Dog bites happen all the time, and many times it’s by a dog you thought was friendly or even a dog at a family member’s house. Dog bites hurt and can cause pain and serious injury. Often times, the injuries can require rabies shots, surgeries and rehabilitation. They can also cause extreme mental anguish and bring about permanent scarring or disfigurement.
So, who is going to pay for all of this?
Getting Bit by a Dog in Washington State
Generally speaking, in Washington State, dog bite victims have a law that helps them get compensation for their injury. Before this law, if you were bitten by a dog, the state’s “one bite rule” would apply that allowed dog owners to be free from liability if their dog hadn’t bitten anyone before. The idea under this legal doctrine was that if the dog hadn’t been aggressive or had bitten anyone, then the owner shouldn’t be liable for the damages caused by the bite.
This left dog bite victims to prove that the owner of the dog was negligent in the handling of their dog before they could collect compensation.
Washington State’s dog bite laws create a “strict liability” rule for any bite damage done by their dog even if the dog hadn’t ever bitten anyone or shown signs of aggression. This supersedes the “one bite rule” and puts the liability squarely on the dog owner.
Washington Revised Code Section 16.08.050 states that the owner of a dog that injures a person is liable for damages suffered by the victim if:
- The injury came from a dog bite, and
- The victim was in a public place, or
- Lawfully in a private place.
The injury from the dog must have been from a dog bite and not just being scared by one or knocked down by a rambunctious dog. Also, the victim must be in a public place such as a sidewalk or out in the community.
The law exempts police dogs acting in their official duties, and it doesn’t apply if the victim provoked the dog.
Dog Bites at Family Member’s Home
If you are at a family member or neighbor/friend’s home and are bitten, then the dog bite law will still apply. Remember, for the law to apply, the person must have been bitten in a public place or be lawfully on private property. If you are at a family members home by invite, then you are there lawfully.
If you are sneaking onto a neighbor’s or family member’s property without permission, then you are not there lawfully.
So, if you are there legally and are bitten, then the owner of the dog will have to pay for your injuries. Keep in mind that if you are bitten by a dog and it’s determined that you weren’t there with permission, then this doesn’t mean you have no recourse, it just means that the Washington state dog bite law doesn’t apply and you would have to prove that the owner was negligent. Of course, the owner could use the fact that you were trespassing as a defense to negligence, but that would be for a jury to decide.
What if I Don’t Want to Sue Family?
Sometimes a dog bite victim is reluctant to sue their friend or family member. They feel that the relationship is more important or they blame themselves for the incident. This is, of course, the right of the injured person not to pursue compensation, but there are some things to consider before you make that decision.’
Is the injury serious? Was the victim a child? Without compensation, will the victim get full medical treatment?
All of these might help you to decide that getting compensation might be more important—especially if the injured person is not you but a child who is counting on you for protection and medical treatment.
Another thing to consider is that when a person has a home, then they have a homeowner’s policy that protects them in cases of dog bites in the home or on their property. This means that you will really be dealing with the insurance company and not with the homeowner.
Also, most people want to do what’s right when someone or something they are responsible for harms another person. If your family member thinks about what you or your loved one is going through, they should be ok with having their insurance cover the damages. After all, that’s why they have insurance in the first place.
Damages in a Dog Bite Case
Under Washington State personal injury law, a victim of a personal injury due to someone else’s negligence or fault, is allowed to recoup financial compensation for their injuries. Many of these are obvious like medical bills, but the law allows for just about any losses that can have a monetary value assigned.
Some of these damages are:
- Medical bills
- Lost time from work
- Permanent disability
- Transportation to treatment
- Job retraining (if you can’t do your old job)
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of Consortium (physical intimacy)
- Mental anguish, including PTSD
Contact a Spokane Dog Bite Attorney Today
When someone is involved in an auto accident, there is an insurance policy that is meant to cover the damages, but with a dog bite, it might take some creative strategy to come up with a source for the compensation.
Contact a Spokane Dog Bite Attorney who knows Washington’s law regarding dog bites for a free consultation.
We serve clients in Spokane, WA, Coeur d’Alene, ID, and surrounding communities and can go toe-to-toe with the insurance companies and their lawyers to get you fair compensation for your injuries. Call us at (509) 926 4900, or send us a message by clicking here.