Bellevue Dog Bite Attorney
Get Justice with the Aid of a Trusted Bellevue Dog Bite Lawyer
Lehmbecker Law is a premier personal injury law firm in Bellevue, Washington. Our lawyers understand the emotional and physical trauma a dog bite can inflict, and we're committed to holding pet owners accountable for their actions.
Beyond dog bite cases, we also handle other types of animal attacks, ensuring that victims receive the medical attention and financial compensation they deserve.
With a strong record of securing favorable outcomes for our clients, Lehmbecker Law combines compassionate client service with aggressive legal strategies to deliver justice.
Dog Bite Statistics
According to The American Veterinary Medical Association, dog bite incidents remain a notable public health problem in the United States. An estimated 4.5 million attacks occur each year, approximately 800,000 of which require medical attention. The issue is particularly concerning for children, who are more likely to suffer severe injuries than adults.
While many breeds are capable of biting, some studies highlight a higher incidence of bites from breeds like pit bulls, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers. Importantly, not all dog bites are reported, making the actual numbers likely higher than estimates.
Here's an overview of some key dog bite statistics:
- Frequency: Estimated 4.5 million bites annually in the U.S.;
- Medical attention: Around 800,000 cases require medical care;
- Fatalities: Average of 43 dog bite-related deaths each year;
- Children: Children are more likely to be bitten by dogs than adults (and are also more likely to be severely injured);
- Popular breeds: While many breeds can bite, some studies have pointed to higher rates of bites from certain breeds, such as pit bulls and Rottweilers; however, this data is often contested due to inconsistent reporting and breed identification;
- Underreporting: Actual incidence is likely higher than estimates.
Washington Dog Bite Laws
Washington State's dog bite laws are primarily governed by a strict liability approach, which means dog owners are generally held responsible for any injuries or damages their dogs cause through biting, regardless of whether the dog has previously shown signs of aggression.
According to RCW 16.08.040, the dog owner is liable for damages suffered by the person bitten, provided that person is in a public place, or a private place lawfully (including the dog owner's property).
Strict liability laws simplify the process for dog bite victims to seek compensation, as they don't need to prove that the owner was negligent or knew the dog could be dangerous — the bite itself is sufficient to establish liability.
That said, there are exceptions to the rule. If the victim was provoking the dog, trespassing, or engaged in criminal activity at the time of the bite, the owner may not be held liable.
It's also worth noting that local municipalities may have additional ordinances and rules governing dog behavior and owner responsibilities. These can include leash laws, registration requirements, and designated off-leash areas, among other things.
Understanding both state and local laws is crucial for dog owners and victims of dog bites in Washington.
Breed-Specific Dog Laws in Washington
Many local municipalities within the state have laws targeting specific breeds considered to be potentially dangerous. These laws are designed to mitigate the risks associated with breeds that have been involved in severe or fatal attacks on humans.
Examples of local breed-specific laws in Washington include:
- Auburn: Bans all fighting dog breeds considered potentially dangerous, including bull terriers, Dogo Argentinos, and Japanese Akitas;
- Bridgeport, Buckley, Enumclaw, Othello, and Rosalia: These cities specifically ban pit bulls within their jurisdictions;
- Brewster: Mandates that all pit bull owners must sterilize their dogs;
- Wapato: Prohibits the ownership of pit bulls, Rottweilers, American bulldogs, and all mastiffs.
Local Dog Ordinances in Bellevue, WA
In Bellevue, Washington, local dog ordinances are intended to ensure both human and animal safety within the community. These laws typically cover areas such as leash requirements, designated off-leash areas, and the responsibilities of pet owners to control their animals.
Under Bellevue City Code 8.05.030, dogs are generally required to be on a leash when in public spaces, except in designated off-leash areas. Moreover, pet owners are legally responsible for any injury or damage caused by their dogs, including bites or other types of attacks.
Failure to comply with these ordinances can result in fines, impoundment of the animal, or even legal action, emphasizing the importance of responsible pet ownership in Bellevue.
The Damage Done by Dog Attacks
Dog attacks can cause a wide range of serious injuries and damages, both physical and emotional, as well as broader societal implications. The following are some notable aspects to consider.
