Dogs have been a loyal companion to humans for over 20,000 years, potentially even longer. They have been our protectors, our friends, and even members of our family. We understand the importance of dogs to the familial fabric. We know that when raised in a loving home and trained properly, dogs are lifelong companions. On a daily basis, members of Gage Mathers find themselves petting the loving head of our office dog—Ella, a 15-year-old mini Australian Shepherd brought in by Martin and Liz Mathers. Joseph D’Aguanno, our managing partner, has 4 rescue dogs himself, including a Pitbull mix named Mabel.
However, as leading personal injury attorneys, we have seen the negative side of pet ownership—dogs who deviated from normal canine behavior and caused injuries to a person. Considering there are 76 million dogs in the US and 38.4% of U.S. homes own at least one, it is no surprise that there is an average of 4.4 million dog bites in the U.S. each year.
The majority of the bites result in little to no injury (81%), but it does not take much for a bite to cause serious injury or even death, especially for children or the elderly. Victims also need dob bite lawyers at this point.
The severity of dog bite attacks vary for a multitude of reasons, including stress reaction by the dog or a perceived threat. Other times the dog can be startled or become overly excited during rough and tumble play. Regardless of the reason a bite occurs, the impact can be life changing. Every year approximately 14,025 citizens are hospitalized due to dog bite injuries. These injuries can range from minor bites, requiring a few stitches, to life altering injuries, requiring extensive surgeries including reconstructive surgery, and even death. Regretfully the most susceptible to a fatal encounter with a dog are children. In a 13 year study, from 2005 to 2017, 49% of dog bite fatalities were children age 9 and younger; 48% of those being children less than a year old.
As animal lovers, our main goal is not to punish the dog, which is oftentimes a victim of improper training or handling. We advocate for dog bite victims to ensure they receive the necessary treatment for their injuries and are properly compensated for their pain, suffering, and disfigurement. The injuries can be serious, including systemic infections, with mounting medical bills leading to victims unsure how to proceed or what their rights are.
The average cost of a hospital visit for a dog bite has increased from 2003 at $19,162 to $44,760 in 2019; this is a 133.6% rise in cost. Increasing health care costs are unlikely to explain the doubling of medical expense. We believe the sizeable increase in health costs for dog bite victims is the proliferation of large and dangerous breeds (and improper training). Either way, this is a major event that will impact your life for a long time to come. For this reason, it is vital that you hire an attorney well versed in dog bite cases, who can ensure that you benefit from all resources available to help you with medical cost related to a dog bite.
Gage Mathers has represented dog bite victims for over 50 years. We are experts in navigating the complexities of dog bite laws as well as negotiating with insurance companies to secure maximum settlement value for our clients. You generally only get one chance to go after an insurance company, so you need to choose the right law firm early on. You need a law firm that invested in you and your case, that has substantial experience, is known for its results, and is not afraid of trial. That is why thousands of people have trusted their cases with Gage Mathers. We have a national reputation for getting results for our clients—maximizing the compensation they receive from a dog bite case.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of a dog bite, contact us to see how we can help you.
What to 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 waive around to make yourself look bigger as you safely retreat to a safer area. These can include a 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 influence 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 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 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. Contact us now.
If I received a dog bite, what am I entitled to?
In Arizona, injury victims are entitled to compensation for:
The nature, extent, and duration of the injury;
The pain, discomfort, suffering, disability, disfigurement, and anxiety already experienced, and reasonably probable to be experienced in the future as a result of the injury;
Reasonable expenses of necessary medical care, treatment, and services rendered, and reasonably probable to be incurred in the future;
Lost earnings to date, and any decrease in earning power or capacity in the future; and
Loss of enjoyment of life, that is, the participation in life’s activities to the quality and extent normally enjoyed before the injury.
You want an injury lawyer who is knowledgeable, experienced, and knows how to get results. Insurance companies are not in the business of giving away money. They are usually traded on the stock market, which means they are in the business of making money for shareholders. Not you.
Therefore, you need someone on your side to make your claim more successful. Our experience shows that insurance adjusters try to take advantage of unrepresented dog bite victims by making low-ball offers and then trying to scare people from hiring a lawyer. Don’t be taken advantage. If insurance companies were fair, our firm would not be this successful. Hire an award-winning firm like Gage Mathers who has a national reputation for fighting and winning. But do not wait. The sooner you hire a lawyer, the sooner you have a professional looking out for your best interests.
