Dog Bite

2There 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.

2012 Dog Bite Statistics

  • In the U.S. there were 38 fatal dog attacks. Of these, pit bulls and rottweilers contributed to 69% of the deaths. 34% of all fatalities involved more than 1 dog.
  • 50% of the victims were adults over 21-years old, and the other half were children ages 8 years and younger.
  • Of the total children killed 79% were ages 2-years and younger. 61% of the victims were males ages 8-years and younger.
  • 32% of all dog bite victims were either visiting or living temporarily with the dog’s owner.

2011 Dog Bite Statistics

  • There were 31 fatal dog attacks. Pit bulls and rottweilers contributed to 84% of the deaths. 39% of all fatalities involved more than 1 dog
  • Adult victims of fatal pit bulls attacks more than doubled the number of child victims. 2011 also marks an increase in pit bulls killing their owners.
  • Of the fatal bites to children 62% occurred to ages 1 and younger.
  • 74% of all dog bite incidents occurred on the dog owner’s property.

Dog Bite Prevention

  • Do not approach an unfamiliar dog or try to pet it through a fence or car window.
  • If a confrontation occurs, freeze, avoid eye contact with the dog and don’t scream.
  • If the dog lunges, drop to the ground, curl up into a ball, and protect your face and head with your arms.
  • Never turn your back to a dog and run. Move away very slowly, sideways or backwards.
  • Never leave an infant or small child unsupervised with a dog to prevent biting or ear or tail pulling by either party.
  • Do not disturb a dog while sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy, or caring for puppies.
  • Do not pet a dog without permission from the dog’s owner.
  • Never lean your face close to a dog, tease or startle a dog.
  • Never run toward a dog, let the dog come to you. Always allow the dog to sniff you before attempting to pet it.
  • Always be alert for potentially dangerous situations.

Warning Signs Before Attack

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.

Untitled-2Prior 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.

 

Untitled-3During 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.

What You Should Do Following a Dog Bite

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:

  • Obtain prompt medical treatment. Dog bites can cause significant damage to tissues, muscles, tendons, and nerves underneath the skin which may not be readily apparent. Infections, including tetanus and rabies need to be considered.
  • Identify the dog. Obtain the names, addresses and phone numbers of the dog’s owner and of any witnesses as well as the homeowner’s insurance information.
  • Report the incident to animal control authorities. This is especially important if the dog wasn’t wearing a license tag and you don’t know who owns the dog. Filing a report will document the case, help determine if the dog has bitten before, and the rabies immunization status of the dog.
  • Take photographs of your injuries including bruises, and worn or bloody clothing and the location of the attack.
  • Don’t give recorded statements to the insurance company representative about the incident without an attorney present. The information you give the insurance company can be detrimental to your case. Insurance companies are not the friends of injured claimants. Don’t make their job easier by providing them with information that they can use or manipulate to deny your claim.
  • Don’t rely on any insurance company, to protect your interests. Insurance companies’ primary goal is to make a profit.  They do this by collecting premiums and denying claims.  Insurance company use their adjusters, investigators, and attorneys to limit the amount of money paid out.

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.

Washington Dog Bite Statute

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:

  • The dog has tendency to snap at people.
  • The owner has cautioned others that the dog bites.
  • The dog wears a muzzle.

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:

  • The person bit was a trespasser on the property occupied by the dog.
  • The person bit was tormenting, abusing, or assaulting the dog.

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:

  • Conduct all communication with the homeowner’s insurance company.
  • Investigate, locate and preserve evidence as well as witnesses before the evidence is destroyed, altered, or lost and the witnesses vanish.
  • Identify sources of recovery to compensate you for your losses.
  • Gather all medical records, wage loss information, and other documentation to support your injury claim.
  • Negotiate with the insurance company representatives for a fair settlement of your claim.
  • Provide a video presentation of the defendant’s dog is possibly the most powerful evidence to determine if the dog has aggressive tendencies.
  • Skillfully navigate your case through the complexities of the court system.
  • Providing the necessary legal bases and providing powerful evidence such as a video presentation of the defendant’s dog. If the dog displays dangerous or vicious propensities during a professional evaluation, each member of the jury will get to fully experience that behavior at trial.
  • Aggressively protect your interests, and assure all filing deadline dates are met.
  • Answer any questions you may have and relieve you from the burden of having to deal with the consequences of the accident alone.

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.”

Special 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.

General Damages:

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.

Dog Bite injury lawyer