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What to Expect in a Washington Dog Bite Claim


The average dog bite settlement has increased significantly since 2020. During coronavirus lockdowns, many people adopted “pandemic puppies” who were isolated from everyone else. These puppies are now full-grown dogs who aren’t used to people and may react violently when they feel threatened.

Most dog bite claims eventually settle, but “eventually” could be a very long time. If the case drags on, many attorneys look for an easy way out. But a good Seattle dog bite lawyer doesn’t give up. Instead, good lawyers encourage their clients to persevere, so they receive maximum compensation for their serious injuries. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Building a Case

Depending on the evidence, a Seattle personal injury attorney has several legal options in a dog bite case, as follows:

  • Scienter (Knowledge): If the owner or custodian knew the animal might be dangerous, the owner or custodian is liable for the aforementioned damages. Evidence of knowledge usually includes baring of teeth, aggressive barking, and other pre-bite behavior. If available, scienter might be the best legal option. Even pet owner jurors usually believe these owners are negligent.
  • Negligence: Ordinary negligence is a lack of ordinary care. Owners are usually negligent if they fail to control their animals, such as bringing an attacking dog to heel. Negligence per se is the violation of an animal restraint law, like a fence law. If that violation substantially causes injury, the owner could be liable for damages.
  • Strict Liability: Washington has a very broad strict liability statute which automatically holds an owner liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.” Section 16.08.040 is a two-edged sword. The claims are easy to prove, but many pet owners and others believe it’s too broad.

Provocation is the most common defense in all three kinds of cases. Washington law defines this P-word very narrowly. First, victims cannot move fast or make a loud noise and accidentally provoke a dog. Provocation is an intentional act. Second, provocation is usually a physical act. In most courts, aggressive teasing isn’t provocation.

Resolving a Case

Meaningful settlement negotiations usually can’t start until medical treatment is at least substantially complete. If a settlement doesn’t account for all possible future medical expenses, the victim could be financially responsible for these costs.  While you may be eager to resolve your dog-bite case quickly, it is better to wait until all treatment is complete and you have a good idea if there is any permanent scarring.

Reach Out to a Diligent King County Lawyer

Dog bite victims usually have several legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Seattle, contact the Emerald Law Group. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.

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