Seattle Dog Bite Attorney
Please note that our services specifically address situations involving physical injuries, neglect, and abuse experienced by elderly individuals in nursing homes and other care facilities.
We do not handle cases related to financial exploitation or poor housing conditions where someone might be taking advantage of an elderly person.
Seattle Dog Bite Lawyers Help Injured Victims Hold At-Fault Dog Owners, Landlords, and Other Parties Liable
Dog bite injuries can happen to anyone. In fact, most of our dog bite victims were in their own yard or walking in their own neighborhoods when a dog attacked them.
When you get attacked by a dog, a Seattle dog attack lawyer from Lehmbecker Law will:
- Identify the parties liable for your attack;
- Find all sources of compensation for your injuries;
- Gather evidence to prove your dog bite claim;
- Represent you in insurance claims and lawsuits.
After a dog attack, you may require surgery and incur significant medical bills. Even after receiving medical treatment, you may suffer permanent disabilities. A dog bite case can get you financial compensation and justice for your injuries.
Dog Bite Law in Seattle, Washington
States fall into two categories. Some states use the one-bite rule, which requires dog bite victims to prove negligence to recover injury compensation. The phrase "one-bite" means that the dog must have exhibited vicious behavior with a previous attack before the law holds the dog's owner liable.
In other words, the first victim typically cannot get compensation because the animal is not considered to be a "dangerous dog" until after the first bite.
Washington State does not use the one-bite rule. Instead, it has a strict liability statute. This law says that dog owners are always liable for dog bites regardless of the danger or potential danger posed by the dog.
Local Dog Ordinances in Seattle
Dog bite laws in Washington State apply to all dog bites, except those committed by police dogs, that happen while the person bitten was:
- On public property;
- Lawfully on private property.
The law imposes liability on the dog owner for all the victim's damages regardless of:
- The dog's former viciousness or lack of viciousness;
- The owner's knowledge of the dog's behavior;
- The dog's record of prior dog attacks;
- The owner's efforts to restrain the dog.
The laws also outline possible defenses like the provocation of the dog.
Off-Leash Dog Areas in Seattle, Washington
Seattle leash laws require owners to leash their dogs in all parks except off-leash dog parks. Dogs are never allowed on athletic fields, playgrounds, or beaches while on or off leash. The off-leash dog parks closest to Seattle include:
- Denny Park
- Plymouth Pillars
- Regrade Park
- Marymoor Park
- Luther Burbank Park
You can find a full list of the parks and ponds that permit dogs off-leash on the Seattle Parks and Recreation website. But even in an off-leash dog park, you can still pursue a legal claim for injuries caused by a dangerous dog.
Common Serious Animal Bite Injuries
A dog bite victim can suffer serious injuries. During dog attacks, the animal instinctively bites and whips its head to tear the flesh. Both of these actions can damage your body tissues, producing severe injuries such as:
- Cuts and puncture wounds;
- Soft tissue injuries, including torn muscles, tendons, or ligaments;
- Crush injuries, such as shattered bones;
- Vascular and nerve damage.
Dog bites can also produce serious or even fatal complications. Torn flesh can leave permanent scars and disfigurement after healing. Nerve damage can produce weakness or even paralysis in an injured limb. And microorganisms in the dog's saliva can cause infections and rabies.
Common Damages for Dog Bite Injuries in Seattle
Personal injury damages fall into two categories:
- Economic damages cover the financial costs that you incurred after you or your loved one suffered dog bites;
- Non-economic damages cover the impact of the attack on the injured victim's quality of life.
Examples of these damages include:
Sadly, the most common dog bite victims are children. When dangerous dogs attack children, they can cause mental and physical harm that affects the victim for the rest of their lives. As a result, the damages must provide for the child's future.
Adults can also suffer significant damage, particularly when a dog bite injury disables them from working. Thus, if you suffered permanent soft tissue injuries, nerve damage, or post-traumatic stress disorder due to your animal attack, you might need compensation for the future income you lost.
Finally, some attacks result in death. If a dog killed a family member, you might have a wrongful death claim with damages for the dog bite victim's lifetime of lost income as well as your loss of their companionship.
Who Has Civil and Criminal Liability in Animal Attack Cases?
Liability for a dog's actions can fall on many parties. Many personal injury cases involve multiple parties that might have contributed to the incident that resulted in the victim's injuries. After an attack, a dog bite attorney in Seattle will analyze which parties played a part in the dog bite, including:
Under Washington law, a dog owner has strict liability for injuries caused by their dog. Dog owner liability does not depend on the dog owner's actions.
Under the strict liability rule, the dog owner is liable for these injuries even when they had no knowledge or notice that their animal was a dangerous dog. They are also strictly liable for injuries even if they tried to restrain or contain the dog and it got loose.
This same standard does not apply to criminal liability. Before criminal liability can attach, animal control must issue a notice to the owner that their dog is a dangerous animal. The dog owner must register the dog and either:
- Confine the dog in a proper enclosure and post a warning sign;
- Obtain $250,000 in liability insurance or surety bonds to cover any injuries inflicted by the dog.
