Dog bites and the provocation defense

Few people expect to be attacked by an animal when they approach it, but the truth of the matter is that many individuals suffer extensive injuries, even the loss of life, in animal attacks. Many of these incidents involve pets, too. Regardless of the animal involved, the damages suffered by an attack victim can be extensive. Medical expenses and lost wages due to missed work are very real possibilities, but so, too, are non-economic damages, such as disfigurement and pain and suffering.

Victims of animal attacks may be able to recover compensation for these damages. Arizona has a strict liability law with regard to dog bites, which means that so long as the victim was legally on the premises, whether that be a public place or the property of the dog’s owner, then the dog’s owner will automatically be held liable for the damages caused by his or her dog. This liability is imposed even if the animal’s owner didn’t know that the dog possessed the capacity to act aggressively.

As simple as it sounds to prove one of these cases, there are defenses available to dog owners. For example, a dog owner can defend against these claims by showing that the victim provoked the dog to attack. Arizona law says that a dog is deemed provoked if a reasonable person would expect the actions in question to provoke a response from the dog. Provocation, therefore, is open to interpretation and legal argument. Would shouting at a dog be considered provocation? What about merely petting it a little too hard? These are questions that are often left in the hands of judges and juries.

Coping with the aftermath of an animal attack can be stressful and overwhelming. Victims often find themselves angry, sad and fearful for their future. Fortunately, a personal injury lawsuit can serve as an outlet for these emotions. When the facts and the law align in competent legal arguments, liability may be imposed and compensation may be recovered, thereby allowing a victim to find closure and move on with his or her recovery.

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