Few experiences are as traumatic as being attacked by a dog. Some injuries are so severe, they result in death.
Families of those who die from fatal injuries experience pain, suffering, and financial burdens. Survivors of attacks may have physical disfigurements, permanent nerve damage, and emotional scars. They may also be left with a large stack of medical bills.
In Arizona, the dog owners are responsible for all the above regardless of whether they know their dog is aggressive or has a history of biting. The law of “strict liability” says that the owner does not need to be negligent for you to recover. It is quite clear: Dog Bite = Owner Responsible. There are several steps you need to take after a dog bite.
STEP ONE: REPORT THE BITE TO THE AUTHORITIES
Maricopa County requires that all dog bites be reported to Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (MCACC). Information and phone numbers for reporting a dog bite can be found on the Maricopa County Website. You can also use their Online Reporting Form. Notifying MCACC is essential to proving your claim for damages resulting from a dog bite.
Once a report is made, the dog will be quarantined either at home or in the custody of MCACC for 10 days. If the dog is held by MCACC, the owner may retrieve the pet once quarantine costs have been paid, unless the dog bite victim has filed a Petition for Disposition of Vicious Animal. If you believe that the dog should be put down, or other steps should be taken to ensure the future safety of the public, your attorney can help you complete the petition.
If the dog bite occurred in Pima County, call Animal Protection Services at 520.724.5900, ext. 4. Attacks in Coconino County should be reported to Animal Management at 928.679.8756.
STEP TWO: SEEK MEDICAL CARE
If you have been bitten by a dog, not only should you seek immediate care for your wounds, but you will most likely need to get a rabies vaccination and possibly a tetanus shot. Be sure to give your medical provider details about how the attack occurred and what happened. Those details will make it into your medical records, which will then be used to help prove your claim against the dog owner. They can also be helpful if additional problems arise later.
Medical care you may need to seek includes:
- Hospital Emergency Room
- Cosmetic or Reconstructive Surgeon
- Pediatrician or Primary Care Physician
- Physical Therapists
- Pain Management
STEP THREE: PRESERVE EVIDENCE
Evidence is crucial to proving your claim. Today’s technology aids in documenting dog attacks. For example, a dog bite client of Fite Law Group had a Ring doorbell that captured the entire incident. The dog owner adamantly denied that her dog touched our client; however, a video from the doorbell camera showed the dog repeatedly biting our client and her daughter as she tried to escape into her own home. Consider all possible sources of video footage capturing attack, including traffic and security cameras, and secure a copy. Also, check with bystanders to see if they caught the attack, and image of the dog’s owner, on their mobile phones.
In addition to video, take photos, not just of fresh injuries, but throughout the healing process. The adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is especially true when documenting dog attacks. One of our dog bite clients was a beautiful young lady who was bitten on the face. The wound was stitched and healed nicely, but it never disappeared completely. When dealing with insurance adjusters, photos help them understand the pain inflicted, progression of injury, and how the physical and emotional scars have changed your life.
Photos that are helpful to proving your claim include:
- the location where the attack occurred, including blood droplets on the ground, if any
- holes in clothing, or the bloody clothing that either the dog tore through or the paramedics had to remove to attend to your wounds
- the dog before, during, and after the attack
- your injuries right after the attack
- the bruises, redness, and swelling of your injuries throughout the healing process
Also, a journal of your attack and the healing process is another tool that can be used to demonstrate the emotional and mental impact the event has had on your life.
STEP FOUR: CALL AN ATTORNEY
There are many reasons to call an attorney after you have been bitten by a dog. The most obvious is that an attorney can help you navigate the tricky terrain of making a claim against the owner’s insurance and help ensure you receive compensation for the injuries and damages resulting from the attack. A less obvious reason is that most people who are bitten by a dog know the owner. It could be a family member or a neighbor, but it is likely that you will have interactions with that person in the future. An attorney can be a protective layer between you and the dog’s owner, allowing you to preserve your relationship. Your attorney can be the “bad guy,” working on your behalf to request insurance and other information pertinent to your case.
Fite Law Group will work with you to collect the evidence, open a claim with the insurance company, collect medical records, gather proof for a lost wage claim, and negotiate with insurance and medical providers to make a strong case and ensure you are compensated.
STEP FIVE: DON’T DELAY MAKING A CLAIM!
Dog bite victims have just ONE year to file a lawsuit to get the protections of the strict liability laws in Arizona. After that, you will have to pursue your dog bite claim under the less desirable general negligence laws. Doing so makes it much more difficult to fully receive the compensation you deserve. Follow the steps above and let your attorney help determine whether your experience warrants a lawsuit.
The attorneys and staff at Fite Law Group have extensive experience handling dog bite claims. We are dog owners, dog lovers, and believe in responsible dog ownership. It may not seem like dog owners are “at fault” for their pet’s attack; however, the law sees things differently and that is why we have insurance – to protect others and ourselves in the event something bad happens.