Dog ownership is on the rise in Arizona and across the country. These days, most families have at least one pet. Many households will even have more than one pet. While dogs can be excellent for their owners, it is not always the case for everyone else who comes into contact with them.
While family pets have a history of biting family members from time to time, most dog bites will happen to people outside the household. When this happens, dog owners can be legally responsible for the injuries that these animals cause.
Dog bite cases might seem straightforward, but they are often complicated. To make sure you receive full compensation for your injuries, always seek help from a Tucson dog bite attorney. Zanes Law Injury Lawyers is ready to help.
For a free legal consultation with a dog bite lawyer serving Tucson, call 866-499-8989
If you are unfortunate enough to have a dog bite you, it’s important you speak with a Zanes Law dog bite lawyer. We know the law and can hold the owner responsible so that you receive adequate compensation for your injuries. This is where the experienced Tucson dog bite attorneys at Zanes Law can help.
Dog bite laws vary by state. In Arizona, the statute of limitations gives victims one year to file a claim following an injury. This is called a “strict liability claim.” The claimant has to prove that a dangerous injury occurred and identify who was responsible. Arizona recognizes that if a victim sues within a year of the injury, the dog’s owner is strictly liable. If the injured party does not file a lawsuit within a year, he or she can no longer file a strict liability claim. However, the victim can still file a negligence claim and has up to two years to do so. But it will be much more challenging to prove negligence. One of the best ways you can increase your odds of compensation is to file a claim as soon as the injury occurs. Get medical records of any treatment you receive, take photographs of the scene of the accident, and give a written record to the police of where and when the situation took place.
Tucson Dog Bite Lawyer Near Me 866-499-8989
There are many factors that decrease the odds of a victim winning a dog bite injury case. Therefore, it is imperative you hire the Zanes Law Tucson dog bite attorneys. In order to bring your claim, we will need to know the dog owner’s location and personal information. If the dog attacked you when no one was around, it will be difficult to ascertain who owns the dog. This makes it impossible to find an insurance policy to cover your injuries.
If you’re fortunate enough to know who the dog owner is, it’s crucial that you don’t threaten him or her. Inquire calmly about the owner’s insurance so that you can professionally and legally file the claim. If the defendant does not have homeowners insurance or if the policy doesn’t cover hazardous animal attacks, you might be able to sue the homeowner if you can prove that he or she owns the dog and that the dog was responsible.
Millions of People Suffer Dog Bite Injuries Each Year
Nationwide, over 48 million households have a dog, and pet-friendly businesses and buildings are making it much easier to own one
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are an average of approximately 4.5 million dog bites in the United States each year. Over 70 percent of dog bites happen to non-family members. Almost a million people each year require some sort of medical attention for a dog bite, including over 300,000 emergency room visits every year. Most of the people who needed emergency care were children between the ages of five and nine.
Medical bills alone for critical dog bite care could top $30,000. They could rise even more if the victim needs one or more surgeries to correct the damage. Dog bites can even be fatal. Worldwide, dogs are actually the fourth most dangerous creature in existence. In the United States, 30 to 50 people die due to dog bite injuries in a given year. For survivors, some injuries can cause long-lasting effects on their lives.
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Common Injuries From Dog Bites
Injuries from dog bites can range from mild to severe. They include:
- Puncture wounds
- Nerve damage
- The need for rabies shots
These injuries can all take a physical and mental toll on the dog bite victim. Not only are they dealing with doctors, but they must remember the trauma of being helpless as a dangerous animal attacked them. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common following dog bites.
The Breeds of Dogs Most Likely to Bite
Dog bite attacks could occur with many breeds. Most people think of pit bulls as being the most dangerous breed of dog, and roughly two-thirds of dog bite attacks involve pit bulls.
However, other breeds can be dangerous, including:
- German shepherds
Why Dogs Attack Small Children Most Often
While anyone can suffer a dog attack and injuries, small children are most likely to suffer serious injuries. Dogs often view themselves in competition with small children for territory. At the same time, children do not always know how to approach dogs and how to read the cues from a growling dog. Despite this, the dog owner would usually still be responsible when their dog bites a small child.
