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Many people have no idea what to do after they have been bitten by a dog. And, even if the injury is reported to the police, law enforcement officers are often not helpful in explaining an individual’s legal remedies moving forward. When a dog has bitten you in Arizona, you do have the right to pursue damages. You can file a claim for recovery under statutory law or under case law.

Statutory Law in Arizona for Dog Bites

Statutory law means law that is statute. In Arizona, Revised Code 11-1025, Liability for Dogs, clearly reads that, “The owner of a dog which bites a person when the person is in or on a public place or lawfully on a private place, including the property 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.” The fact that, per the law, the owner of a dog will be held liable for harm that his or her dog causes even if the dog has not been previously deemed vicious highlights that Arizona is a strict liability dog bite state; you do not have to prove negligence in order to recover compensation.

Case Law

While filing a claim under statutory law may be the most uncomplicated route to go as negligence need not be proven, a victim of a dog bite can also file a case under the theory of negligence or negligence per se, as is demonstrated by case law, or common law. Case/common law refers to laws that have created due to precedent based on court decisions, but are not actually laws that are written into code. Per Murdock v. Balle, if you have been bitten by a dog, you can file a negligence based claim against the owner (strict liability statute does not replace common law liability). While this type of case may yield a greater damages amount (damages that are recoverable are not purely economic in negligence based claims, but include compensation for noneconomic losses as well), you will have to prove the negligence of the dog owner. In most dog bite cases, negligence of the owner is based on the fact that the dog’s owner knew of the dog’s viciousness, or had reason to know of the dog’s viciousness, but failed to offer adequate warning about the dog to you, failed to restrain the dog, or otherwise failed to take adequate measures to prevent the dog bite from occurring.

Which Type of Claim Should I File?

In most cases, filing a standard strict liability claim under statutory law is best. If the injuries that you have suffered are severe,  however, and if you believe that the dog bite could have been prevented had the dog’s owner acted with a greater degree of care, then filing a negligence based claim may be within your best interest. As a note, if you provoked the dog, and if this provocation contributed to the dog biting you, the owner of the dog may be shielded from liability as a result.
Finally, be aware that the statute of limitations for dog bite claims in Arizona is different. If you file a claim based on the theory of strict liability, the statute of limitations is reduced to one year from the date that the dog bite/attack occurred. However, if you file a common law negligence based claim, the standard two year statute of limitations that is held for other personal injury case types will apply. If more than one year has passed since a dog bit you, you may consider bringing a claim under a different cause of action.

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