Washington State has a dog bite law that is very succinct and uncomplicated. With few exceptions, if a dog bites without provocation (and if you were doing nothing illegal), the owner is liable. Unlike other states, Washington does not have a “one-bite rule” with dog bite injury cases. The owner must compensate you for your losses whether or not they were aware the dog might bite.
But that doesn’t mean the defense won’t throw up arguments as to why they aren’t liable. In fact, some seemingly straightforward dog bite cases have been thrown out because the victim (and sadly, their attorney) assumed the case was open-and-shut and didn’t prepare for the defendant’s arguments. That’s why it’s important to know what defenses might be raised against your claim, which may adversely affect your chances of success in court. A good attorney will anticipate these defenses and already have evidence gathered to answer them.
The Most Common Defenses in Washington Dog Bite Cases
A defendant might make many different types of arguments in a dog bite case, but there are really only three that might carry weight if they can’t be successfully refuted:
- You provoked the dog. This is a common argument made in cases where there is no history of the dog biting someone previously. The defense will typically argue you either “provoked” the dog by annoying it or (for example) you induced the dog to bite you because, as a jogger, walker, or runner, your movements and actions might have made you look like prey. If this argument holds, the state can’t hold the owner liable.
- You were trespassing on private property. The law states that the owner is only liable for your dog bite injuries on their private property if you had a lawful reason to be there. If you were not invited on the property or were not there on official business, the owner may argue that you were trespassing—or worse, committing a related illegal act such as breaking and entering.
- The owner had posted signs. If the dog’s owner had “Beware of Dog” signs posted visibly on the property, the defense might argue that you were duly warned that the dog was dangerous and the owner is therefore not liable.
How a Good Lawyer Can Help You
An experienced Washington State dog bite lawyer will know how to address these and other defenses that might arise. They will learn as much as possible about the circumstances surrounding the dog bite incident, investigate the place where the bite occurred, interview eyewitnesses, etc. From this, they will gather evidence and present compelling arguments to show that the owner is, indeed, liable for your injuries.
What You Might Recover in a Successful Dog Bite Case
When assessing damages, the goal is that you should be made whole again after suffering a dog bite—so your lawyer will ask for the amount of compensation that would be needed to do so. To this end, you may recover:
- Costs for all medical expenses, including reconstructive surgery, therapy, etc.
- Lost wages if you were unable to work
- Lost income capacity if your injuries prevent you from doing your job long-term—for example, if you were a model who suffered facial scars
- Pain and suffering or emotional distress. This is a dollar amount to compensate you for physical and emotional trauma you endured as a result of the bite
- Punitive damages. In rare cases, the court will grant an additional amount as penalty for egregious behavior—for example, if the owner deliberately turned their dog loose to attack you.
When you are injured by a dog, hiring an experienced Washington State dog bite lawyer offers you the best chance of collecting the full amount of compensation to which you are entitled. The Max Meyers Law Firm knows what is needed to prove your case and recover damages on your behalf. Contact our offices to schedule a free consultation or call us at 425-399-7000.