Small children are on a different physical level with dogs than adults. Where dogs may bite adults on their arms and legs, they will bite the head and neck of small children. This is when children can suffer severe life-altering and disfiguring injuries.
There Is No One Free Bite in Arizona
Many people with a basic understanding of the law associate dog attacks with the one free bite rule. This says that dog bite owners are only liable when they know that their dog is dangerous. That is NOT the law in Arizona. Instead, Arizona is a strict liability state. If the dog bites you, the owner must pay for your losses unless a very limited number of affirmative defenses apply.
It does not matter whether the owner knew that the dog was capable of biting you or not. When they assume ownership of a pet, they assume legal responsibility for what that pet does and any injuries that they cause.
Strict Liability Applies to Bites Only
Arizona strict liability applies only to dog bites, as opposed to other damage the dog might cause. For example, if a dog jumps on top of someone and they sustain injuries falling to the ground, the law of negligence applies. The same thing applies if someone suffers injuries trying to escape a menacing dog. The owner could still be legally responsible, but a different test applies. Here, you would need to show that the owner acted unreasonably in failing to prevent their dog from attacking you. It is only when the dog bites that there are few questions asked before finding the owner responsible.
The other legal requirement for strict liability under Arizona law is that the dog bite victim was in a public place or a permissible private place at the time of the attack.
This could include:
- The owner’s dog attacking an invited guest to the home
- A delivery person gets attacked when they are attempting to place a package on the doorstep (if you suffered injuries while on the job, you may have a possible lawsuit against the owner as well as a workers’ compensation claim. Zanes Law Injury Lawyers can help in both areas, and we could help you figure out your appropriate legal options).
Dog owners would not necessarily need to pay when their dog bites a trespasser or intruder. However, most dog bites happen when the victim has a legal right to be where they are or when they are out and about in public.
Defenses Dog Owners and Their Insurance Companies May Use
Once you show that you suffered a dog bite, there are very few questions of liability. The most common way an owner may try to fight liability is by claiming that you were responsible for the injury by “provoking” the dog. Even that type of defense has limitations.
Provoking a dog is usually something that would cause a sudden and radical change in their behavior. It would include things like continually teasing or hurting a dog. This is a very limited defense. After all, the average person knows better than to provoke a dangerous dog with sharp teeth, and proving provocation can be challenging for dog owners. In addition, a different standard of provocation applies to children than to adults.
What to Do After a Tucson Dog Bite Injury
After you or a loved one suffers dog bite injuries:
- Contact the police to come to the scene and issue a report. This could show that the dog bite actually happened and which dog bit you.
- Get witness information from anyone who saw the attack.
- Document the dog bite by taking pictures of it.
- Get immediate medical help to treat your injuries.
- Follow all of the doctor’s recommendations, especially as they relate to wound care.
- Report the incident to local animal control.
- Contact a dog bite attorney to begin exploring your legal options.
Dealing With the Insurance Claim Process
Dog bites and resulting injuries should fall under the dog owner’s insurance policy, which could be either a homeowners or renters policy. Insurance companies are very familiar with dog bite claims and tend to assign a standard value to them. After all, insurers paid almost $900 million in dog bite claims in 2020. They keep extensive statistics on what they pay, and the average in Arizona is slightly higher than the national average.
Insurers will do anything they can to minimize your payout on a dog bite claim, so it is extremely important to have legal representation. Our attorneys handle all negotiations with insurance companies on your behalf to ensure that they do not shortchange your claim.
How an Attorney Helps With Your Tucson Dog Bite Claim
You may be wondering why you need an attorney when liability is often not in dispute. Even when nobody disputes liability, an insurance claim is not necessarily smooth sailing for an injured person. Not only does an attorney know the tricks of the insurance company, but they also know how to negotiate the settlement you deserve.
