Compensation For Dog Bite Injuries
While many dog bites are just “nips” that don’t break the skin and leave no lasting marks, a significant amount of bites can require stitches, physically scar and disfigure, cause nerve and tissue damage, cause infection, and leave emotional scars. If you or a family member is injured by a dog bite, you or they may be able to pursue compensation for the resulting damages and losses. To ensure that you have a solid and viable personal injury claim, and a competent strategy to win that claim, you will need the guidance of an experienced Seattle dog bite attorney.
Pendergast Law has been successfully representing dog bite victims and other injury victims in Seattle and throughout Washington state for nearly 30 years. Let us put our knowledge and experience to work on your case so you can get a settlement worthy of your injuries. Call Pendergast Law today for a free consultation toll-free at 888-539-9211.
Who Can Be Held Liable In A Seattle Dog Bite Claim?
Under the state of Washington’s dog bite statute, which is outlined in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 16.08.040, any dog owner can be held liable if their pet injures or attacks another person. While other states require that the dog have a history of violence, often referred to as a “one-bite law,” Washington does not require victims to prove that a dog had bitten or attacked in the past. Instead, Washington follows a strict liability statute that holds owners accountable when their dogs injure someone.
Liability in a dog attack does not always end with the owner, however. According to RCW 16.08.070, a dog’s “owner” is defined as “any person, firm, corporation, organization, or department possessing, harboring, keeping, having an interest in, or having control or custody of an animal.” Thus, anyone who was temporarily or permanently responsible for taking care of and controlling the dog can be found liable if it attacks someone. This includes dog walkers, pet sitters, kennel owners, veterinarians, groomers, and trainers.
Another aspect of liability that you should be aware of is the theory of scienter. Scienter is a legal term referring to knowledge of wrongdoing or danger, or the potential for wrongdoing or danger, before it occurs. In the case of a dog-related injury, a scienter would be someone who had previously seen or had knowledge of a particular dog’s potential for aggressive behavior yet didn’t act to prevent it.
For example: Neighbor A has a dog that runs around his fenced-in front yard. Neighbor B lives next door to Neighbor A. In casual conversations over the fence, Neighbor A mentions to Neighbor B that their dog doesn’t like it and acts aggressively when a stranger enters his front yard. A week or so later, Neighbor B is out in his front yard and notices a substitute mail carrier or a Girl Scout selling cookies about to enter Neighbor A’s front yard. Neighbor B does nothing to warn the person, and that person is attacked by the dog. In this case, Neighbor B could be held liable for a certain amount of injuries as a scienter.
It is important to note that police dogs and K9 units in Seattle have some immunity from civil action. Under RCW 4.24.410, police officers in charge of police dogs are immune from civil action if the dog attacks someone “in the line of duty in good faith.” Generally, these cases are more complex, as your attorney will need to show that the police officer committed misconduct during an arrest or investigation that result in an unlawful use of force.
Outside of Washington’s strict liability laws, dog owners can also be found liable for negligence. Negligence refers to any action a reasonable person would not have taken in the same situation. With regard to dog attacks, this can include allowing a dog to roam a neighborhood without a leash or allowing it to easily exit the property when the owner knows the dog has a history of attacks.
Dogs can be wonderful and gentle companions for children and adults. But, if a dog is abused or not properly trained and socialized with other pets and people, it can be dangerous. If you have been injured by a dog bite, you need to contact an experienced Seattle personal injury attorney immediately.
Who Is Most At Risk In A Dog Attack?
Anyone can be seriously injured by a dog, but a large, violent animal is especially dangerous to the elderly and the young. Older adults are more fragile, which means that a single bite can result in deep lacerations, broken bones, and disfigurements. Even if a dog playfully leaps at an elderly person, he could suffer a serious head or back injury in a fall, especially if he strikes concrete or pavement. There is also a higher chance of older adults developing a deadly infection after a bite, as their immune systems may be compromised by a variety of health conditions.
Children, in turn, also are more susceptible to infections, though their chances of recovery are higher. The major issue with children is their height. When a dog attacks, it can get a hold on the child’s neck or face, which can result in serious scarring. In several vicious attacks, dogs have bitten off fingers. Dog attacks can also be emotionally traumatizing, and many children need psychiatric treatment to move on after an attack.
At the end of the day, child injuries should be taken seriously, and parents should reach out to an experienced attorney to discuss their legal options. Not only can we advocate for the full costs of your child’s medical bills, but we can also demand compensation for their long-term trauma and treatment.
What Damages Can Be Claimed In Dog Bite Or Attack Lawsuit In Seattle?
Dog owners can be found liable under Washington state laws for the full costs of a victim’s injuries, which can include everything from medical expenses to lost wages to pain and suffering. If you or a family member has suffered a dog-related injury, an attorney at Pendergast Law can advocate for:
- Current and future medical bills related to the injury (such as emergency room fees and skin grafts)
- Pain and suffering
- Permanent injury or disability
- Emotional trauma and mental anguish (many people, especially children, develop an irrational fear of dogs following a dog bite)
- Lost wages
- Wrongful death damages if you lose a loved one from a dog attack
It is important to remember that Washington is a pure comparative negligence state, meaning compensation can be limited if a court assigns any fault to the victim. Depending on the percentage of fault applied to you, the total value of your case may be reduced. However, with pure comparative negligence, you can still recover compensation even if you are found 99% at fault.
Are There Defenses Against A Washington Dog Bite Claim?
There are exceptions to Washington’s dog bite statute that every plaintiff should be aware of. As mentioned earlier, police officers are typically immune from liability unless they committed misconduct, but there are also defenses commonly used by private citizens. As stated in RCW 16.08.060, dog owners cannot be found liable if the dog bite victim provoked the dog. This can include taunting, scaring, or abusing the animal. In addition, if the dog was defending its owner or the victim was trespassing on private property, then the dog bite statute does not apply.
However, there are limits to this defense when a child is injured by a dog. Typically, with adults, a provocation defense could make plaintiffs partially liable for their own injuries, which means they can be subject to Washington state’s comparative negligence laws. But, according to the Washington State Supreme Court, children under the age of six cannot be found negligent under the law – for children younger than six, the provocation defense would not apply. Even in cases where children older than six were bitten by dogs, the amount of fault applied to them will vary depending on their age, mental capacity, and development. Children cannot be held to the same standards as adults, and a skilled attorney can advocate for their rights in a dog bite claim to ensure they receive proper compensation for their injuries.
Contact A Seattle Dog Bite Attorney Today
Dog bite cases can become complex. While you may hope that the owner’s homeowner’s insurance will give you a fair deal for your trauma, the truth is that these businesses only care about profits. They use all their resources, including teams of experienced attorneys and investigators, to reduce the amount of money you receive in a claim. Your best option is to get legal representation for yourself or your family.
The legal team at Pendergast Law has spent decades representing injured clients throughout Seattle and has multiple successful case results. When we take on a client, we thoroughly investigate every aspect of the case and advocate for the full costs of your injuries. If you work with our attorneys, you can trust that your case will be given the attention and dedication it needs. Call a Seattle personal injury attorney at Pendergast Law toll-free at 888-539-9211 to schedule your free consultation.