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Can a Delivery Driver Sue for a Dog Bite in Washington?

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    Can a Delivery Driver Sue for a Dog Bite in Washington?

    Delivery drivers are vital to keeping Washington functioning. Unfortunately, these critical workers also encounter a unique risk: dog bites. If you're a delivery driver who has been bitten by a dog, you may be wondering about your legal options.

    Fortunately, Washington has strong laws that protect workers after they have been injured by another person’s dog. We'll discuss Washington's dog bite laws and the steps delivery drivers should take after a dog bite or attack.

    How Common Are UPS, FedEx, Amazon & Uber Eats Driver Dog Attacks?

    Dog attacks on delivery drivers are, unfortunately, fairly common. A study conducted by the United States Postal Service reported over 5,300 dog attacks on postal workers in 2022. This number doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands of people who work as delivery drivers in other capacities.

    Along with mail carriers, other delivery drivers at risk of dog bites include employees of FedEx and UPS along with restaurants and supermarkets. Gig workers for Amazon Flex, DoorDash, Uber Eats, GrubHub and Postmates share in the risk.

    First, their frequent home visits put them in proximity to dogs, who may perceive them as intruders. Second, the high stress and time pressure of completing routes on time can lead to rushed interactions with dogs, increasing the risk of bites. Lastly, a lack of proper training and equipment leaves many delivery drivers vulnerable to dog attacks.

    How Common Are UPS, FedEx, Amazon & Uber Eats Driver Dog Attacks?

    What Are Washington’s Dog Bite Laws?

    Each state has different dog bite laws, and new legislation is passed all the time regarding attacks by animals.

    Here are the relevant laws in Washington:

    Strict Liability

    Like most states, Washington follows a strict liability rule when it comes to dog bites, as outlined in RCW 16.08.040. This statute states that the owner is liable for damages even if they had no reason to believe that the dog was vicious.

    This is in contrast to states that follow the “one-bite” rule. In these states, the owner might not be liable if they did not know their dog was vicious — for example, if it was the first time the dog bit someone. However, this does not apply in the state of Washington.

    Lawful Presence

    The victim must have been lawfully on the property where the bite occurred. This includes delivery drivers who are performing their duties and have a legal reason to be on the property.

    Exceptions and Defenses

    The strict liability rule does not apply if the victim provoked the dog. Additionally, if a dog bite occurs while the dog is performing police or military work, the liability may be subject to different rules.

    Exceptions and Defenses

    What Injuries Result from Dog Bites?

    Dog bites can cause a wide range of injuries, whether relatively minor or severe and life-altering.

    Here's a breakdown of the common types of injuries:

    • Puncture wounds: A dog's sharp teeth can puncture the skin, creating deep, narrow wounds.
    • Lacerations and tearing: Biting and shaking can cause open cuts and tears in the skin, muscles, and underlying tissue.
    • Crush injuries: Powerful dog breeds can inflict crush injuries to bones, particularly in hands, feet, or limbs.
    • Nerve damage: Bites can sever or damage nerves, leading to numbness, tingling, pain, or loss of function.
    • Bacterial infections: Dog bites introduce a high risk of serious, fast-spreading bacterial infections like cellulitis, Capnocytophaga infections, or MRSA.
    • Rabies: Unvaccinated dogs pose a risk of transmitting rabies, a potentially fatal viral disease.
    • Tetanus: Soil and debris in bites can carry tetanus bacteria, necessitating preventive treatment.
    • Scarring and disfigurement: Dog bites, especially on the face, can leave permanent scars or disfigurement.
    • Emotional trauma: Victims may experience fear, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following a dog bite incident.
    • Permanent disability: Severe nerve damage, tissue loss, or amputation can create lifelong disability.
    What Injuries Result from Dog Bites?

    Not everyone survives their injuries after a dog bite. Sadly, dog attacks caused 81 deaths in the U.S. in 2021, the highest number in recent years.

    Who Is Liable for Delivery Driver Dog Bite Injuries?

    Determining liability in the case of a delivery driver who suffers an animal bite revolves primarily around state law. Here’s a breakdown of who might be held liable for dog bites in Washington.

    Dog Owner Liability

    There are two key aspects of owner liability. First, no prior knowledge is required due to Washington’s strict liability law. The dog’s owner cannot escape liability by claiming they were unaware of the dog's aggressive tendencies.

    Next, the victim must be lawfully on the property where the bite occurred. Since delivery drivers are performing their job duties, they are usually considered lawfully present.

    Potential Shared Liability

    While the primary liability typically rests with the dog’s owner, there are scenarios where others might also be held partially liable:

    Suppose that the dog’s owner is a tenant and that the property owner knew of the danger and did not take steps to mitigate it. The property owner could potentially share liability.

    Second, companies should take reasonable steps to keep their workers safe. For example, the USPS has a system for alerting workers to potentially dangerous dogs on their routes and may suspend service if carriers feel unsafe.

    What Compensation Is Available in a Dog Bite Injury Claim?

    When delivery drivers experience dog attacks, they can pursue several types of legal claims based on the severity of their injuries and the circumstances surrounding the attack. These claims help address the physical, emotional, and financial impacts of such attacks.

