Dog bites and dog attacks can cause severe injuries. The injuries can be debilitating, mutilating, and at times even killing the victims. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that every year approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs. One of five of these dog bite victims will need to seek medical attention for their injuries. Of these, approximately 600,000 are children, and approximately 16 people are killed each year due to dog attacks.
Locally there are more than 1,000 dog bite incidents reported each year. Of these, pit bulls account for 22% of all reported dog attacks. Some injuries are extensive enough that they will require reconstructive surgery to repair the damage, and many will require multiple surgeries. Medical costs for dog attacks can add quickly, especially for those who undergo reconstructive surgeries.
Who is liable for these personal injuries? How can a personal injury claim for a dog attack be filed? This is where our personal injury attorneys can help you.
Laws Regarding Dog Bites
In years past, Washington observed what is known as the ‘One Bite Rule’, so-called because it meant that every dog owner had one ‘free bite’ before civil liability could be imposed. However, due to a lack of mandatory reporting requirements when a dog injured someone (whether severely or mildly), it was difficult for cases to be proved as a ‘second bite’ incident. As a result, the Washington state legislature was amended, removing the requirement to prove that the dog owner had prior knowledge of the dogs aggressive behavior and propensity to bite.
This statute (See RCW 16.08.040) states:
“The owner of any dog which shall bite any person while such person is in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place including the property of the owner of such dog, shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.”
What does this mean for you, a victim or loved one of someone that has experienced personal injury due to a dog bite? This means that:
- The owner of the dog may be liable for the dog bite injury regardless of the dog’s previous behavior
- A person who knowingly harbors an aggressive dog is responsible for injuries and the liability is expanded
- Negligent behavior on the part of the owner can make them liable for injuries, such as failure to discipline, feed, or correct the dog.
- Violation of leash laws or other animal control laws can indicate liability of the person in possession of the dog
Dog Bite Injuries
Dog bite injuries can be severe. Some victims suffer permanent disfigurement, extensive scarring, infection, and disability. Some victims experience permanent nerve damage, resulting in chronic, constant pain. Reconstructive surgeries, plastic surgeries, physical therapy, and treatments for infections can be necessary.
Some frequent injuries sustained are:
- Puncture wounds
- Orthopedic injuries
- Psychological trauma
Dog Bites and Children
Children are the most frequent victim of dog bite injuries. In fact, dog attacks are the fifth leading reason children are taken to emergency rooms. Children between the ages of five to nine are at highest risk for personal injury due to a dog bite, as these ages are the least understanding of how to properly play with, pet, and manage dogs. However, children under the age of four generally sustain the most severe dog bite injuries, as these are most often to the head and neck.
We’ve worked with many dog bite victims and understand the complexities of the laws and ramifications of the injuries. If you or a loved one has sustained a serious personal injury due to a dog bite, you should contact a personal injury attorney at Russell & Hill PLLC to get justice. With our help, you may recover compensation for your medical costs and pain and suffering.
What Compensation Can You Receive for a Dog Bite?
There are no hard and fast rules as to what monetary compensations the victim of a dog bite will receive. There are, however, some types of compensation that you should expect:
- Medical treatment, including emergency room or urgent care, hospitalization, and ambulance charges
- Surgeries or procedures to repair, including reconstructive and plastic surgeries for scar reduction and minimization of disfigurement
- Physical therapy or recovery treatments for pain management and scar reduction
- Psychological counseling to recover from the emotional trauma of the attack. This can include counseling for dealing with disfigurement, or fear of dogs or being outdoors, etc.
- Loss of earning capacity as a result of the injuries
- Property damage such as torn clothing or damaged glasses
- Any medications, such as antibiotics or rabies vaccinations
- Pain and suffering
Family Members Compensation
Family members may also be compensated for what is called a ‘bystander claim’. This claim is filed when a witness, such as an immediate family member suffers emotional distress as a result of seeing the dog attack occur.
Other examples include compensation for a spouse if their husband or wife has been incapacitated in some way, call a ‘loss of consortium’ claim.
Also, of course, a family member may file a wrongful death claim if the dog attack resulted in the death of the victim.
Special Circumstance Compensation
In some cases, the victim of the dog attack may be able to receive special consideration compensation as well. Some examples can include prepaid vacations, job retraining, and other similar items of loss. These special cases, however, are difficult and should be under the direction of an experienced attorney.
Estimating the amount of compensation for a victim is a difficult task that requires the knowledge and experience of seasoned attorneys like those here, at Russell & Hill PLLC. Fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation with us.
Who is Liable for a Dog Bite?
Because of the new Washington state legislature that amended the previous ‘one bite rule’, the owner or individual responsible for the dog when the attack occurred will be liable. Causes for liability include concepts of negligence, common law strict liability, and/or violations of local law. Dog bite cases can be extremely complex.
Who pays for a dog bite?
If you or your loved one was attacked by the dog of a friend or family member, as is often the case, you may be worried about who is going to pay for the damages. You don’t wish your family, neighbor, or friend to be the individual emptying their pockets and bank accounts.
Thankfully, there is little reason to worry about this. Even though the owner of the dog is technically the liable party, the damages are usually covered by one of the following;
- Homeowner’s insurance
- Renter’s insurance
- Motorhome owner’s insurance
- Landlord’s insurance (covering the owner, occupier, and/or manager of property)
- Commercial general liability insurance (covers stores, offices, or other businesses)
- Employers insurance (protects employees only)
- Motor vehicle insurance (if the dog attack involved a vehicle; i.e., if the dog and victim were in a car at the time, the dog was in a car and attacked someone passing by, the dog was tied to a car and attacked the victim as he/she passed, etc.)
If you’re concerned about your friend or family member’s responsibilities, lay your fears aside – if there are any of the above insurance policies available, they will not have to pay anything toward your damages, leaving you free to receive compensation and recover peacefully.
Resolving Your Dog Bite Personal Injury
If you or your loved one have been injured in a dog attack, don’t hesitate to contact our office to discuss your options. As your personal injury attorneys, we will thoroughly investigate your case, compile evidence, and manage the claim as it moves forward, leaving you free to focus on your recovery. We will handle phone calls, payments, and documentation as your treatment progresses, and keep you apprised of all developments.
At Russell & Hill PLLC, your well-being is our top priority – contact us today.