There is an estimated 78.2 million dogs owned in the U.S. Although the majority of dogs are well behaved, well trained, and non-aggressive they too can bite if startled, scared, threatened, agitated or angry. Of greater concern to public safety are thousands and perhaps millions of dogs that are aggressive, out of control, or genetically predisposed toward violent behavior. There are an estimated 4.7 million dog bites in the U.S. every year. Nearly 880,000 dog bites are severe enough to require immediate medical attention and 30,000 victims undergo reconstructive surgery.
Pit bull terriers and rottweilers are by far the two most deadly dog breeds in America. These dogs have committed a disproportional amount of fatalities over a 20-year span. While pit bulls and rottweilers make up less than 5% of the total U.S. dog population, these two breeds account for more than 66% of all fatal dog attacks.
While environment plays a role in making a dog dangerous, breed genetics is the major factor that leaves victims with permanent, disfiguring injuries. Although far less common, there are a number of other fighting breeds, such as akita, presa canario, bullmastiff and other breeds like German shepherd, wolf hybrid, and huskies that pose a significant threat to public safety.
The Law office of Mark McClure, P.S. represents Washington dog bit victims in dog bite cases against dog owner, dog keepers, dog harborers, and landlords that knew that their tenants were harboring dangerous dogs. Our firm can help you obtain financial compensation for your injuries, pain and suffering, and other damages.
The first sign of trouble may be a “gut” feeling. Anything about a dog’s behavior or body language that makes you feel uncomfortable indicates a need for immediate intervention.
As a general rule dogs displaying the following postures are signaling their intention to act aggressively.
Prior to a fear aggression attack, a dog’s ears are laid back against his head. The body is tense, but very low to the ground and the dog often trembles. He might lean so his center of gravity is over his rear legs to permit a fast retreat. The tail is completely tucked between the legs with little or no movement. The nose is wrinkled and the lips are slightly curled baring teeth. The dog may whine or growl. The fur on the dog’s back may stands up. The eyes are narrowed and averted to avoid a direct stare.
During a dominant aggression threat a dog’s ears are erect and tilted forwarded. The dog’s legs and body are stiff and his weight is centered over his front legs so he can lunge or charge forward quickly. The tail is stiff and raised and may be moving back and forth. The nose is wrinkled and lips retracted to expose the teeth and gums. The dog may assert a low growl or aggressive bark. The hair on the dog’s back may stand on edge. The dog makes direct eye contact with the person.
Anyone who has been injured by a dog bite, even if the injuries are not severe, should contact a reputable personal injury attorney shortly after you:
Definition of Potentially Dangerous Dog
Washington law defines a “potentially dangerous dog” as any dog that when unprovoked:
(a) inflicts bites on a human or a domestic animal either on public or private property, or
(b) chases or approaches a person upon the streets, sidewalks, or any public grounds in a menacing fashion of attack, or any dog with a known propensity, tendency, or disposition to attack unprovoked, to cause injury, or to otherwise threaten the safety of humans or domestic animals.
Definition of Dangerous Dog
“Dangerous dog” means any dog that when unprovoked:
(a) inflicts severe injury on a human being without provocation on public or private property,
(b) kills a domestic animal without provocation while the dog is off the owner’s property, or
(c) has been previously found to be potentially dangerous because of injury inflicted on a human, the owner having received notice of such and the dog again aggressively bites, attacks, or endangers the safety of Humans.
The state of Washington has a dog bite statute that is favorable to dog victims. There are two laws that govern owner liability for dog bites.
1. The “One Bite Rule.” Under this rule a dog is allowed one free bite and the owner or keeper of the dog cannot be held liable provided that the owner or keeper, was not negligent in their actions to control the dog. The rule will not protect the owner if the owner was in violation of other protective dog laws such as leach laws or if the dog has a propensity to be dangerous and the owner knew or should have known of the dog’s dangerous behavior. Dangerous propensity can be established if:
This traditional approach however, clearly does not address the threats from pit bulls, rottweiler’s, and other overly aggressive dogs as the life-threatening or fatal attack often is the first known dangerous behavior by the animal in question.
2. ”Strict Liability” The law makes the owner, harbor, keeper or handler of the dog strictly liable for injuries sustained by a person while the person is in or on a public place or lawfully in or on private property including the property of the owner of such dog, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.
