Arizona saw 489 insurance claims for dog bites in 2021 and was number 10 in the nation for having the most reported dog bites. Dog attacks are usually sudden and traumatic, leaving victims in shock and wondering what they should do.
The circumstances of every dog attack are different, but your recommended actions afterward remain the same in most cases. MDK Law Group understands how severely a dog bite can affect your life and wants to help.
What Should You Do If You Get a Dog Bite?
First and foremost, if a dog attacks you, you need medical treatment for your injuries. Next, Maricopa County laws require you — and anyone else who witnesses a dog attack — to report any severe bites to your local animal control office online or by phone. Finally, you should consider your legal options to seek compensation for your injuries.
If you or a companion is the victim of a dog attack, you or they can do several things at the scene that can help later:
- Administer first aid and request an ambulance or police officer if necessary.
- Take photos and videos of the dog, the scene, the dog’s controller or owner, your wounds, and any other details that can help you show what happened.
- Get contact information and statements from witnesses to the dog bite and the dog’s owner or controller.
- Record a personal statement describing what happened before, during, and after the attack.
Take these steps even if the dog attacked you but didn’t bite you, because you may still have grounds to seek compensation. You can also file a claim if a dog attacks your pet. Keep copies of any medical bills and the time you miss from work.
If a dog’s owner or controller doesn’t regain control of the animal, get away from it as soon as possible after an attack. Don’t try to kick or hit a dog during an attack because those actions can further provoke the dog. However, you probably have legal justification for using other kinds of force to stop the attack if you believe the animal won’t stop unless you take action.
What Treatment Should You Seek After a Dog Bite?
If a dog attacks you, you can receive various wounds from its claws and teeth. Dog bites are dangerous for many reasons and can cause serious injuries or death. After an attack, dog bite victims can develop psychological and emotional issues and may fear dogs in the future.
Common Dog Attack Injuries
There are several kinds of injuries common to dog attacks, including:
- Broken or cracked bones
- Eye and facial injuries
- Finger and hand injuries
- Lacerations, scrapes, and cuts
- Puncture wounds
- Soft tissue injuries
These injuries may heal, but the victim can have permanent injuries, scarring, and disfigurement. Some dog attacks are fatal.
A dog bite poses a secondary risk of infection if not treated properly. In addition, dogs can carry infections or diseases like rabies, and a bite can transfer the dog’s illness to the victim.
Treatment for Dog Bites
Most dog bites create a jagged, open wound. Infections can lead to victims needing hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics. If a dog bites you, follow these treatment steps immediately:
- Use mild soap to wash the wound and let warm tap water run over it for 5-10 minutes.
- Use a clean cloth to reduce bleeding.
- Use topical antibiotic cream.
- Use a sterile bandage to cover the wound.
- See a doctor no more than eight hours after the attack.
- Be on the lookout for signs that your wound is infected.
Your doctor might need to stitch your wound, and you may have to get a tetanus immunization or booster. If animal control suspects that the dog has rabies, tell your doctor. You might require therapy to deal with anxiety caused by the attack.
What Legal Actions Should You Take After a Dog Bite?
In Arizona, the way dog bite claims proceed depends on the circumstances surrounding the attack. Consult an attorney from MDK Law Group to see if you can seek damages through insurance claims or in a negligence-related personal injury lawsuit. In some cases, you can pursue both an insurance claim and a lawsuit.
Laws in Arizona require dog owners and controllers to use a leash when walking their dogs and to contain dogs in an escape-proof enclosure when outside the home on their property.
Sometimes, someone other than the dog’s owner is responsible for its behavior. A controller might be a dog sitter or walker. That person assumes an owner’s responsibility to control the dog and reduce the risk of an attack.
Arizona Dog Bite Laws
If a dog bit you in a public place or you were on someone else’s property legally, you can seek compensation from the dog’s owner for your injuries and the trauma the attack caused. The statute of limitations under the strict liability laws is one year and two years for negligence claims.
Some states have a one-bite rule. In those states, the dog’s owner usually isn’t liable for their pet’s first bite. You could only attempt to obtain compensation if the dog had bitten someone previously or if the dog had exhibited aggressive behavior and the owner didn’t do anything to prevent another attack.
Arizona doesn’t follow the one-bite rule. Instead, the state has a strict liability law in place for dog bite injuries. Under the strict liability law, you can seek compensation from a dog’s owner even if it’s the first time the dog bites someone. The owner’s negligence doesn’t come into play.
If a dog bites you in Arizona, you can hold the owner financially responsible for your injuries in most cases. If a dog sitter or walker is responsible for the dog at the time of your attack, you can also hold that person liable, depending on the circumstances.
Young children lack judgment and don’t understand how dogs can act. Children also may not realize they are on someone else’s private property. Ask your dog bite lawyer if you can seek damages if your child was on someone else’s property without permission when the dog attacked or if your child unintentionally provoked the dog.
