Phoenix Dog Bite Lawyer
Dog bite attacks can be the most psychologically damaging events you face. You can’t control the dog. You don’t know when, or if, the dog will stop attacking. The emotional trauma and physical injuries can change your life forever.
At Gage Mathers Law Group, we care deeply about dog bite victims. For over 50 years, our Phoenix dog bite lawyers have helped dog bite victims throughout Arizona get the compensation they deserve. We are here to help if you or a loved one has been the victim of a dog bite. Call (602) 258-0646 to request a free consultation.
Should I Get A Lawyer for a Dog Bite?
Yes. You should hire a dog bite lawyer soon after the incident because time is of the essence. To increase the success of your claim, evidence needs to be preserved, witnesses interviewed, and potential liable parties identified. In the immediate aftermath of a dog attack, you should focus on getting better and allow an experienced dog bite attorney to focus on protecting your legal rights.
An experienced dog bite attorney will help you figure out if:
- You have a claim against someone else and, if so, who.
- Anyone shares responsibility for your injuries and damages.
- There is available insurance coverage to compensate you.
As your attorney investigates the situation, they will develop a strategy to maximize your financial outcome. This could be tricky since there are numerous Arizona laws that apply to dog bites and animal attacks. Experience with these types of claims can make a difference in the compensation you receive.
What Kind of Lawyer Do I Need for a Dog Bite?
Dog bites are a form of personal injury. Therefore, many personal injury lawyers also handle dog bite claims, but not all of them do it well.
You want a dog bite lawyer who is knowledgeable, experienced, and knows how to get results. Insurance adjusters are experienced with dog bite claims, so why shouldn’t your lawyer be? Our experience shows that insurance adjusters try to take advantage of inexperienced lawyers, just like unrepresented dog bite victims, by making lowball offers and trying to scare the victim.
You need a dog bite lawyer who is familiar with State laws and local regulations and is not afraid to take your case to trial.
How Much Time Do I Have To Hire a Dog Bite Lawyer?
Do not delay because the deadline to pursue a dog bite claim runs fast in Arizona.
There are different Statutes of Limitations that apply to dog bite claims. These time limits create deadlines to settle your case, otherwise, you must file a lawsuit. A smart lawyer will target the earliest deadline, which is one year after the dog bite, to take advantage of strict liability. Strict liability means the dog owner is liable for any injuries caused by their dog, “…regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of its viciousness.”6 There are few defenses to strict liability.
After the one-year mark, you have another year (up to two years from the date of the bite) to sue the dog owner for negligence. Your burden of proof is higher and there are more defenses to a negligent dog bite claim. For example, you have to prove that the dog owner was aware of their dog’s dangerous tendencies and failed to mitigate the possibility of injury.
However, if the dog’s owner or operator is a government agency (e.g., police), then you must serve a Notice of Claim on the appropriate governmental agency within 180 days of the dog bite. There are limitations to these types of claims so, again, it is best to hire an experienced dog bite attorney as soon as possible.
How Much Money Can I Get After a Dog Bite?
The value of a dog bite claim varies based on your injuries and damages. Permanent physical scars usually receive more compensation than temporary cuts and bruises. Physical injuries tend to be valued more than psychological injuries, unless the psychological injuries require extensive treatment.
If you’ve been bitten by a dog, you may be compensated for:
- Physical injuries, like cuts, scrapes, and puncture wounds;
- Scarring and disfigurement;
- Pain and suffering during and after the attack;
- Emotional and psychological trauma;
- Loss of enjoyment of life, including anything that hinders your ability to enjoy your normal activities;
- Lost income; and
- Medical bills and other financial losses.
An experienced dog bite lawyer can help you maximize compensation for each of the items identified in Arizona’s jury instructions, RAJI (Civil) 6th Ed.5
What Should I Do After a Dog Bite?
What you do after a dog bite can have significant ramifications on your health and the ability to hold the dog owner legally responsible for your injuries and damages.
1. Get to a Safe Place as Soon as Possible
There can be a significant amount of confusion after a dog bite. Depending on the location and environment there will likely be a lot of confusion and chaos surrounding you. The most important thing is to find a place where you are away from the attacking dog. Distance is safety. Similarly, make sure there are obstacles between you and the dog. Fences, garbage cans, benches, whatever you can put between you and the dog to stop the attack, do it.
If you cannot get away from the dog, use objects that you can wave around to make yourself look bigger as you safely retreat to a safer area. These can include water bottles, branches, sticks, canes, or any other objects that help you maintain the dog at a distance. You can also use these to defend yourself, if necessary, but do not engage the dog. Maintain as much distance as possible.
