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Obstacles to Fair Compensation in Dog Bite Cases


The total amount of dog bite claims shot up in 2022, to over $1 billion. Advances in medical treatments, along with higher medical costs, mostly fueled this increase. In other words, victims receive more money because they need more money. But insurance company lawyers care nothing about what victims need. They only want to protect company profits, which is why they vigorously mount defenses in these cases.

Quite simply, maximum compensation is unavailable in dog bite claims unless a Seattle dog bite lawyer anticipates and refutes insurance company defenses, some of which are outlined below. Victims need every dime possible to pay high medical bills and move on with their lives. Settling for less isn’t an option for victims, and it isn’t an option for us either.

Medical Bill Issues

This area is not a legal defense as such. But it could drastically reduce the amount of compensation the insurance company pays. The argument is rather straightforward. The aforementioned medical advances could be a two-edged sword. More expensive treatments aren’t necessarily better treatments. They definitely might not be reasonably necessary. Insurance companies must only pay these bills.

To establish the reasonably necessary component, a Seattle personal injury lawyer typically partners with an independent doctor. This physician reviews the records, and usually examines the victim as well, and opines as to the necessity of the medical treatment.

Assumption of the Risk

Frequently, owners take some steps to protect victims. They just don’t do enough. Hanging a “Beware of Dog” or other warning sign on a fence or other part of their property is a good example.

Contrary to popular myth, a warning sign isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card. A sign simply makes the assumption of the risk defense easier to prove in court. This defense has basically two prongs:

  • Voluntary assumption of
  • A known risk.

So, it’s not enough to prove the owner put up a sign. Insurance company lawyers must also prove the victim saw the sign, could read the sign, and could understand what it meant. These elements are difficult to prove if the victim has limited English skills or was younger than 10.

A lot is at stake. If assumption of the risk applies, it’s a complete defense to dog bite liability, and victims usually get nothing.


Usually, provocation is different. Typically, provocation is a subset of comparative fault. Based on the facts, jurors could shift some or all blame from the tortfeasor (negligent owner) to the victim, thus reducing, or even eliminating, compensation. Provocation is usually a complete defense in strict liability cases.

Provocation is intentional. Victims don’t “accidentally” provoke dogs if the victim makes a loud noise that spooks the dog or makes an aggressive move that threatens the dog.

Additionally, provocation is a physical act. As a matter of law, teasing cannot provoke a dog. Most physical acts, like poking the dog with a stick or slapping a dog, aren’t provocative either, at least in this context. Usually, this defense only holds up in court if the victim tortured the dog, forcing it to react violently to defend itself.

Work With a Compassionate King County Lawyer

Lawyers must be well-prepared to refute insurance company defenses. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Seattle, contact Emerald Law Group.

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