Insurance companies may make you an early settlement offer, hoping to get you to settle the claim for far less than its value. When they make you a settlement offer, you can count on it being inadequate compensation at first. Only when you have the right negotiating power can you get the insurance company to agree to pay a fair amount.
What You Can Receive in a Tucson Dog Bite Claim
Your dog bite compensation can include:
- Payment for pain and suffering
- Medical costs to treat the injury
- Lost wages for time missed from work for either your injuries or time spent to care for an injured child
- Emotional distress and trauma
Some of these damages can be even greater when dealing with a child. For example, the disfigurement could be far greater on a smaller body. The child may go through their entire life dealing with physical scars, and it can take a large toll on them. In addition, the trauma of a brutal dog attack could cause the child to bear emotional scars for years.
The Value of Your Tucson Dog Bite Claim
On your own, you may not even know what your claim is worth. You can assume that the insurance company will undervalue your claim. This is why you need a lawyer with experience handling dog bite claims to understand how much you should receive.
Just because State Farm data says that the average dog bite claim is worth roughly $43,000 does not mean that this is what your claim is worth. As far as you are concerned, there is no such thing as an average dog bite claim. What matters is your specific losses and damages.
Don’t Hesitate to File a Claim Regardless of Who the Owner Is
Some dog bite attacks are random, though most dog bite victims have some connection with the dog owner. A common scenario is that the dog bite victim is a guest in the home where the dog resides. Your child might have been at a playdate in the home when they get attacked.
Many people may hesitate to file a dog bite claim because it might be a friend’s dog. However, dog bites are covered by insurance policies up to the coverage limit. The average homeowner’s policy would cover between $100,000 to $300,000, which can be enough to compensate you for your losses in many cases. Chances are that your friend or family member may not even have to pay out of pocket, so they would not lose anything if you seek the compensation you deserve for your dog bite injuries.
What Happens if the Dog Bite Damages Exceed the Amount of Insurance Coverage?
In most cases, the amount of insurance coverage is enough to cover the dog bite injuries. After all, the amount of an average dog bite claim is just under $50,000, while homeowners’ policies cover far more in liability. However, some dog bite injuries can be very serious, and they will require extensive plastic surgery. These medical procedures are very expensive, even more so when the dog bite victim needs multiple surgeries.
You can also hold the dog’s owner personally liable for the injuries that their dog causes. While personal injury judgments are not always easy to collect, you can get your hands on their liquid assets, such as their bank and investment accounts. Depending on the circumstances, you might even garnish their wages. Dog owners do not get away scot-free if their insurance is not enough to cover all of the damages that the dog causes.
How Much Does Treatment for a Dog Bite Cost?
This all depends on the severity of your or your loved one’s injury. Even back in 2010, the average cost of a hospital stay for a dog bite exceeded $18,000. This was more expensive than the average hospital for other causes. Medical costs have skyrocketed since then, so you can assume that you will get a bill for more than $30,000 if you need hospitalization for your injuries.
In addition, you will need specialized medical treatment to help your skin and body recover to the fullest extent possible. Plastic surgeons do not work for cheap. In 2018, approximately 27,000 people needed reconstructive plastic surgery after a dog bite.
Doctors most often perform this type of surgery on the face, but dog bite victims may need operations on the following after their attack:
Oftentimes, reconstruction will need to be done over a series of surgeries, even further raising the costs of these injuries.
What Are Other Effects of Dog Bite Injuries?
After a dog bite, victims can experience other issues. Being attacked by a dangerous animal can cause post-traumatic stress disorder. This is especially true in young children, who cannot process the attack like others. Even adults will have emotional complications after the incident. Your dog bite settlement should factor that in and pay for the cost of treatment for PTSD.
In addition, many dog bites can become infected afterwards. This is especially true after a complex bite. When a bite breaks the skin, it does not always heal properly, and an infection will cause damage to the surrounding area.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that 10 to 15 percent of dog bites will infect dog bite victims. This can require emergency treatment for a severe infection. Bites to the hands and fingers are the most likely to become infected because these parts of the body have difficulty healing and fighting off bacteria.
