve filing a lawsuit.
If you have been the victim of a dog bite, you have options. There are important details you need to be aware of and understand in order to make the best decision about your case. Consulting an attorney is the safest course. Our attorneys at East Valley Injury Law stand ready to advise you on your best options. Feel free to point your Internet browser at our firm’s Website for additional legal guidance on dog bites, and call us for a consultation. Stay safe out there, neighbors.