- Punctures, lacerations & bruising: These are the most obvious forms of physical injury and can range from minor to severe;
- Fractures and dislocations: An attack can cause falls or direct trauma, leading to broken bones or joint issues;
- Infections: Dog bites can lead to bacterial infections if not properly treated;
- Facial scarring: Attacks to the face can result in permanent scarring and may require reconstructive surgery;
- Fatalities: Though rare, some dog attacks can be fatal, especially for vulnerable populations like small children and the elderly.
Emotional and Psychological Damage
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Victims may suffer symptoms of PTSD, such as nightmares, flashbacks, and heightened anxiety;
- Fear and anxiety: A lasting fear of dogs or open spaces may develop, impacting daily life;
- Social stigma: Some victims face social isolation due to visible scars or disfigurements.
- Medical bills: Treatment for bites, lacerations, and infections can be costly;
- Loss of work: Recovery may require time off work, resulting in lost income.
This is by no means a complete list. Dog bites and other animal attacks can cause all manner of other injuries and hardships - physical, emotional, and financial.
How Do I Sue for a Dog Bite Injury?
If you're considering pursuing litigation for a dog bite injury, there are several steps you must follow to build a strong case.
1. Seek Medical Attention
Your first priority should be to get medical treatment for your injuries. This step is crucial, as medical records will also serve as important evidence in your case.
2. Document the Incident
Take photographs of your injuries and the location where the dog bite occurred. Then, gather contact information from any witnesses. Make it a point to get the dog owner's information, including their name, address, and details about the dog (breed, color, etc.).
3. File Reports
Next, report the incident to local authorities, such as animal control or the police. Don't forget to request a copy of the report for your records.
4. Consult an Attorney
Contact an attorney with a focus on dog bite personal injury cases. They can guide you through the legal process, from investigating whether the dog owner has homeowner’s or renter’s insurance and filing a complaint, to negotiating with insurance companies or taking the case to court.
5. File a Lawsuit
If a settlement with the responsible party can't be reached, your attorney will file a lawsuit. This typically involves drafting and filing a formal complaint outlining the details of your case and serving it to the defendant (the dog owner).
6. Collect Damages
If you win the case, the final step is to collect the damages awarded, which can include compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other costs.
Given the complexity of legal proceedings and the specific statutes and case law that may apply in your jurisdiction, it's wise to seek the assistance of a qualified attorney, who will guide you through the process and advocate for your interests.
What Compensation Can I Recover?
If you've been bitten or attacked by a dog, you may be eligible to recover various types of compensation. These can include economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
- Medical bills: You may be compensated for immediate and future medical expenses related to the dog bite, including emergency care, surgical treatment, and ongoing care for physical rehabilitation;
- Lost wages: If your injuries cause you to miss work, you may claim compensation for lost income during your period of recovery;
- Property damage: Property damage compensation may include repair or replacement of personal items damaged during the incident (e.g., torn clothing or broken glasses).
- Pain and suffering: Pain and suffering is a somewhat subjective category of damages; it can include compensation for physical pain, as well as emotional and psychological distress and loss of quality of life;
- Emotional distress: Some jurisdictions allow for the recovery of damages for emotional trauma, even without accompanying physical injury;
- Loss of consortium: If the dog attack affects your relationship with your spouse, some jurisdictions may allow for compensation related to loss of companionship or affection.
In cases where the dog owner's behavior was particularly reckless or malicious, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the owner and deter similar conduct in the future.
Proving Dog Bite Liability in Washington
To win your case, you must establish the dog owner's legal liability for your attack and subsequent injuries. Here's what you need to know.
Elements of Liability
- Occurrence of bite: There must be evidence of an actual bite — mere intimidation or fright without physical harm generally doesn't qualify;
- Lawful presence on public or private property: You must have been in a public place or lawfully on private property when the bite occurred; trespassers generally can't claim damages for dog bites;
- Identification of owner: You must be able to determine the identity of the dog owner.
Evidence to Support Your Case
- Medical records: Such documentation serves as official evidence of your injuries;
- Witness accounts: Collect statements from anyone who saw the incident happen;
- Photos and videos: Images like these can help establish the severity of the attack and may exhibit negligence on the part of the owner;
- Police or animal control reports: Official reports can lend credibility to your claim.
