Dog Bite Attacks

There is something particularly terrifying about being attacked by a dog. Psychologists explain it as part of our DNA which has probably been part of human nature since humans first walked the earth.

Children in particular suffer long lasting trauma from “being attacked by a wild beast.” The noise, the animal’s hostility and very apparent intention to inflict great harm or even death, the built-in flight response, the overwhelming terror, all contribute to the creation of severe emotional distress. In both children and adults this often results in a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with disruptions in memory and concentration, startle responses, avoidance responses, night terrors (children), nightmares (children and adults), as well as terrifying flash backs.

Scarring is inevitable except in the most minimal of bites and fixing the scar usually requires plastic surgery.

Who pays for this?

In Arizona, the dog’s owner and anyone else who has the right to control the dog’s ability to come into contact with people, for example a tenant dog owner and a landlord who knows about the dog, are strictly liable in the first year after the bite. Being strictly liable means that the dog’s owner (custodian) cannot escape responsibility for paying damages by arguing that the dog never bit anyone before, or is a “good dog,” etc. Responsibility is absolute as long as the law suit for the bite is filed in the proper court within one year of the date of the attack. If the one year time limit is missed, then a lawsuit filed between year one and year two after the attack must be based on the negligence of the owner (custodian). This is tougher. Now the victim must prove that the owner or custodian knew or should have known of the dog’s tendency to bite and must have been negligent in allowing the dog to come into contact with the victim.

Letter carriers (postmen) and delivery people such as UPS or FedEx drivers, are sometimes bitten on the job. Anyone bitten on the job has two claims. One is for worker’s compensation and the second is a civil lawsuit for damages against the dog’s owner or custodian.

Proving the amount of damages in order to be fully compensated often requires the services of an attorney. The first reason is that finding insurance is sometimes tricky. The dog owner might not want to admit that he or she carries homeowner’s insurance. Even if such a policy is found, it must be read carefully, along with any “insurance rider’s” to figure out if dog bites are covered. The second reason is that evidence of damages has to be acquired. The attorney may have to send the client to a psychologist and to a plastic surgeon to obtain a report that will estimate the amount of money that it will take to restore the victim to “pre-bite” physical and emotional health. Pain and suffering has to be calculated, as discussed in another blog I wrote on this subject. Third, the statute of limitations, which is the time in which a lawsuit must be brought, has to watched and conformed with. Finally, the attorney has to make certain that the victim is not wrongly accused of bringing on the attack by teasing or inciting the dog.

I have been handling these cases for many years due to my long service to union members who have to deal with the threat of bites on a daily basis, such as members of the National Association of Letter Carriers (postmen) and Teamsters (UPS Drivers).

I would be happy to answer any of your questions on this subject and to help you evaluate your claim.