    Workers' Compensation Claims

    Since many delivery drivers are on the job when bitten, they may be eligible for workers' compensation. This employer-provided insurance covers medical expenses and a portion of the victim’s wages while they recover. This claim is usually pursued separately from or in addition to personal injury claims against the dog owner.

    However, services like Uber Eats or GrubHub are not required to provide workers’ compensation for independent workers who drive for them.

    Workers' Compensation Claims

    Personal Injury Claims

    Any delivery driver, including a self-employed driver, has the right to pursue a personal injury claim when they are bitten by a dog. These claims are usually settled out of court with the responsible party or their insurance company.

    Settlements may include the following types of compensation:

    • Medical expenses: Emergency medical care, surgery, medication, and any future medical needs like physical therapy or reconstructive surgery.
    • Lost wages: Lost income during recovery and lost earning capacity if the injury affects the victim’s ability to work in the future.
    • Pain and suffering: Physical pain and emotional distress suffered by the driver, including psychological effects such as PTSD.
    • Disfigurement: Permanent changes in appearance which impact the victim’s quality of life and personal confidence.

    If the other party to provide you with their homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy information after the dog attack, a dedicated dog bite injury attorney can help you pursue the case.

    Property Damage Claims

    If personal property like a uniform or mobile device is damaged during the attack, the driver can file a claim for repair or replacement.

    What to Do If You Have Been Attacked by a Dog on the Job

    If you are a delivery driver or any employee who has been attacked by a dog while on the job, it’s important to take steps to ensure your safety, address your injuries, and preserve your rights for any potential legal actions or claims.

    What to Do If You Have Been Attacked by a Dog on the Job

    Prioritize Your Safety

    Immediately remove yourself from further harm. If you are still in danger, find a secure location away from the dog.

    Next, seek medical attention. If the injuries are severe, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. However, even minor injuries should be checked by a medical professional as they can cause serious infections or deeper tissue damage. For less severe injuries, visit an urgent care clinic or your primary healthcare provider as soon as possible.

    Notify the Authorities

    Inform your supervisor or employer about the incident immediately. This is crucial for documentation and might be necessary for a workers' compensation claim.

    Then, report the attack to local animal control or law enforcement. This report will create an official record of the incident and can help authorities manage the dangerous animal to prevent future attacks.

    Document Everything

    If possible, photograph your injuries, the location where the attack occurred, and the dog. If there were any witnesses to the attack, collect their names and contact information. Keep copies of all medical records and bills. Also, keep track of any missed work days and other impacts on your job.

    Set aside your clothing and any damaged personal items just as they were at the time of the attack. Do not wash or alter them; these items can be crucial evidence.

    Contact a Legal Professional

    Contact a Washington personal injury lawyer who has experience with dog bite cases. A personal injury attorney can help you immediately investigate the viability of a case and help you bring a claim against the dog owner. An attorney can provide legal advice tailored to your situation, help you through the claims process, and represent your interests in negotiations with insurance companies or in court. You only owe an attorney fee for a dog bite case at the end, if you win a settlement. You do not have to pay the attorney anything up front.

    How Much Can I Get in a Dog Bite Settlement?

    The amount that delivery drivers for services like Amazon, FedEx, DoorDash, Uber Eats, and UPS can receive in dog bite settlements depends on factors like the severity of the injuries, the circumstances of the attack, and the insurance policies involved.

    In 2022, the insurance industry paid out roughly $1.1 billion in dog bite claims, an increase of 28% over the previous year. This figure accounts for all dog-related attacks covered by insurance, not just those involving delivery drivers. However, it serves as an indication of the rising costs of medical care and other financial challenges following a severe injury.

    Here are three examples of our successful dog bite claim settlements:

    • $45,000 settlement: Secured for a client who suffered injuries after being attacked by a dog in his own yard.
    • $62,500 settlement: Negotiated for a client who was left with scars after a traumatic dog attack.
    • $130,000 settlement: Achieved for a client who was severely injured in an attack by his neighbor’s pit bull in 2023.

    At Lehmbecker Law, our experienced attorneys have a strong track record of assisting clients in obtaining compensation for injuries sustained in various accidents, including dog bites.

    Get Experienced Legal Guidance After a Dog Attack

    Dealing with a dog attack while on the job can be overwhelming, but you don't have to go through the legal and recovery processes alone. At Lehmbecker Law, our experienced attorneys are ready to guide you through every step of your dog bite case, providing you with the comprehensive support and compensation you deserve.

    Don't face this challenge without help. Reach out to Lehmbecker Law today to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward recovery and justice.

    Have You Been Attacked by a Dog in Washington?

    If you are a delivery driver and you've been attacked by a dog in Washington, don't wait to get the help you deserve.

    Contact Lehmbecker Law today for a 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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    Can I file both workers' comp and personal injury claims for a dog bite?

    Yes, you can file both a workers' compensation claim and a personal injury claim if you were bitten by a dog while working. Workers’ comp provides benefits regardless of fault, while you can file a personal injury claim to seek additional damages from the dog’s owner. Lehmbecker Law is one of the few firms that can help you with both types of claims.

    How does dog bite compensation work if a delivery driver is an independent contractor?

    In Washington, self-employed delivery drivers are not usually eligible for workers' compensation. Instead, independent contractors and gig workers can pursue compensation from the dog’s owner through a personal injury claim. This type of claim is likely their primary avenue for seeking financial recovery after a dog bite injury.