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Dogs can be your best friend, but they can also be vicious when they attack. If you suffer a dog bite, you may need medical treatment for the physical injuries, but the emotional toll is also a factor. Many victims experience a debilitating fear of dogs for the rest of their lives.
You may be entitled to a financial recovery in the event of a dog bite, but these claims can be different from typical personal injury cases. There are legal concepts involving both strict liability and negligence principles. At Kapuza Lighty, PLLC, our Yakima dog bite attorneys can help you with a claim and get the compensation you deserve.
Overview of Dog Bite Laws in Washington State
Dog owners have a legal responsibility under Washington State law to properly manage their pets, or they can be held strictly liable for any injuries their animals cause. Strict liability means that, if you are bitten, you must show that:
You were in a public place or lawfully upon private property when you suffered injuries; and,
You did not provoke the dog to attack.
If you can prove these elements, then strict liability means the owner is automatically responsible for the attack, regardless of what he or she did to try and restrain the dog.
Note that these elements of the of action only apply to dog bites; other injuries that may be caused by interactions with a dog fall under negligence principles. Therefore, if you sustain injuries because a dog knocked you down, mauled you, or scratched you, it is necessary to show that the owner:
- Had a duty to ensure care in managing the dog and taking precautions to ensure it did not hurt anyone;
- Failed to exercise proper care;
- The failure of duty caused your injuries; and,
- You suffered damages because you were hurt.
Making out a successful claim for negligence is complicated, so meet with an attorney as soon as possible to analyze your case.
Yakima, WA Dog Bite Attorneys Seek Compensation for Your Injuries
If you are successful in proving a dog bite claim under the theory of strict liability, or an attack based upon negligence, you may be able to recover compensation from the dog’s owner. You can recover two different types of damages, including:
- Economic damages, which are losses associated with medical care, surgery, and treatment, as well as lost wages; and,
- Noneconomic damages related to your pain and suffering, emotional distress, and losses based upon your personal relationships. If a client suffers visible scarring in the face, then emotional distress could be considerable.
Dog bites are not “minor” injuries, so injured victims should not settle for pennies. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average dog bite claim in 2015 was over $37,000 and only seems to be increasing. Do not assume that any dog bite is too minor to receive compensation for. Instead, meet with an attorney who can review the case to determine how much money you can receive.
Liability Issues in Dog Bite Cases
Under certain circumstances, your right to recover may be limited or barred based upon operation of Washington State law.
If you provoked the dog or antagonized it in any way, you may be prohibited from recovering any compensation. Some gray areas arise when you are walking your own dog, which gets into a fight with another person’s dog, which then bites you. Did you provoke the dog? An attorney will need to investigate the entire situation to determine whether the statute covers you.
There is a statute of limitations in Washington State, so you cannot file a lawsuit if more than three years have passed since you were injured by the dog. This means you need to find an attorney as soon as possible who can file a lawsuit in the correct court to protect your rights.
Lastly, another issue arises with respect to homeowners’ insurance. Most of our clients receive a payout from the dog owner’s insurance policy. This policy, however, often has exclusions for certain types of dogs. Also, the policy limit usually is the maximum that you can receive in a claim. If the policy has a $200,000 limit, then this is the most you can receive even if you have millions of dollars in damages.
What to Do after a Dog Bite
Dog bites are dangerous. Even if a bite looks superficial, you need to take certain steps to ensure that you fully recover and do not develop any nasty complications. Remember to do the following:
- Ask the dog owner about the dog’s vaccination history, in particular vaccination against rabies. If the dog has never been vaccinated, you will need to be.
- Immediately stop any bleeding. You can apply a clean towel or other cloth to the wound, using pressure. Also elevate the limb above the heart, which should slow the flow of blood to the wound.
- Clean the wound with soap and warm water after it stops bleeding. Be gentle but thorough.
- Cover your wound with a sterile bandage after you have stopped the bleeding.
- Check for signs of infection over the next few days, such as redness or pus draining from the wound. Immediately go to the doctor to receive a prescription for antibiotics if you think you have an infection.
Of course, to be safe, you should probably go to the hospital after a serious dog bite to be checked over. The doctor can thoroughly clean the wound and use stitches to close it, if necessary. You might need a tetanus booster as well as a rabies vaccine, especially if the dog has not been vaccinated.
You should also contact the police and/or animal control, which can monitor the dog for signs of rabies. Dangerous dogs are a risk to other people, so make sure that the authorities know about it so they can protect the public.
Talk to a Yakima, WA Dog Bite Attorney About Your Case