In most cases, you must be on the dog owner’s property or in their home legally to qualify for damages. Under Arizona’s strict liability laws, trespassers probably won’t get compensation for dog bites.
If you provoke a dog and it attacks you as a result in Arizona, the owner or controller probably won’t have to pay restitution for a dog bite. Provocation, in this instance, means acting in a way that most people understand would provoke the dog.
If you threaten the dog’s owner or another person nearby and the dog attacks you to defend them, you probably won’t qualify to receive compensation for your injuries.
At times, dogs attack and injure someone without biting them. Other times, the dog’s owner isn’t the person caring for the dog when it bites someone. In these instances and others, you can hold the responsible party accountable under negligence laws. You’ll likely have to pursue a personal injury lawsuit, and the attorneys at MDK Law Group can help.
Negligence may include:
- A dog’s owner was aware or should have been aware that their dog had vicious tendencies.
- The controller or owner didn’t take reasonable measures to control the dog.
- The owner or controller didn’t follow dog control-related Arizona statutes.
Dog at Large
Dog owners and controllers aren’t supposed to let their dogs roam free. If a dog isn’t on a leash or in an enclosure, it is considered “at large.” When a dog is running freely and attacks, leading to dog bite injuries to a person or property damage, you can hold the responsible person accountable under negligence standards.
Commonly known as Fabian’s Law, Arizona House Bill 2137 addresses instances where a dog attacks another animal. Fabian was a miniature poodle killed by an unleashed and escaped pit bull on Fabian’s family’s driveway in 2009. At that time, Fabian’s owners had no recourse against the pit bull’s owner.
Governor Jan Brewer signed HB 2137, establishing responsibility for owners of aggressive dogs in dog-on-dog attacks, into law in 2011. This responsibility covers attacks on people or any domesticated animal.
What Criminal Charges Can the Dog’s Controller or Owner Face?
Dog owners can face Class 5 felony charges if their dog bites someone and the owner knew the dog might attack but did nothing to prevent it or if their dog has previously attacked people or other animals.
Those who don’t contain aggressive dogs within their property may receive a Class 3 misdemeanor charge. In addition, owners who don’t take reasonable steps to prevent a dog bite by their aggressive animal in places other than their property might face Class 1 misdemeanor charges.
Dog owners or controllers who instruct their dog to attack someone are subject to Class 3 felony charges in addition to liability for injuries the attack causes. Exemptions may apply if the responsible person ordered the attack in response to a threat of deadly or physical force.
If a dog bites another dog or pet, the attacking dog’s owner can face a Class 1 misdemeanor charge, up to a six-month prison sentence, and fines of up to $2,500.
What Happens to a Dog That Bites Someone?
In Maricopa County, Animal Care and Control handles dog bite cases. After this agency receives a report of a dog attack, the usual process is as follows:
- A Field Officer investigates the attack.
- That officer can issue a citation to the responsible party if the dog was at large when the attack occurred.
- The officer quarantines the dog for 10 days to test for rabies.
The dog can remain at home for the quarantine period in some cases, but the officer may place the dog at the MCACC facility or an approved animal hospital. The dog’s owner is responsible for all quarantine costs.
Dogs that don’t have rabies and show no signs of illness when the 10 days are up receive a vaccination and can return home.
In most cases, a dog attack doesn’t mean the dog is euthanized. However, animal control investigators can euthanize a dog in certain circumstances:
- The dog is sick or has injuries that may affect its behavior.
- The dog has attacked or bitten others two or more times.
- The dog exhibits extremely aggressive behavior, even if it’s the first time the dog attacked someone.
What Damages Can You Seek After a Dog Bite?
Renters’ or homeowners’ insurance policies usually cover dog bites. In other cases, you’ll need to pursue a civil lawsuit to recover damages. The compensation you may receive depends on the circumstances surrounding the dog attack and the severity of your injuries. Your dog bite lawyer can tell you if you qualify for reimbursement for:
- Current and future medical expenses related to the dog bite
- Treatment of anxiety or PTSD caused by the attack
- Lost wages — present and future — due to time missed from work because of the dog bite
- Disfigurement or scarring
- Pain and suffering
- Deterioration of your quality of life
- Property damage
Even when an insurance company agrees to pay your damages, it will probably offer you a low settlement amount. Having an experienced dog bite lawyer on your side can mean you’ll get a more substantial financial award.
How Can MDK Law Group Help You After a Dog Bite?
The dog bite laws in Arizona are somewhat confusing. Instead of trying to guess how they apply to your situation, seek assistance from attorneys with lots of experience interpreting those laws and handling related claims.
Whether you need legal support with an insurance claim or wish to pursue a personal injury claim based on negligence, we can help. Request your free consultation today to see how.
We accept dog bite cases on a contingency fee basis so that you won’t have any initial out-of-pocket expenses. You can reach us 24/7, so there’s no need to wait. We are located in Phoenix and serve surrounding areas as well. MDK Law Group’s award-winning attorneys will work hard to obtain maximum damages for your claim.