In Arizona, there is a short time-limit on protecting your rights after a dog bite. This is called the Statute of Limitations. Simply put, there is a period of time to settle your case, otherwise you must file a lawsuit. Dog bite victims have one year from the date of the bite to take advantage of strict liability—this means that for one year, the owner of the dog 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.” 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. As you can see, it is to your benefit NOT to wait to contact a lawyer.
Additionally, the time to file a claim could be even shorter if the dog was either owned or handled by a public entity (e.g., the State of Arizona, or City or County, including police departments) or a public employee of one (e.g., a police officer). If that is the case, a Notice of Claim must be served within 180 days of the date of injury, with the claim needing to be settled or a lawsuit filed within one year of the date of injury. That said, if your dog bite comes from a police dog, there are statutory protections that limit your ability to pursue a claim. So do not wait. Contact a lawyer immediately.
Dog Bite Data by Breed; Caution, not Fear
During a 15-year study regarding dog bite fatalities, 521 Americans were killed. Of those 521, Pit bulls and Rottweilers were responsible for 76.2% (397) of those deaths.
There statistics are concerning for people who live around pitbulls and rottweilers. Why are they so deadly?
Pitbulls were originally bred for animal killing sports and dog fighting, and because of this heritage, they often show a tendency to attack other animals with a remarkable ferocity. They can be unrelenting when attacking. This is likely the reason pitbulls are used in illegal dog fights, by criminal organizations to guard drugs and other property, and to intimidate and attack others. Their ferocious and intimidating nature is one reason they are used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection as drug detection dogs. It is very difficult to ignore this history.
Rottweilers have a different history. They are considered to be one of the oldest dog breeds with origins going back to Roman times. They marched over the Alps with the Roman legions, protecting the humans and driving their cattle. Their main purpose was driving and guarding cattle and defending their masters and their property. Rottweilers have a strong sense of loyalty and purpose. Their temperament makes them great dogs for protecting family and property, but their size can make them a problem for even friendly visitors.
Animal instincts can transform both breeds into dangerous dogs when they perceive a threat or prey. The danger is amplified by a lack of training, abuse, neglect, irresponsible ownership, and further aggressive breeding.
We love these dogs, but we cannot ignore that the majority of dog attack deaths and injuries are caused by two very specific breeds. These statistics suggest that you should be careful around these breeds, especially if the dog is unfamiliar to you. It is also wise to take the statistics into consideration when looking to adopt, especially if you have a young child.
If You’re a Dog Owner, Things to Consider
As a dog owner, if your dog injuries someone, even off your property, you are responsible for the injuries and can be held financially accountable. When pursuing a dog bite claim, attorneys typically go after the dog owner’s homeowners insurance or renter’s insurance. These insurance coverages are to protect you and your assets from a lawsuit in certain situations, including if your dog bites someone.
As a current or future dog owner, it is key to review your current homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy to make sure you are covered if your dog bites someone. Insurance companies closely watch dog bite statistics and each insurance company has a list of “excluded dog breeds.” If you own a dog breed on the excluded list and your dog injures someone, your insurance company will not cover your financial responsibility. This leaves you personally liable for the victim’s medical costs, pain, suffering, disfigurement, and other damages. Your assets are at risk—everything you own is up for grabs. Excluded breeds can vary by insurance company, but it’s not surprising to see Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Chow Chows, or German Shepherds on those lists.
Call your insurance agent or insurance company to make sure you have sufficient insurance coverage to protect yourself from being financially accountable for your dog’s bite. Ask if your dog’s breed is on an excluded list and, if so, whether you can have a “variance” or “rider” to add your dog to your insurance policy. Many insurance companies grant a variance if your dog has a “Canine Good Citizen” certificate from the “American Kennel Club”, or your dog is trained as a “Service Dog.” Worse case, you can look for another insurance company to purchase “Animal Liability” coverage specifically for your breed.
Even with proper insurance coverage, we feel compelled to urge you to train your dog, socialize your dog, avoid abuse and neglect, and watch your dog around kids. Dogs that are spayed or neutered have also show to be less aggressive and, thus, less likely to injure someone. Follow these suggestions and you are less likely to get a letter from a law firm like Gage Mathers.