The owner can be arrested only if they fail to take these precautions after receiving notice.
Dog Bite Victims
Dog injury victims can play a role in their injuries. Rather than incurring civil or criminal liability for their actions, the victim might lose the right to recover compensation if their actions triggered the attack.
Keepers or Handlers
Keepers and handlers are not strictly liable for dog attacks. But they can become liable if they acted negligently in handling the dog. For example, suppose a dog walker knows a dog tends to lunge and nip at strangers. If they fail to keep the dog on a leash at the park, they might be liable for any injuries the unleashed dog causes.
What Defenses and Exceptions Can Owners Raise?
After a lawsuit or an arrest, the owner will raise legal defenses to civil and criminal liability. Some of the defenses they may raise include:
Despite its name, owners have defenses under the strict liability statute. Dog owners can raise the defense of provocation. If the victim provoked the dog, the owner is not liable for any resulting bite injuries. Importantly, the provocation does not simply reduce the owner's liability. It is a complete defense in a dog bite case.
Also, owners are liable for attacks on private property only if the victim was lawfully on the premises. Thus, owners can be liable for attacks on guests, delivery workers, meter readers, utility repair technicians, or anyone else with express or implied consent to be on the dog owner's property.
But if the victim trespassed on private property, the owner is not liable. Thus, if a child entered a gate and was bitten by a dog in the yard, the parents might not have a case because the child was not lawfully on the premises when the attack occurred.
Washington's criminal dog bite statute requires the government to go through several steps to hold an owner criminally liable for a dog's vicious behavior. As long as the owner complies with these steps, the owner can avoid going to jail for an attack.
Washington's civil and criminal dog bite statutes do not apply to police dogs. Even though the police use dangerous dogs capable of attacking command, the police will not bear liability for any injuries as long as they were acting in good faith during the attack.
How Long Do Dog Bite Victims Have to File a Lawsuit?
The statute of limitations for dog bite lawsuits is three years from the date of the attack. If you file a personal injury lawsuit after the time expires, a judge can dismiss it. Thus, you should act quickly after the attack to ensure that you or your loved one can recover the injury compensation Washington State law provides.
How to Prove a Dog Bite Claim
To prove your dog bite claim, your legal team must prove:
- The bite occurred while you were on public property or lawfully on private property;
- You did not provoke the dog;
- The dog's actions caused your injuries and other losses.
You need evidence to support your case. In many dog cases, your testimony will play a critical role in proving your case. You may also need the testimony of any witnesses, including the dog's owner. If the owner or their neighbors had security cameras, video of the attack might also be useful in proving your claim.
Why Choose Lehmbecker Law Firm for Your Dog Bite Accident Case in Seattle?
Lehmbecker Law was founded over 36 years ago. Over our law firm's long history, we have recovered millions of dollars for our injured clients. Every client of our Seattle dog bite law firm receives:
Our lawyers have over 52 years of combined legal experience and are dedicated to helping you on your road to recovery.
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Contact Us to Speak to an Experienced Seattle Dog Bite Attorney
Dog bites can leave victims with severe physical and mental trauma. They can require costly medical treatment and even disable victims from working. After a dog injury, victims might suffer from nightmares, anxiety, and other forms of emotional distress.
We know Washington dog bite law and have the experience to assemble your personal injury case. Contact us to schedule your free consultation to discuss the compensation you can pursue the dog attack that injured you or your loved one.
Personalized attention, including a customized legal strategy for pursuing maximum dog injury compensation
Easy communication with your lawyer and paralegals so you always know the status of your case
Contingency fee representation, means you do not pay any legal fees until we win or settle your case
We Help After Dog Bites or Animal Attacks in Washington
Our Seattle dog bite injury attorneys have experience handling dog bite cases. Contact us to learn how we can help you pursue compensation after a dog attack.
Our Seattle Dog Bite Injury Lawyers
Larry A. Lehmbecker
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What damages can I recover if I wasn't bitten?
Washington's strict liability statute only covers dog bites. But you can still recover damages for non-bite losses using negligence theory. Suppose you were not bitten but the dog knocked you over, resulting in head trauma. You can recover damages for your injuries by proving the dog owner knew the dog's tendency to jump up and failed to prevent it.
Who pays damages for dog bites in Seattle?
Most dog owners have homeowner's or renter's insurance. These policies include liability coverage that pays for injuries caused by dogs. Importantly, these policies will pay your damages even if the attack happened away from the owner's home, such as in the park or on the public sidewalk.
Will my claim cause the dog to be put down?
No, your claim will not result in the dog being put down. For animal control to seize a dog, a separate process must happen. The owner will have adequate opportunity during that process to defend the dog and even appeal an adverse decision.
Does Washington use the "one free bite" rule?
No, Washington does not use the one-free-bite rule. Instead, Washington holds owners liable for all bites. More to the point, dogs and their owners do not get "one free bite" before facing the consequences of the dog's vicious nature.