Representing Dog Bite Victims in the State of Washington
First, I advise people to also read the August 27, 2018, blog on this website ‘Important Information About Dog Bite Cases in Washington State.'
If you were recently attacked by a dog, you are not alone. According to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CD), every year nearly 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs and half of these victims are children.
Washington Dog Bite Laws in Concern to Injuries
(a) Strict Liability
Washington state has a strict liability dog bite statute for injured victims. In plain English, what this means is that a dog bite owner can automatically be deemed liable without a finding of fault. In many other personal injury cases, a claimant must prove the elements of negligence which can get tricky. But with strict liability, it is not necessary for a claimant to prove the usual elements of negligence, a person needs to just prove that they were injured and sustained damages. Strict Liability is known in legal circles as a favorable liability standard for injured people.
RCW 16.08.040 reads in part:
“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.”
The exceptions to strict liability can be if the dog bite claimant was trespassing, committing a crime, or provoking a dog. Landlords are generally protected from being liable when a tenant's dog injuries a person, although landlords could face some liability for a tenant's dangerous animals.
A dog owner can also potentially be liable if she knew that the dog had known propensity to dangerous behavior or if the dog owner was negligent in her training of the dog or in watching her dog at a particular time. However, in the State of Washington the above strict liability statute is usually the easiest and most effective pay to establish liability against a dog owner in a dog bite injury situation.
What to do when first injured by a dog
It is important to take photographs and try to get medical attention right away. A visit to a health care provider can assist an injured person with treatment and provide further documentation of an injury. Proper documentation of an injury is important. A lack of documentation can result in a claim being minimized or possibly falling apart.
It is further recommended in many situations that a dog bite victim contact a local animal control or similar law enforcement department to help document and further investigate the incident.
Finding Insurance Coverage
Most homeowners generally have some liability coverage. However, not all homeowners' policies cover dog bite injuries. Sometimes it takes another source of insurance to find coverage. Some people will try to avoid talking to the lawyer representing the injured person. Nonetheless, in many situations, my firm can usually figure out ways to obtain insurance coverage for an injured person. Under the Washington state civil discovery rules, insurance policies must be handed over during the discovery phase of a lawsuit.
Many Injuries Can Occur as a Result of a Dog Bite
When a dog injures one there can be heightened levels of grief, in part because the injury usually involves some scarring and shock. Victims of such incidents can face all sorts of physical injuries, in addition, they can face debilitating emotional distress. The injuries a victim can face after a dog incident, include a range of medical issues that involve disfigurement, connective tissue injuries, and other health problems.
What The Victim of a Dog Bite Should Do Immediately After
If you are involved in a dog bite incident, it is highly recommended that you or someone trustworthy near you try to obtain the dog owner's information and contact a law enforcement division immediately. It is important to have the name of the dog owner and her contact information. One reason is because it will be easier to serve the dog owner, in the event of a lawsuit. I would also advise the victim in most cases to hold off on giving a statement immediately to the at dog owner's insurance company. Sometimes an initial statement can be twisted, or the injured person can say something out of turn that can come back and cause some potential problems later.
Can An Insurance Company or Plan Help the Injured Victim?
In the aftermath of a dog bite incident, the victim will want to search for insurance. The victim will want to inquire and learn if the dog owner has a Medical Payments Policy (Med-Pay), or similar policy-such policies can pay for at least some of the victim's accident-related health care billings. Another option is health insurance, a private or public health insurance plan, or a combination of both.
Victims of dog bites have various remedies that they can recover as a result of their injury.
In Washington State, an injured victim can recover for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress, inconvenience, future treatment, and loss of earning capacity. These damages are known as general damages.
The injured victim can also recover damages that relate to their health care treatment and loss wages. These damages are known as special damages.
A family member of an injured or deceased victim of a dog bite may also be able to recover for loss of support, loss of consortium, and funeral/burial costs. Wrongful death and survivorship options occur in cases that involved deceased victims where the family survivors can have potential monetary remedies.
What My Law Firm Can Do
As a personal injury attorney, I am very passionate to represent victims of dog bites. I have helped obtain good results for victims injured as a result of dog bites. It is very important for a dog bite victim to have a lawyer who understands the importance of examining the evidence and the legal issues involved. My firm is aware of the various spectrum of issues that can come up in a dog bite injury case.