Millions of people are bitten by dogs in the United States every year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unfortunately, almost one in five of those who are bitten need medical treatment. Dog bites can become infected and cause certain diseases, including:
- Rabies, which is a serious virus that affects the brain and often proves fatal. Dog owners should always vaccinate their dogs to prevent the spread of this disease.
- Tetanus, while typically associated with rusty nails and similar objects, can also be a problem with dog bite wounds.
- MRSA is a staph infection that dogs can carry. In people, this bacteria can cause skin, urinary tract and lung infections.
- Capnocytophaga bacteria is a type of bacteria that lives in the mouth. While it doesn’t make dogs sick, it can make people with weak immune systems sick.
- Pasteurella is a common bacteria spread through dog bites. It usually causes a painful, red infection but can also cause more serious problems with some people.
The Legal Liability of Dog Owners
The medical attention required for dog bite wounds can be expensive, especially if the wound becomes infected. Dog owners are strictly liable under Washington law for injuries caused by their pets, which means that they can be forced to pay for these medical bills. They can also be liable for lost wages, pain and suffering, and other related expenses. That’s why many dog owners have homeowner insurance policies that cover dog bites and other pet-related injuries.
In fact, between 2016 and 2017, the number of dog bite insurance claims in Washington increased from $9 million to $13.7 million. The average cost per claim was more than $40,000. That increase tracks the national trend. According to a study done by the Insurance Information Institute, dog bite claims across the U.S. increased by 2.2 percent in 2017.
That’s a steep price tag, especially if the dog owner doesn’t have homeowner insurance, or their insurance policy doesn’t cover dog bites. The bite victim might hold the owner accountable by filing a personal injury lawsuit (the victim can also file a lawsuit against an applicable insurance company if the claim is denied). Lawsuits raise the price tag even higher because then you have to account for attorney’s fees.
What to Do If You Are Bitten by a Dog in Washington
There are three steps you should take if bitten by a dog, according to the CDC.
First, protect yourself from the dog. If there’s no one there to pull the dog off of you, then put something between yourself and the dog. That could be a jacket, purse, or anything else that might serve as a barrier. Curl up into a ball if you are knocked to the ground and keep your head covered.
Second, seek medical treatment. Wash the wound with soap and water as soon as you get to a safe place. Then go see a medical professional, especially if the wound is deep, the wound becomes red and swollen, or you develop a fever. When in doubt, get help.
Third, report the incident to animal control or the police. Also consider hiring a dog bite attorney, especially if you have high medical bills and end up missing work.
Contact a Yakima Personal Injury Lawyer
The Yakima dog bite attorneys at Kapuza Lighty PLLC, can help you seek compensation for your injuries. Whether that means filing an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit, we are here to help. Call our office today or contact us online for assistance.