The most important areas to protect are your head and neck; places where dogs may tend to attack. Your actions to distance yourself from the dog will help mitigate potential injuries.
2. Check for Injuries
Once in a safe position, take a few moments to check if you have been hurt. You might not realize how badly you’ve been hurt given the adrenaline rush. Injuries from a dog bite can vary drastically and are influenced by many factors. Take the time to slow your breathing and check your arms, legs, and other potential areas where you may have been bitten. If there is someone with you or nearby, ask for help to check you for injuries in areas you might not be able to see.
3. Collect Information
A vital part of a dog bite claim is to know who owns the dog. If possible, collect any and all information available from the dog owner—name, address, phone number, and, if possible, homeowner’s or renter’s insurance information. If possible, take pictures of the dog, its owner or handler, where the dog came from, and your injuries. Video evidence can be highly compelling in a dog bite claim. There may be witnesses that saw what happen, or even helped out. Gather their information as well. All of this will be essential for us to pursue a claim on your behalf.
Homeowner’s or renter’s insurance information will be the primary source of compensation when pursuing a dog bite claim.
4. Call the Police or Animal Control
Police and Animal Control can help with gathering the necessary information from the dog owner or handler. Either call 911 for police or, in Maricopa County, 602 506 7387 for Animal Control. You may also file a report online with Maricopa County Animal Control online (other counties have their own Animal Control department). This will also be helpful because Animal Control maintains bite records on dogs and we will need to know if the dog has a bite history.
5. Get Medical Attention
Injuries related to a dog bite can vary significantly. They can range from extremely serious to minor scratches or puncture wounds. Regardless of the severity of the injury, you should seek medical attention. Small bites might not seem worrisome in the beginning, but the risk of infection or other animal-related diseases like rabies can be a significant problem later. A medical professional can assess your injuries and guide your treatment.
6. Keep Track of Everything
- Maintain a Pain Journal to help your doctors and lawyer understand what you are experiencing.
- Keep a list of all your providers (e.g., ambulance, hospital, PCP, physical therapist, etc.).
- Document time away from work, or school, whether or not covered by sick leave.
- Note any missed promotions or raises that you might have qualified for.
- Keep a list of activities you could not do or that you did with pain (e.g., difficulty sleeping, difficulty performing daily household activities or caring for family members, inability to exercise, impact on personal relationships, change in mood)
7. Call Gage Mathers As Soon As Possible
Gage Mathers Law Group is an elite personal injury firm with significant experience helping dog bite victims. We have helped thousands of clients obtain hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for their injuries and damages in Phoenix. Contact us now.
Dog Bite FAQs
My friend‘s dog bit my child while on a playdate at their house. I don’t want to sue my friend, but we have medical bills.
Anyone who is paying a mortgage on their house will be required to have homeowners insurance. This insurance will likely cover a dog bite. One of the reasons we have insurance is to protect us against unexpected events that have severe consequences. A dog bit that requires a hospital visit can be one of these events.
We would suggest talking to your friend and finding out if their home insurance covers dog bites. If it does, get the contact information for their insurance and call a trusted lawyer. Your lawyer will call the insurance company and negotiate on your behalf. Aside from preventing the insurance company from taking advantage of you, this also let’s “the professionals” handle this instead of you and your friend fighting over money or responsibility.
My grandmother was knocked over by a “friendly” dog, and broke her hip. Is the dog owner liable for her medical bills?
Possibly. Arizona injury-related laws regarding dogs provide strict liability for dog bites and injuries that occur when the dog is considered “at-large,” meaning the dog is not on a leash or confined by an enclosure. If, however, your grandmother was injured under different circumstances, then Arizona’s negligence laws may provide a mechanism for grandmother to get her medical bills covered. These types of claims are very fact specific and will require proof the dog owner did something wrong. You can learn more about this on our Dog Bite practice page.
A stray dog attacked and wounded my dog. Can I sue the city?
No. Generally speaking, the only ones liable for the conduct of a dog are the dog’s owners. There are circumstances when a person in control of the dog will be responsible for the dog’s actions, but this is not one of them.
What is "Strict Liability" with Dog Bites or Attacks?
Arizona Strict Liability Dog Bite Laws
In Arizona, dog owners can be held strictly liable for their furry friends. Strict Liability usually means that your intent does not matter – did your dog bite someone? You are responsible. Did your dog knock over an elderly woman? You are responsible. Did your dog cause a bicyclist to fall into traffic? … you get the idea. This makes it VERY important to have insurance coverage. If you have a pet, you should definitely have a conversation with your home or renter insurance company.
