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Can I Sue for a Dog Bite in Washington?

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    Can I Sue for a Dog Bite in Washington?

    According to the American Veterinarian Association, there are more than 75 million dogs in the United States. Of these dogs, 4.5 million, or 6 percent, bite or attack people, leading to over 800,000 hospital visits annually. Sadly, many of these dog bite victims incur significant losses because of their injuries, and many wonder, "Can you sue someone for a dog bite?".

    The answer is yes. You can seek compensation for a dog bite. But suing for dog bite can be complicated and result in zero compensation without an experienced dog bite attorney in Seattle representing you.

    Dog Owners Face Strict Liability for Dog Bites in Washington

    suing for dog bite

    When a dog bites or attacks someone in Washington, dog owners and handlers are held liable under a theory of strict liability. Under this theory, dog bite victims don’t need to prove that the owner did anything wrong when they sue for dog bite. Certain other states, however, require the dog bite victim to demonstrate that the owner was negligent in some way, leading to the dog attack.

    But in Washington, victims only need to show that the dog, in fact, caused an injury. Even minor dog bites count. However, many victims of minor dog bites are unaware that they, too, have the option of filing a minor dog bite lawsuit. Many feel that their trauma is too light to count.

    However, the truth is that Washington's dog bite laws allow victims of minor dog bites to seek compensation even if the dog bite does not cause permanent damage or break the skin. The mental and emotional distress a victim experiences due to a dog bite can be crippling enough to cause significant losses, even when no blood is drawn.

    Dog Bite Characteristics

    sue for dog bite

    Dog bites exhibit various characteristics depending on how they occur and their seriousness. The most severe can lead to serious health conditions and even death, while the least severe may still cause some level of emotional distress without drawing blood.

    The six general levels of dog bite severity are:

    • Level 1: Characterized by aggressive behavior, such as barking and growling at someone or jumping on them; the bite does not break the skin at this level;
    • Level 2: The bite is more intense and likely leaves a mark but does not break the skin of dog bite victims;
    • Level 3: The dog behaves aggressively, and its bite causes a slight puncture or breaks in the skin;
    • Level 4: Level 4 bites include puncture wounds and bruising in multiple places;
    • Level 5: Dog bites at this level are serious, deep, and typically involve broken bones, nerve damage, and internal injuries;
    • Level 6: Level 6 attacks cause dog bite injuries that are fatal.

    All six levels involve frightening violence that no person should have to experience.

    Is There a Leash Law in Washington?

    One of the most effective ways of keeping a dog from harming others is to keep the dog on a leash. However, outside of state parks, Washington State does not require dog owners and handlers to keep their dogs on a leash.

    That said, various counties and municipalities have enacted local leash laws. For example, Seattle has a leash law requiring dogs to be on a leash unless in an off-leash dog park. Failure to follow these restrictions can lead to a fine.

    What Do I Do If a Dog Has Bitten Me?

    If you are ever bitten by a dog, there are certain steps you should take to properly address your injuries and preserve your claim for compensation. In no case should you ever panic, nor should you brush the dog bite incident off as a non-event?

    1. Get Medical Care

    can you sue for a dog bite

    If you have been attacked by a dog, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Doing so will help prevent your injuries from getting worse and will allow medical staff to quickly treat any potential diseases or infections that have been transmitted from the dog.

    Additionally, getting prompt medical care is important for your compensation claim. You need evidence of the existence and cause of your injuries to prevail in a demand for compensation. Without an adequate medical record of your injuries prepared by a competent professional, the defense could cast doubt on the origin and severity of your injuries.

    2. Identify the Dog and Dog Owner

    If you do not know who they are, take the time to identify the dog and the owner before you or they leave the scene. You may need information about the dog to aid with treatment, and relevant laws may require the dog to be quarantined.

    Identifying the dog owner is important because the owner of the dog will be the target of your claim for compensation. Additionally, if there was any malice involved on the part of the dog’s owner, or if the injuries are serious enough, the police may want to get involved.

    3. Identify Any Witnesses

    how much can i sue for a dog bite

    Identify anyone who witnessed the dog bite incident. Their testimony will be helpful in building your case. Make sure to get the full contact information for every potential witness, including name, address, email, and phone number. It may also be helpful to get a preliminary statement from witnesses as well.

    4. Collect Relevant Photos

    Photos make for great evidence when suing for a dog bite. Collect as many photos of the scene as possible. Make sure to get shots of the dog, the dog's owner, and your injuries. Video footage can also be quite helpful in dog bite cases. In addition to taking footage with your phone, you might also find footage from cameras belonging to businesses and residences.

    5. Report the Incident

    can you sue someone if their dog bites you

    After a dog attack, you will want to report the incident to the authorities, such as police and animal control. A report is an official record of the incident, which you will need for your compensation claim. Reporting the accident will also help keep the rest of the community safe by identifying and potentially removing a dangerous dog.

    6. Contact a Personal Injury Attorney

    If you are interested in getting maximum compensation for your dog bite lawsuit, you must hire an experienced Seattle personal injury attorney. Without an attorney representing you, you must face insurance adjusters alone. These professionals are adept at negotiating and fight hard to pay as little as possible. Because of this, victims without attorneys get far less compensation than those who have attorneys.