Are There Any Restrictions on Pitbulls in Arizona?
Dog bite fatalities are most likely to occur when a pit bull attacks the victim. Pit bulls caused 79 percent of dog bite deaths in a recent year. This dangerous breed will attack both adults and children. Not only does Arizona not ban pit bulls, but its laws specifically support the right of families to own one of these potentially aggressive dogs.
State law allows people to own and breed pit bulls. Arizona used to have laws specific to pit bulls, but the Legislature passed a new law repealing it. While pet ownership advocates celebrate the end of breed “discrimination,” families in the state are more in danger from these animals.
While the laws favor ownership rights, they also give broad rights to compensation for dog bite victims. The strict liability statute means that the dog owner will need to pay for injuries that their dog causes, regardless of the breed. The same law applies to more gentle dogs like poodles and more aggressive animals, such as pit bulls and bulldogs.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer if the Dog Owner Is Usually Liable for My Injuries?
Proving liability is only part of the equation for dog bite injury compensation. First, as we have mentioned, liability may not always be clear-cut because the insurance company may still try to blame you for provoking the dog. Even though this is a more limited defense than it sounds, the insurance company may still use it to throw up more roadblocks to getting the money that you legally deserve.
Second, the key issue becomes getting enough compensation for your dog bite injuries. If you need reconstructive surgery and are missing plenty of work time, the average dog bite settlement really will not do close to enough for you.
Undercompensation will still leave you in a financial hole that you will need to dig out of because you settled your claim for too little.
An attorney will fight for you to receive the compensation that you deserve. Studies show that people who have lawyers in personal injury cases do far better than those who do not, even after accounting for the lawyer’s percentage of your recovery.
Will the Owner Be Liable for a Service Dog Bite?
Service animals are becoming far more common these days. These animals are usually very heavily trained, but some may still get agitated and bite people. Emotional support animals may not have the extensive training that service animals have (the two are not the same), and they may be more likely to bite people.
There are other issues because people (especially children) may come up to service dogs to pet them. Insurance companies may try to claim that is a provocation, even though it falls far short of deliberately trying to incite the animal.
It does not matter that the dog is a service animal. Strict liability means that the owner will be liable when their dog bites someone, regardless of the dog’s status as a service animal. The owner assumes this risk when they get the dog.
What if a Police Dog Bites My Child or Me?
The same law about liability applies to police dogs. Although law enforcement dogs are highly trained, the police department can never eliminate the possibility of a bite. However, when police use dogs to search a property or other law enforcement activities, complex questions arise that require an attorney with special experience in police dog bites.
Like any other lawsuit against a government, there are special rules that apply when suing for police dog bites. These laws require that you give notice ahead of time with the exact grounds for the lawsuit and support the dollar amount that you are requesting. You also have only 180 days to file a lawsuit against the government.
At Zanes Law Injury Lawyer, we have experience in taking on the state and local governments and know all of the special considerations that apply to these lawsuits.
What Should I Do After a Dog has bitten me?
There are two important steps to take after a dog bite. The first is getting the medical help that you need. Not only is it medically necessary for your treatment and recovery, but it will also be a key part of your legal claim.
The insurance company will only pay you for the injuries that they see very clearly documented in front of them on paper. Even then, they may question your injuries. Nonetheless, seeing a doctor will give you the diagnosis and medical records that you need to form the basis of a claim.
Second, you will need to hire a lawyer. Specifically, you need someone with experience helping dog bite victims. The homeowners’ insurance company may try to begin the legal process for you. They may call you in the days after the incident, trying to pressure you to sign away your legal rights in exchange for a tiny settlement that does not fairly compensate you.
Either way, when you deal with the insurance company on your own, you leave yourself open to their games and tricks to reduce the amount of money you receive.
One of their favorite tactics is having an adjuster with settlement authority call you right after your injury to get you to take their check when it really means that you have signed away your legal rights.