The premise of the strict liability is that of simple ownership of the dog. If your dog bites someone you are legally responsible for the victim’s injuries regardless of whether it was the dog’s first bite, you were not negligent in any manner, or did not violate other dog laws.
However, the strict liability rule offers some protection to dog owners. A dog owner cannot be held liable if his dog bites someone, if any of the conditions exist:
It is unlawful for an owner to have a dangerous dog in Washington without a certificate of registration issued by the city or county in which the owner keeps a dangerous dog. The owner must provide a proper enclosure to confine a dangerous dog, post the premises with clearly visible warning signs which include a warning symbol to inform children of the presence of a dangerous dog on the property, and maintain a liability insurance policy or a surety bond of at least $250,000, payable to any person injured by the dangerous dog.
Do I Need an Attorney?
If you sustained a dog bite, it is in your best interests to consult with an attorney. The following are some of the services provided by an experienced dog bite attorney:
Damages Awarded in Dog Bite Cases
A competent personal injury attorney will pursue all types of compensatory damages for clients injured by dog bites Compensatory damages are intended to place the accident victim in a position which that would have been in had the accident never happened or to restore the victim financially, emotionally and physically. Compensatory damages consist of money losses called “special damages” and non-money losses called “general damages.”
1. Medical Expenses. An injured person may recover damages for emergency room care, hospitalization, doctor visits, reconstructive surgery, diagnostic studies, and prescription medication expenses. Not only should you be reimbursed for medical bills that you already have; but, an aggressive lawyer should also seek to recover future medical care that you may need. That medical care would also include permanent disability costs such as the expense of a wheelchair, permanent housing in a nursing home, and artificial limbs.
2. Wage Loss. If the dog bite prevents you from being able to work you can demand that those lost wages be paid by the owner of the dog and their insurance company. Even if you had sick time or vacation time and used it, that was your benefit and you are entitled to reimbursement.
3. Reduced Capacity to Earn. If the injuries are long term and this interferes with your ability make or earn money you have an additional claim against the dog owner. This reduction in income capacity may be temporary or it could be permanent depending on your injuries. If you are permanently injured you may never be able to return to your job and in some cases you may never work again. An attorney looking out for you can and will put together the right vocational and economic experts to make sure those losses are included in your dog bite claim.
4. Household Services. If you need to hire someone to provide household services to you because you are recovering, you may be entitled to damages which pay for such services as long as you wouldn’t have had this expenditure if you weren’t injured. Household services would include housekeeper, gardener, care for children, or other normal family and household tasks.
5. Pain and Suffering. The nature, severity, and duration of your injuries and treatment are important factors in computing damages for pain and suffering. A complete understanding of the damages include they attorney fully understanding the injury and how it impacts your life and day to day activities.
6. Loss of Enjoyment of Life. In personal injury lawsuits, you may seek damages for loss of enjoyment of life. Although it may sound similar to “pain and suffering,” damages for loss of enjoyment of life are different. Pain and suffering refers to the direct pain caused by the injuries you receive as a result of an accident. Loss of enjoyment of life refers to the emotional, physical and psychological loss you endure over the long-term as the result of an injury.
For example, if you lose your sense of sight after a dog attack, you can be compensated further due to the fact that you will never be able to work the same again, see your children or generally enjoy life the way you once did. Loss of a limb, permanent disability and disfigurement or other catastrophic injuries also may qualify victims for this particular type of compensation.
7. Mental Anguish/Emotion Distress. Although mental anguish and emotional distress are often confused with pain and suffering, they are not the same. Pain and suffering involves physical injury whereas mental anguish involves emotional injury. It can be quite normal for an accident victim to experience some sort of emotional distress in addition to physical pain. An injured party may be entitled to compensation for mental anguish including fear, anxiety, shock, grief, mental suffering, shame and embarrassment that can normally result from a traumatic accident.
Call Us Today
At the Law Office of Mark McClure, we take the time to listen to you and find out what is going on in your life while treating you with dignity and respect. In these hard times the last thing you need is to feel judged. You simply need help. We understand. Dog Bite laws are laws that protect. They protect you and your family.
Call our office and get some information. After all, their insurance companies have attorneys; shouldn’t you?
Call and ask for Mark McClure at 253-631-6484. We are here and ready to listen and help.