    What Legal Actions Can I Pursue After a Dog Bite in Washington?

    If you have been bitten or attacked by a dog in Washington, you have two principal options for recovering compensation for your losses - filing an insurance claim against the dog owner's insurance company or filing a dog bite lawsuit directly against the owner.

    • File a claim with the animal owner's insurance company: This means your attorney will be demanding compensation from the dog owner's homeowners or renters insurance policy. After fruitful negotiations, the insurance company should pay an agreed-upon settlement;
    • File a lawsuit in civil court against the animal owner: If the dog's owner does not have insurance, you can file a lawsuit for dog attack against them.

    Generally, it is less common to see someone with a dog bite sue the defendant instead of filing an insurance claim.

    What Is a Dog Bite Lawsuit?

    can you sue someone for a dog bite

    A dog bite lawsuit is a civil action that seeks compensation for losses caused by a dog bite or dog attack. In most dog bite cases, victims typically file claims against dog owners' insurance companies. Rarely will a victim pursue an actual lawsuit against the dog's owner or the insurance company handling the claim. However, if an insurance company refuses to pay, it may have to answer to a lawsuit. Or if the owner has no insurance, the owner may face a lawsuit.

    What Expenses Are Available from a Dog Bite Lawsuit?

    If you are filing a lawsuit for dog bite, you can seek a variety of compensable damages, including medical bills for the care and treatment you require. You can also claim compensation for lost wages and lost future earning ability.

    Non-monetary damages are available as well and include pain and suffering, emotional distress, disfigurement, and loss of ability to enjoy life. Damages may also be available for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to the violent nature of many dog attacks.

    Defenses to Dog Bite Liability in Washington State

    Not every dog bite incident results in liability for the owner. The law has made room for a few defenses that dog owners may use to avoid being sued for dog bites.


    can i sue for a dog bite

    If a dog bite victim was trespassing at the time they were bitten, the dog owner will likely avoid liability. The law is clear that trespassers, such as burglars, may not seek compensation for a dog bite received while unlawfully on someone else's property.


    Victims who cause their own dog bites by provocation will likely get zero compensation. Provocation exists when a dog bite victim engages in behavior any reasonable person would believe would agitate the dog. For example, kicking a dog is likely to elicit an aggressive response from the dog, as would throwing items at it.

    K-9 Officer

    Owners and handlers of K-9 officers are typically exempt from dog bite lawsuits because of the animals' specialized training and duties.

    Should I Report a Dog Bite Incident?

    Yes. If you or someone you care about is bitten by a dog, you should report it to the authorities. Doing so protects your community and helps down the line if you are suing someone for a dog bite.

    In addition to the police, report any dog bite incidents to:

    • Pierce county animal control: File online or over the phone;
    • King animal control: File online;
    • Thurston county animal services: File online or through the mail;
    • Kitsap county: Call 911;
    • Spokane county: Please look into, we are getting calls from this area.

    For more animal control departments, contact your county.

    Trust Our Dog Bite Lawyers to Fight for You

    how much can you sue for a dog bite

    Can you sue someone if their dog bites you? The answer is yes. You can pursue damages from the owner's insurance policy or the owner directly. At Lehmbecker Law, we have helped many dog-bite victims access the resources they need to cover their losses.

    We can potentially help you recover maximum compensation for your injuries. Whether you've experienced a minor dog bite or a severe attack, feel free to contact us anytime for a free consultation and case review.

    Speak with a Seattle Dog Bite Attorney Today

    Don't settle for less than you deserve. Call today to speak with a Seattle dog bite attorney who is ready to fight for you.

    Request Free Consultation

    Larry A. Lehmbecker
    Firm Founder, Larry Lehmbecker, has nearly 40 year’s of experience fighting for the injured in Washington State. He is always eager to share his knowledge to help those in need.
    Contact Lehmbecker Law Today
    Our attorneys and paralegals have decades of experience to help ensure you get the proper treatment for your injuries
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    What expenses are available from a dog bite lawsuit?

    Victims of dog bites can seek a variety of compensable damages, both monetary and non-monetary. Monetary damages typically include hospital bills and lost wages, whereas non-monetary damages encompass pain and suffering, disfigurement, and loss of the ability to enjoy life.

    Will a dog be quarantined or euthanized after it bites me?

    Three possibilities exist for a dog after it has bitten someone:

    • It might be quarantined (typically to the owner's home);
    • It might be muzzled;
    • It might be euthanized.

    The animal control department in charge will ultimately decide based on guidelines.

    Can I sue if another dog attacks my dog?

    Yes. You can sue if another dog attacks your dog. You can also seek compensation when a dog attacks any other pet or animal you care for, such as a cat or horse. Keep in mind that if your dog or another animal you own provokes a dog and is bitten, the other dog's owner will have a defense.

    How much can you sue for a dog bite?

    How much you can sue for a dog bite depends on the seriousness of your injuries and their effect on your life and work.