What Should I Do When I Receive a Low Settlement Offer?
You are not obligated to accept anything that the insurance company offers. Their initial settlement offer will be low, as it always is. Your attorney should review everything that you receive from the insurance company. Having worked with numerous dog bite victims, we know exactly how much these claims are worth. We will look at the offer to see if it fairly compensates you. If it is low, we will advise you to reject the offer.
You always can counter with a demand of your own. The insurance company may raise their offer as part of settlement negotiations. This is how every claim works. Do not be afraid to say no to an offer that does not pay you what you deserve. If you still cannot get fair payment for your damages, you can file a lawsuit in court.
What Happens if a Dog Bit Me While I Was Working?
You have the option to file a workers’ compensation claim. If the dog belonged to your employer, that is how you will receive compensation for your injuries. However, you are better off financially when you can file a claim for personal injuries.
If you worked as a delivery person and a dog bit you while making a delivery, you could file a third-party lawsuit against the owner. As a delivery person, you are invited onto the property when the dog’s owner places an order. Therefore, you can file a lawsuit against them if you were injured while delivering what they ordered.
How Do I Prove that the Dog’s Owner Was Negligent?
As we mentioned, you will need to prove negligence if your dog’s injury happened from anything other than a bite.
If you were hurt after running to get away from a dog or by being jumped on by one, you must show that:
The dog’s owner owed you a duty of care
They breached that care by acting unreasonably under the circumstances (i.e., having the dog off of its leash in a public place)
You suffered an injury
You would not have suffered an injury had it not been for the actions of the other side
Once you prove liability, the damages phase of any personal injury case is the same. You will need to prove your actual damages to recover them.
Can I Afford a Dog Bite Attorney?
Yes—you can afford our dog bite attorneys at Zanes Law Injury Lawyers.
You have plenty of things to worry about after a dog bite injury. Affording an attorney is not one of them. Like every personal injury, Zanes Law Injury Lawyers does not ask you for any payment upfront. We will not send you a bill while your case is proceeding. In fact, we will not send you a bill for our legal services.
Our payment comes if your case succeeds and you receive a check. If for some reason, you do not win, you will not need to pay us for our work. This means that there is little risk in hiring an attorney.
Do not fall into the trap of thinking that you will save money by handling your case on your own. The insurance company will see you as an easy mark, and they will take advantage of you.
They will look at you differently when you come to the table with an experienced and aggressive attorney. This is exactly what we are at Zanes Law Injury Lawyers.
The following information is a good guide to follow if you have experienced a dog attack in Tucson. These steps will help you to solidify the legitimacy of your case. You must collect critical information that a Tucson dog bite attorney can use to help you obtain damages.
- If it’s obvious who the dog’s owner is, ask about the person’s homeowners insurance while being as cordial possible. Getting this information is one of the best ways to smoothly obtain compensation because the policy might include coverage for dangerous animals.
- If the owner doesn’t cooperate with you, call the police or Animal Control. These officers can help you by acting as a go-between and asking the dog owner about insurance on your behalf.
- Record any evidence you can and include the date and time. Many smartphones have the ability to include real time data that may be permissible in court. It is helpful to know the location of the event, details about your injury, and how the situation unfolded. It will help your lawyer if you obtain any legal paperwork acknowledging the incident, such as medical treatment and police reports.
Act quickly when you are seeking compensation for a dog bite. You have a limited time to file a lawsuit for your injuries. In Arizona, the statute of limitations is two years, and remember that it takes time to negotiate with the insurance company, so you should allow some time for this process to unfold.
The longer you wait to file a claim or a personal injury lawsuit, the longer it will take to get your money. The legal process does not happen overnight. This is why you need to get started right after you or a loved one suffers injuries. Do not wait to speak with a Tucson dog bite attorney at Zanes Law Injury Lawyers. Contact us right away at (520) 777-7777 for your free case evaluation.
4580 E Grant Rd #101
Tucson, AZ 85712