When most people think of injuries caused by animals they think of dog-bites. In the world of personal injury law, dog-bites are the most common type of cases involving animals. However, injuries caused by animals do not always have to involve a bite to trigger liability by the owner. In many cases animals can cause serious and significant injuries in other ways.
Arizona has a specific statute that deals with “at large” dogs. An “at large” dog is defined as a dog that is neither confined by an enclosure nor physically restrained by a leash. A.R.S. 11-1001(2). An injury or injuries to any person or propery while a dog is at large is the full responsibility of the dog owner or person or persons responsible for the dog when such damages are inflicted. A.R.S. 11-1020. This simply means that if a dog is running around (not in an enclosure or not restrained by a leash) and causes an injury to a person or even to property, the owner, or person responsible for the dog at the time of the injury or damage is responsible for the damages.
In Arizona, if your dog causes an injury to someone, whether it is a bite or some other way, you are “strictly liable.” Strict liability means you are automatically responsible for the damage, no questions asked. In a strict liability case, we do not look at whether the owner was negligent in allowing the dog to run free, or whether the owner negligently allowed the dog to escape from the backyard, etc. Instead, the law says if your dog injures someone you are responsible. Period! The only defense to an injury caused by a dog in Arizona is provocation. A dog owner can argue that the person injured by the dog provoked the dog causing it to injure him or her. Absent any evidence regarding provocation, the dog owner is responsible for the injury and damages. If there is evidence of a provocation it maybe best to seek a criminal defense attorney in Mesa AZ.
I recently took a case in Phoenix involving signficant injuries caused by an at-large dog. My young client was taking his dog for a walk. My client’s dog was on a leash and my client was on his bicycle riding slowly so the dog could walk along side the bike. As my client turned onto a street near his home, another dog came running after him and his dog. The other dog was barking loudly and scary to my young client. My client started peddling faster to get away from the dog that was now chasing him and his dog. The owner of the dog that was chasing my client came running after it shouting for it to come back to him.
Unfortunately, the chasing dog caught up to my client and jumped on his dog. The dogs ended up in front of my client’s bicycle causing him to flip over the front of the handle bars. My client ended up with a fractured clavicle and four fractures in his foot. The dog that caused the accident was running without a leash and was clearly not restrained in an enclosure. Despite the fact the dog did not directly contact my client, the owner is nonetheless responsible because his dog ultimately was the cause of the accident that caused my client to flip over the handle bars of his bike and sustain thousands of dollars in injuries.
Dogs are great! They truly can be man’s best friend. But being a dog owner requires great responsibility. You must be sure your dog is safe and properly restrained in public. You also must be sure your dog cannot escape from your yard and wreak havoc on the neighborhood. In my example above, the owner of the dog did not do anything wrong, other than make sure his dog could not run unrestrained through the neighborhood. His failure to assure this resulted in a serious accident and injuries to my client. He will now be responsible for the damages. Some Arizona home insurance policies in exclude animal liability coverage, putting you without any coverage. Talk to your Arizona insurance agent if this applies to your insurance policy.
Injuries from dogs can come in many ways, other than bites. If you are injured by a dog, you are entitled to compensation for the damage caused by the injuries. We can help you recover what you are entitled to in any dog injury case.