Exceptions and Defenses
- Provocation: Owners may escape liability if they can prove that the victim provoked the dog;
- Trespassing: As mentioned, the owner may not be found liable if the victim was on private property unlawfully;
- Professional handling: In some cases, professional dog handlers or veterinarians who are bitten while performing their duties may have limited recourse.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Dog Bite Injuries in Washington?
The statute of limitations for personal injuries like dog bites in Washington State is three years from the date of the injury.
That means you have exactly three years from the date you were bitten to file a lawsuit against the dog's owner or the responsible party. If you fail to do so within this time, you may lose your right to seek compensation for your injuries.
Certain circumstances could potentially alter this time limit. For example, if the victim is a minor, the statute of limitations may not begin until they turn 18.
In some cases, the discovery rule may apply, meaning the statute of limitations might start from the date the injury was discovered rather than the date it occurred, though this is more commonly applied in cases like medical malpractice.
What Happens to the Dog?
The fate of the dog involved in a biting incident can vary based on several factors, including the severity of the attack, the dog's history, and local laws and regulations.
In Washington State, the following procedures may be implemented:
- Investigation: Following a reported dog bite, animal control officers may investigate the incident. This can involve interviewing the victim, the dog's owner, and any witnesses, as well as reviewing the dog's veterinary records for rabies vaccinations;
- Quarantine: Depending on the circumstances and local laws, the dog may be placed in quarantine for a certain period (often 10 days) to observe for signs of rabies or other diseases. This can be done at the owner's home, a vet's office, or a designated animal control facility;
- Designation as "dangerous" or "potentially dangerous": If the dog has a history of aggressive behavior or the attack was particularly severe, the animal may be designated as "dangerous" or "potentially dangerous." Such a designation will require the owner to meet specific regulations, like securing the dog in a proper enclosure and possibly muzzling it in public;
- Euthanasia: In extreme cases, the dog may be put down. However, this is generally considered a last resort and will likely only be done if the dog has violently bitten multiple people in the past.
Lehmbecker Law: Bellevue Dog Bite Lawyers Are Here to Help
Choosing Lehmbecker Law to handle your personal injury lawsuit in Bellevue is a smart decision. Here are just a few of the advantages you'll gain when you work with one of our capable dog bite attorneys:
Protect Your Future After a Dog Bite
Act now to secure the restitution you deserve. Contact Lehmbecker Law today for reliable legal guidance.
Don’t Leave Your Well-Being to Chance
Unfortunately, you can't count on the dog owner's insurance company to do the right thing. Reach out to a qualified attorney today to ensure that you get the compensation you need to move on from your injury.
Discuss Your Case with a Knowledgeable Bellevue Dog Bite Attorney
In the aftermath of a dog bite, you need someone to represent your interests and fight for a fair settlement or award. Schedule a free consultation with a skilled attorney at Lehmbecker Law today to discuss your case.
An experienced legal team: Our seasoned attorneys have worked on many dog bite cases and have the knowledge and resources needed to navigate complex legal procedures;
Compassionate service: We always prioritize your well-being, offering personalized, empathetic counsel from the moment you reach out;
Proven results: With a strong track record of securing favorable settlements and verdicts, we're committed to fighting for maximum compensation.
Contact Bellevue Dog Bite Lawyers for a Free Consultation
Start your journey to recovery and justice today. Contact Lehmbecker Law for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.
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How can I report a dog bite injury in Bellevue?
To report a dog bite injury in Bellevue, contact Animal Control or the local police department. Be prepared to provide details about the incident, including the dog's description and the location of the attack.
Here’s where to file a dog bite complaint in Washington State:
- Pierce County Animal Control (online or via phone);
- King County Animal Control (online);
- Thurston County Animal Services (email or mail);
- Kitsap County — Call 911 to file a complaint.
If a dog bites me, will it be quarantined or euthanized?
It may be quarantined for a period to observe for signs of rabies or other diseases. Euthanization is generally used as a last resort and typically only occurs if the dog is believed to pose an ongoing threat to public safety.
Who pays for my dog bite injuries?
Under Washington State's strict liability laws, the dog owner is generally held responsible for any injuries their pet causes. That means the dog owner's insurer will cover the costs of a dog bite in most cases.