How “Strict” the strict liability is, changes from state to state. For example, there can be exceptions if your dog was provoked. In some states, your liability is limited to only the bite of the dog. In Arizona, there are exceptions. For example, in order for the owner to be held liable, the victim must have had a RIGHT to be in your home or property. Someone trespassing can lose their right to sue a dog owner.
In Arizona how long do I have to sue someone for a dog bite?
The Arizona Statue of Limitations says that you have 2 years from when you were bit to take legal action. However, in some situations you cannot sue, and in others you only have 180 days (!).
For example, the dog own is only held strictly liable for the first year. If you wait longer than 1 year to take legal action, the courts will use a different standard to determine if you can sue the owner. Instead of holding the owner strictly liable for the dog’s bite, the courts will look at whether the owner was negligent. This is much harder to prove. This is one of many reasons it is important contact a lawyer soon after you are bitten. Even if you decide to find a different lawyer, or not sue – we highly recommend calling a lawyer right away.
Please watch our video on Arizona Statue of Limitations where we discuss why there are time limits, how strictly they are enforced, and some of the known exceptions.
If my dog bites someone, am I responsible?
In Arizona, you are responsible if your dog bites someone. You can be sued for damages, medical bills, and pain and suffering.
Wait.. I only have 180 days in Arizona to sue someone?
In Arizona, if you are injured by a police dog or animal being used by a governmental agency, then you must serve the appropriate governmental entity with a Notice of Claim no later than 180 days after the incident. After doing so, you then only have 1 year after the incident to file a lawsuit. This is true with other lawsuits that involve the government. Learn more about the Arizona Statute of Limitations for dogbites, car accidents, and more.
My dog ran away, and someone says it attacked them. They are threatening to sue me if I don’t pay them money. What should I do?
You should call your homeowners or renters insurance company. Arizona Revised Statutes 11-1020 addresses liability for dog attacks. It states, injury to any person or damage to any property by a dog while at large shall be the full responsibility of the dog owner or person or persons responsible for the dog when such damages were inflicted.
My dog bit someone 4 years ago, can they sue me?
The Arizona Statue of Limitations says that you have at most 2 years from when you were bit. Judges take this law very seriously, and there are few exceptions. Please watch our video on Arizona Statue of Limitations where we discuss why there are time limits, how strictly they are enforced, and some of the known exceptions. After 4 years, most likely your case would be thrown out. However, if the bite victim was under the age of 18 at the time, they can sue up to their 20th birthday.
The pool cleaner said our dog bit him. What should I do?
Arizona has strict liability laws regarding dog bites. If the pool cleaner had permission to be on your property, and your dog bit them, you are legally responsible. This is true even if your dog has never bit anyone before, or if you locked up the dog and it somehow escaped.
My apartment building won’t allow tenants to have a certain breed of dog. Is this legal?
If your apartment is privately owned, the management can disallow certain breeds of dogs. Although new laws were passed to help prevent this kind of discrimination these laws currently only apply to Insurance Companies, and judges, arbitrators and other legal decision makers.
Your lease will indicate whether dogs are allowed in the rental property and, if so, any restrictions that might apply. These provisions in the lease agreement will likely govern. If you have additional questions about tenant laws, please contact a landlord-tenant lawyer.
Can my dog bite in Self Defense? What if it was provoked?
Several years ago we had a client that was being sued after their dog bit someone walking by their house. The victim’s attorneys were asking over $30,000 to cover medical bills. However, after reviewing testimony from several witnesses, we were able to show that the victim had been provoking the dog. Under Arizona law, this affects whether the owner is legally liable for the dog’s actions. We were able to get the case dismissed.
Our pet alligator attacked someone after they provoked it. Am I legally responsible?
Probably. Provocation is most likely not considered an exception with certain exotic pets. For more information please refer to the Arizona Administrative Code: https://apps.azsos.gov/public_services/Title_12/12-04.pdf, especially because certain exotic pets require special licenses and permits. If you or someone you know has been attacked by an alligator, mountain lion, sugar baby, or other exotic pet – contact Gage Mathers right away.
- U.S. pet ownership statistics. American Veterinary Medical Association. 2017-2018.
- Medically attended dog bites. National Canine Research Council. 1 February 2016.
- Dog bite statistics. DogBite.org.
- 13-Year U.S. Dog Bite Fatality Chart – 2005 to 2017. DogBite.org. 26 April 2018.
- Personal Injury Damages Instructions. Revised Arizona Jury Instructions (Civil), 6th. July 2013.
- Arizona Revised Statutes 11-1025. Arizona State Legislature.
- Arizona Revised Statutes 12-821-01. Arizona State Legislature.
- 15 Year U.S. Dog Bite Fatality Chart – 2005 to 2019. DogBite.org. 15 July 2020.