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Seattle Dog Bite Attorneys

When we think about the most common sources of injuries, we tend to think about things like car accidents or slip and falls. But a surprising number of people are seriously injured each year due to dog bites. Indeed, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that roughly 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, and 1 out of every 5 dog bites–approximately 900,000 people annually–results in an infection.

Seattle is a dog-friendly town, but dogs can be dangerous, and they must be properly trained and controlled when out in public or even while on their own property. Unfortunately, not all dog owners exhibit the same level of responsibility, and millions of people get bitten by dogs every year, most of the time while on the owner’s property. In Seattle alone, hundreds of dog bites are reported annually. Dog bites can be painful and scary, or they can cause permanent injury and even death. After any serious bite, the victim and their family are likely to experience a difficult time in terms of medical bills, shock, physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, and short or long-term psychological problems.

All the damages flowing from a dog bite should be compensated by the dog owner’s insurance, but getting compensation for the full measure of damages owed can be difficult. The personal injury attorneys at Emerald Law Group are very experienced in this area. Our legal team has a record of success in obtaining significant compensation on behalf of dog bite injury victims. We don’t just dabble or take the occasional case; our firm has the level of experience in this field of injury law necessary to handle your claim effectively. Call our lawyers today for a free consultation to discuss your needs and find out how we can help.

Dog Owners Are Strictly Liable for Injuries Under Washington Dog Bite Law

The state of Washington has a strict liability dog bite law. “Strict liability” is a legal term. Basically, it means that dog bite victims do not have to prove that the owner was somehow negligent in their care and keeping of the animal. If the attack occurred on public property or while the victim was lawfully on private property, then it doesn’t matter how careful the owner was; they are still liable for injuries if their dog bites someone. It also doesn’t matter whether the dog had bitten someone before or had a history acting of aggressively; dog owners are liable the very first time their dog bites someone, whether they knew the dog might bite or not.

This does not mean, however, that dog bite cases are simple or easy to resolve. For one thing, dog owners can get out of liability if they can show the dog was provoked into biting. When dog owners or their insurance companies raise this defense, it can be a complex question to resolve depending on the unique facts of the case and factors such as the age of the victim, where and how the attack occurred, and all the surrounding circumstances. Our experienced dog bite attorneys know how to investigate the incident, gather the facts, apply the relevant law, and present a strong and persuasive case, whether we are negotiating a settlement with the insurance company or trying your case to a jury in court. Our commitment to our clients is to see that they are well taken care of both in terms of getting the medical care they need and the financial compensation they deserve after being injured in a horrific attack.

Another challenging area of dog bite cases can involve assessing the damages inflicted on the victim. Legal damages can include both economic costs such as expenses for medical care and therapy or replacing lost income and damaged property, as well as noneconomic losses such as pain and suffering, mental distress, and loss in quality of life. Dog bite victims, for instance, might develop a fear of dogs or a fear of the outdoors which greatly diminishes their ability to enjoy life as they did before the attack. These damages can and should be compensated, but insurance companies often fight hard to minimize the serious nature of the attack and refuse to recognize the long-term physical and psychological consequences of a severe bite.

Emerald Law Group helps dog bite victims in Seattle who have suffered serious or catastrophic injuries, including:

  • Puncture wounds
  • Lacerations
  • Broken bones, crushed bones, compound fractures
  • Facial injuries
  • Nerve damage
  • Infections
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Physical and emotional pain and suffering
  • Psychological injury, including PTSD, anxiety, and depression

Insurers Pay Out $882 Million Annually for Dog Bite Injuries

Again, while you may not consider a dog to be a safety hazard, just ask an insurance company. In March 2022, the Insurance Information Institute (III) reported that homeowners’ liability claims to dog bites and dog-related injuries cost insurance companies a staggering $882 million in 2021. The III also found that:

  • There were nearly 18,000 insurance claims filed that were related to dog bites in 2021.
  • The average cost per dog bite-related insurance claim was around $50,000, which represents a nearly 40 percent increase over the past decade.
  • Rising claims are not only the result of increased dog bites but also dogs “knocking down children, cyclists, [and] the elderly.”

Dog bites and dog attacks frequently require hospitalization for the victims. A 2020 study published by the medical journal Injury Epidemiology found that dog bites were the “13th leading cause of nonfatal emergency department visits in the United States.” In raw numbers, an average of 337,000 people go to the ER each year after a dog bite attack, and about 27,000 people require some form of reconstructive surgery.

If there is a silver lining for dog bite victims, it is that Washington law imposes strict liability on owners whose animals attack someone. This means that if a dog bites you without provocation, the owner is liable for your damages regardless of any negligence on the owner’s part. You do not have to prove the dog had a prior history of biting people or belonged to a “dangerous breed” to recover compensation in court.

What if the Owner Was the Victim’s Friend, Neighbor or Family Member?

Most dog bites happen in the home to people who knew the dog’s owner. They might be a close family member, friend or neighbor, and the dog bite victim might be worried about how the incident will affect their relationship. Frankly, dog owners worry about this as well and want the matter to be taken care of without damaging the relationship. Thankfully, the owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy, renter’s insurance, or an umbrella liability policy will cover the damages caused by a dog bite. Even if the dog is a dangerous breed excluded from basic insurance, the owner might have pet liability insurance as an endorsement to their homeowner’s insurance or as a standalone policy. Our pursuit of justice and compensation will be through the insurance company in most cases, and even if we need to get tough to get an appropriate settlement or judgment, it needn’t damage the relationship between the owner and victim.

Contact Emerald Law Group Today

Dog bites are therefore not a minor issue. A dog bite can leave victims with permanent, life-altering injuries. This is especially true of young children who are bitten. An experienced Seattle dog bite lawyer can advise you on what legal steps to take following a dog bite attack. At the Emerald Law Group, we represent victims and their families in seeking appropriate compensation from the responsible dog owners.

If you or your child has been bitten by a dog, knocked down and injured, chased and fell, or if you lost a loved one to a tragic fatal animal attack, Emerald Law Group is here for you with compassion, understanding, and a dedication to see that you get the care and compensation you need and deserve. Call our experienced Seattle dog bite attorneys today for a no-cost consultation on your case.

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