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Does it matter what kind of animal attacks or bites me?

If you are in the unfortunate position of having been the victim of an animal attack, you may be surprised to find out that depending on the state where the attack took place, your rights may vary based on the type of animal that injured you in the attack.

Like most states, Arizona has enacted laws that are normally labeled as "dog-bite laws." Typically, dog-bite laws confer "strict liability" on the dog's legal owners for any and all injuries that their dog may inflict on other people. Strict liability simply means that the dog owner is always responsible for any injuries caused by the dog, irrespective of whether the dog's owner was actually found to be at fault or not.

Under strict liability dog bite laws, a dog attack victim need only demonstrate that the dog did in fact injure him or her; the owner's knowledge of the dog's propensity to bite or injure another is not taken into account. A dog owner's only recourse is to try to prove that the dog was either provoked to attack or the victim was trespassing when he or she was attacked.

But, one may ask, what about attacks by animals other than a dog? For instance, injuries caused by horses are typically the result of the animal kicking rather than biting. Generally, the law does not specifically deal with injuries that are caused by horses. Thus, such injuries are adjudicated using the standard rules of negligence. This means that horse's owner will be found liable for damages only if the victim can prove that the owner was or should have been aware that the animal was dangerous. In this situation, a horse owner's potential defense may be to prove that the victim was either trespassing or handled the animal in a negligent manner.

When it comes to attacks from wild and predatory animals, owners are often held to strict liability standards that are very similar to dog-bite laws. These laws are based on the premise that by deciding to own a large, dangerous or vicious animal, the owner assumes responsibility for keeping and maintaining such an animal in a safe environment, away from the general public. Even if extreme measures are taken to keep the animal safely away from the public, if the animal is able to thwart such measures and injure someone, the owner still will be held liable.

Source: FindLaw, "Does the Type of Animal Affect a Bite Injury Case?" accessed Sept. 23, 2014

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Law Office of Keith A. Hammond, P.C.

Keith A. Hammond, P.C. Attorney at Law
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Flagstaff, AZ 86001-4623

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