Many observers consider Washington one of the most dog-friendly states in the nation. Many establishments and outdoor locations allow owners to spend time with their pets. However, these opportunities can also put people at risk of a wayward dog biting them.
Dog bites pose numerous health risks, including muscle, nerve, and blood vessel damage. The dog’s saliva contains bacterial or viral infections such as tetanus and rabies. Not only are these conditions costly to recover from, but they can kill you if left untreated for too long.
If a dog bit you or a loved one, you can seek compensation with the help of a Washington dog bite lawyer. The office of Pintas & Mullins Law Firm has a legal team ready to guide you and provide legal representation. You can call (800) 816-0755 today for a free case review.
Liability in Washington Dog Bites
According to the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) §16.08.040, the dog owner has strict liability for the bite regardless of whether they were negligent or if it happened on public or private property. Exceptions to this rule could apply—for example, if the victim trespassed on private property or provoked the dog into attacking. This statute does not account for non-bite injuries, such as a broken arm if a large dog knocks you down.
If the dog works for law enforcement, their handler will also not be at fault for any bites the dog makes while on duty, such as when apprehending a suspect.
Owners also have liability for dogs that injure or kill other pets and domesticated animals such as sheep or poultry.
Other Dog Laws Could Help Prove Negligence
When it comes to dog bites, you do not necessarily need evidence that the dog bit others or showed aggression in the past. However, Washington’s strict liability rule only applies to dog bite injuries. If the dog also caused other injuries that are not bite-related, you might have to collect proof of the owner’s negligence.
Dog law violations could serve as proof of the owner’s negligence. For example, the dog might not have had its rabies vaccinations, violating the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) §246-100-197. Some cities or counties might also have regulations that do not exist on a state level yet. For instance, King County requires dog owners to have their pets on a leash at all times when in designated areas known as dog control zones. If the dog roamed freely in a dog control zone when they bit you, you could use this information against the owner.
A Washington dog bite lawyer will be familiar with state and local dog-related laws. They could help you investigate the bite incident for any possible offenses. Call the team at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today to learn more.
Getting Compensation for Your Dog Bite
After the biting incident, the dog owner might offer to pay you upfront. While it might tempt you to accept the money right then and there, the offer might not cover all your expenses, especially if you have not completed receiving medical treatment. You might want to consult a Washington dog bite lawyer first to learn about your other options for getting your expenses covered.
If the dog owner has homeowner’s insurance, you could file a third-party claim with their provider to avail yourself of their liability coverage. Keep in mind that some insurers do not cover owners with certain dog breeds they consider dangerous, such as pit bulls and rottweilers. If the dog that bit you is one of these breeds, the insurance company might reject your claim.
Even if the insurance company accepts your claim, the dog owner’s policy might not completely cover all your expenses. You could have the owner pay you out of their pocket with a dog bite lawsuit. Instead of dealing with the insurance provider, Washington’s civil court system would determine how much you should receive from the dog owner.
You typically reserve the option of a lawsuit for when you have exhausted your other remedies. Lawsuits can become expensive and take a long time before you reach an outcome. However, a significant advantage with a civil case is that the jury will objectively examine your case. Jurors will not minimize the defendant’s fault to reduce the compensation you receive, unlike with an insurer.
Your Recoverable Damages
If you win your dog bite case, you can recover economic and non-economic damages. The first category reimburses your actual injury-related expenses, such as hospital bills and lost income. The second compensates for intangible costs, such as emotional trauma and your pain and suffering.
As mentioned previously, Washington follows a strict liability rule for dog bite cases, not the comparative fault system used in most personal injury suits. You will not see your award reduced, unlike other injury cases where the court will reduce your compensation based on the percentage of fault you share.
A Washington dog bite lawyer can help you compile medical bills, pharmacy receipts, and other financial records to calculate your damages as accurately as possible.
Time Limit for Filing Dog Bite Cases in Washington
Dog bite cases follow the same statute of limitations (or filing deadlines) as other personal injury cases in Washington. RCW §4.16.080 provides you typically up to three years from when you got bitten to submit your lawsuit in court. The state generally will not accommodate cases that miss the deadline.
A dog bite attorney can help determine your deadline to ensure that you file your case within the time limit.
We Are Here to Provide Legal Support
Dog bites may become potentially deadly and expensive to treat, but you can receive reparations here in Washington. The office of Pintas & Mullins Law Firm can assign a Washington dog bite lawyer to assist you in forming your case and complying with the state’s filing requirements. They can negotiate with the dog owner and their insurance company, and if you need a representative in court, our attorneys can speak on your behalf.
Our team has worked nationwide for over 30 years. Besides dog bites, we also deal with other personal injury cases, including nursing home abuse and medical malpractice. For your legal concerns, you can call our office anytime at (800) 816-0755 for a free case review.