Month: July 2012

Arizona Dog Bite Laws: Strict Liability

(Last updated on August 20, 2014)

In Arizona, a dog bite can have major legal ramifications. When a dog bites a human, Arizona law immediately attacks the owner or handler of the dog – both in civil law and criminal law.

Strict Liability for Dog Bites in Arizona

First, what is strict liability? Strict liability is a legal rule that means a person is legally responsible (i.e., “liable”) for injury, damage, and/or loss regardless of whether the person was negligent or reckless.

For example, because Arizona has a “strict liability” law for dog bites, if your neighbor’s dog bites you, then your neighbor is liable for your medical bills and damages even if your neighbor was not negligent. This means that even if the dog was on a leash, and the dog never bit anyone before, and the dog is non-violent and not a “vicious” dog, your neighbor is still liable because of one simple fact: your neighbor’s dog bit you.

Second, why does strict liability apply to an Arizona dog bite but not a car accident? The easy answer is: because the legislature says so. In Arizona, there are statutes that specifically address dog bites. Here’s what the law actually says:

A. 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.
Arizona Revised Statutes section 11-1025(A).

Of course, the legislature remembered to protect government workers. So, if a police dog or military dog bites a person while a crime is being investigated, the government is not held to the strict liability standard for a personal injury claim or lawsuit.

Dog Bites and Neighbors

One of the most common questions we get asked about Arizona dog bite laws is “If my neighbor’s dog bit me, do I have to sue my neighbor in order to recover my damages?” The biggest concern is that most people do not want to sue their neighbor! Well, we have good news. You do not need to “sue your neighbor” in order to recover money after your neighbor’s dog bites you. We handle personal injury dog bite claims with professionalism and respect. We can get the dog bite victim the money they deserve without antagonizing the owner of the dog.

Damages for Dog Bites

We have seen some very serious injuries involving dog bites, including significant trauma and lacerations to the face or other area of the body. These wounds often create lifetime scarring and emotional trauma, in addition to physical pain and suffering. We make insurance companies pay you for your pain, suffering, and scars! In many cases, the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance has coverage for these types of damages. In many cases, it is possible to obtain a full recovery without causing any meaningful personal financial harm to the actual owner of the dog. After all, the insurance company has very few defenses to a strict liability law!

Criminal Defense for Flagstaff Dog Laws

Flagstaff, and all Northern Arizona jurisdictions, have laws pertaining specifically to dogs. For example, any dog off the premises of its owner must have a collar with a securely fastened government issued dog tag which costs $10 to $20, depending on if your dog is neutered or spayed. Flagstaff’s laws even require collars! Here’s what the law says:

At all times when a dog is off the premises of its owner, said dog shall have a collar around its neck with the metal tag aforesaid securely fastened thereto. Flagstaff City Code section 6-02-1-8. Barking or “howling” dogs also create criminal liability, as follows: It is unlawful for any person owning or having the care, custody or control of any dog to permit said dog to bark, bay, howl or make any other noise, day or night, in such an unreasonable manner as to disturb the peace and quiet of any person or persons.
Flagstaff City Code section 6-02-1-11(C).

The most serious criminal (and personal injury) infractions pertain to “vicious” dogs. For example, in Flagstaff, a “vicious dog” is defined in four ways:

a. A dog that bites a human beings without provocation; or b. A dog with a known propensity, tendency, or disposition to bite human beings; or c. A dog that while at large kills or causes injury to domestic animals; or d. A dog declared to be a vicious dog by a City Magistrate after a determination at a hearing of a pattern of aggressive behavior that has caused injury, apprehension or intimidation of a person.

Basically, if a dog bites someone without provocation, you’ve got yourself a “vicious dog” that Flagstaff city law requires to be muzzled when off the premises of its owner. Flagstaff law requires it!

No person owning or having charge, care, custody, or control of a vicious dog shall permit such dog off his premises unless such dog is under the control of a competent person and is securely leashed and muzzled.
Flagstaff City Code section 6-02-1-1(B)(1).

Violating Flagstaff city dog law is criminal in nature and involves court hearings, pre-trial conferences, plea negotiations, plea agreements, criminal restitution. Worst of all: the City of Flagstaff may kill your dog. That’s right, if your dog is found to be “vicious” by the government, they can order the humane destruction of your dog. They can kill your dog.

Griffen & Stevens Law Firm Can Help You

If you have been injured by a dog bite, call us right away. We preserve evidence, investigate the scene, obtain police reports and witness statements, purchase medical records, and most importantly, we maximize your recovery. We also offer criminal defense for anyone accused of a crime in Flagstaff or Northern Arizona.

Intersection: Arizona Criminal and Injury Laws

We defend the accused in criminal courts. We seek justice for the injured in the personal injury arena. Let’s talk about what the two have in common.

First, we are trial lawyers. What distinguishes the Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC from a standard run-of-the-mill law firm is that we have extensive jury trial experience – and success. A trial attorney must have sharp skills, advanced legal research capabilities, negotiation expertise, and of course, the knowledge and common sense to win over jurors and obtain justice – even if it’s against all odds.

Second, we have experience with the police. In criminal defense, police involvement is obvious. In personal injury, we often deal with the same police officers and police reports. When there is a car accident, and someone is hurt, the police are critical to establishing a record of what happened: police reports, accident reconstruction, cell phone triangulation, photographs, videos, and testimony. We understand the law enforcement system and community, and we utilize their fine work to obtain justice for our clients.

Third, the laws that apply to criminal defense often apply to personal injury cases. For example, if a bicyclist is struck by a car in Flagstaff, the first question is: Did the driver commit a traffic violation that caused the accident? If the answer is yes, the driver is negligent. Bicyclists often suffer serious injuries after being struck by a vehicle. Mr. Griffen and Mr. Stevens are avid cyclists and runners.

We understand athletes and those injured either while on a bike or as a pedestrian. Perhaps, for example, a driver failed to yield to a pedestrian. When there is a cross-walk with no traffic signal,

…the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be in order to yield” to any pedestrian in a cross-walk.
See Arizona Revised Statutes, section 28-792.

Or, perhaps a driver made a right turn into a business and failed to yield to a bicyclist in a designated bike lane.

A person shall drive a vehicle as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not move the vehicle from that lane until the driver has first ascertained that the movement can be made with safety.
See Arizona Revised Statutes, section 28-729(1).

Or, the most obvious example, a person may simply be cited for failing to control the speed of his or her vehicle to avoid colliding with any object, including a person (pedestrian or cyclist), in violation of Arizona Revised Statutes, section 28-701(A). Or, what if the driver was intoxicated in violation of Arizona’s DUI laws? See Arizona Revised Statutes, section 28-1381 et seq. In that situation, the driver is negligent for causing injuries to another person (driver, pedestrian, or cyclist).

The driver will also be charged with serious felony crimes including Aggravated Assault in violation of Arizona Revised Statutes, section 13-1204, or even homicide or attempted homicide.

Regardless of the situation, if you are injured by another person, we will fight hard to obtain every penny you deserve. We take on insurance companies, corporations, and people who have done wrong. In the criminal courts, we defend those charged with actual crimes.

Ultimately, we are good at what we do. We fight hard to minimize the impact of a criminal charge on your life. We fight hard to obtain money for the injured. In every criminal and personal injury case, we offer free consultations.