Were You Injured Because Of Someone Else's Negligence? Browse Our FAQs
In addition to coping with a lot of stress and frustration, personal injury cases also come with a lot of questions. Here are some of the questions we hear the most at Max Meyers Law.
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What Types of Long-Term Effects Are Possible For a Child Who is Involved in a Car Accident?
Anyone who has lived through a car accident knows that the experience will stay with you forever. This is especially true for those who experience a collision at a young age when the risk of long-term physical and psychological injury is especially high. Though every individual’s story is unique, our experience helping clients has revealed some commonalities in the types of long-term injuries experienced by children after a car accident.
Even minor collisions can produce a wide range of injuries for children, from simple cuts and bruises to permanent impairments which require life-long accommodation and medical support. For this reason, it is essential that any child who is involved in a car accident is seen by a medical professional, even if there are no immediate symptoms of injury.
Among the most tragic injuries which children experience after a car crash are:
- Brain injuries. Because their brains are still developing, it is difficult to predict how a traumatic brain injury (TBI) might affect a child over the course of their entire life. However, an analysis of medical data reveals that children who suffer even mild TBIs may have long-term impairments to their intellectual growth and physical abilities.
- Neck and spine injuries. Children are more susceptible to “cervical acceleration-deceleration injuries”—more commonly known as whiplash—which can result in life-long neck and back pain, permanent cognitive impairments, and even paralysis. Children under the age of eight are far more likely than older children or adults to experience a spinal injury that is undetectable by X-ray or CT scan, putting them at even greater risk for life-long impairments following a collision.
- Broken bones or organ damage. Because their bodies are smaller and lighter, children are more likely to be violently thrown around the passenger compartment during an accident. This increases the risk of broken bones or damage to internal organs following an accident, particularly since their bones are not as dense or strong as adults. Though they frequently heal with routine medical attention, these injuries can result in long-term pain.
- Scarring. Contact with debris like broken glass or jagged metal during the collision can create serious wounds which may leave a scar. Friction injuries—such as when the skin comes in contact with the pavement—and burn injuries resulting from a car accident can damage the skin permanently, leaving a child with limited mobility and disfiguring scars.
Children who experience a car accident are vulnerable to a number of mental issues. Certainly, those patients left with life-long cognitive or physical impairments are at a greater risk of experiencing depression in response to their changed circumstances. TBI can also result in permanent alterations to personality and emotional well-being due to physical injury to the brain, which highlights the way physical injury and mental injury resulting from an accident are interconnected.
Some children show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (also known as PTSD) following a collision. This can result in sleep disorders as well as crippling anxiety. When the accident in question resulted in the death of another individual, children are particularly vulnerable to the experience of survivor’s guilt. The child, consciously or subconsciously, may feel remorse or shame for having lived through an accident when others did not. This experience can be especially harsh when the individual who died was a parent, sibling, or someone close to the child.
The Road to Recovery
It is essential that a parent whose child is injured following a car crash contact a top-rated, trial-tested attorney with experience fighting for injured children. In Washington State, a child under the age of 18 cannot bring a lawsuit on their own behalf, so it is up to you as the legal guardian to retain an attorney willing to stand alongside your family and demand the full and fair compensation that will secure the support your child needs now and in the future.
Contact our offices today to schedule your free consultation. When you speak with us, make sure to request your copy of our free book Car Accident Secrets Unlocked to learn more about how to protect and provide for your family following an automotive accident.
Who Is At Fault When a Student Driver Causes a Car Accident?
Earning a driver’s license is a rite of passage for young people, but before they hit the road on their own, new drivers need to enroll in a driver’s education program. In theory, those instructors help novice drivers understand the rules of the road, learn to operate their vehicles, and develop safe driving habits.
While this support is an essential part of learning to drive, it also presents a unique legal question: If a student driver causes an accident during their driver’s ed training, who is responsible for that accident? There are several possibilities.
The Student Is at Fault
To receive a driver’s license in Washington State, regardless of age, the applicant must pass an accredited driving course and log 50 or more hours of driving practice with a licensed adult. During that supervised drive time, the student driver is developing their skills and understanding, so it is unreasonable to expect them to have the same abilities as an experienced driver.
However, a student driver, even at the earliest stages of their education, is still expected to follow traffic laws, obey signs and signals, and drive responsibly. When a student driver behaves recklessly or carelessly, and that behavior causes an accident, that student driver is responsible for any accident or injury that follows.
Exceeding the speed limit, ignoring stop signs, becoming distracted by screens or conversation, or “goofing around” are all examples of behaviors that commonly result in accidents by student drivers. When these actions cause a collision, that student driver should be held responsible. Student drivers may not have car insurance, but most young drivers will be covered by their parent or guardian’s insurance.
The Instructor Is at Fault
Every teacher should maintain a safe learning environment, even if that “environment” is a four-door compact filled with teens. When instructing novice drivers, the instructor is expected to provide the experience and “extra set of eyes on the road” to support that young driver as they learn and protect other motorists from rookie mistakes. If that instructor does not maintain that due diligence, they may share some—or all—of the responsibility for an accident caused by the student in their care.
For instance, if a driving instructor is busy texting a friend while the student driver is behind the wheel, that instructor is behaving negligently and may share the blame for any accident which could have been avoided had they been attentive to their student. A driver’s ed teacher who dozes as their students drive, who fails to demand focused and orderly behavior from all students in the car, or who turns away from the road to strike up a conversation with someone in the back seat is similarly negligent, making them partially or wholly responsible when their student causes an accident.
The Driving School Is at Fault
The school itself may share the responsibility for an accident if it can be shown that they were negligent in one or more areas:
- Maintenance. Driving schools are responsible for maintaining their vehicles. If an accident was caused by mechanical trouble (e.g.: flat, under-inflated, or bald tires; malfunctioning front or indicator lights; engine or brake failure), the school itself could be held responsible for that accident.
- Hiring. When a business hires an employee, there is an expectation that they have taken reasonable steps to verify that the employee is qualified for that position. If it is shown that a driving school hired an instructor who did not hold the proper certifications, or who had a record of negligence in previous positions, the school could be held responsible for an accident that occurs during that instructor’s time with students.
- Oversight. The legal concept of vicarious liability states that a business can be held responsible for the reckless or negligent behavior of its employee if that behavior occurred during business hours and within the scope of their job description. Therefore, if it can be shown that the driving school did not train their instructors sufficiently, or did not intervene with an instructor whose behavior they knew (or should have known) to be reckless or negligent, the school itself may be held responsible for creating an unsafe environment for their students and other drivers.
All of the Above
Washington State’s comparative negligence laws allow for more than one individual to share legal responsibility for an accident, which means that a student driver AND their instructor AND their driving school could ALL be at fault. Because determining liability can be complex and contentious, if you or someone you love has been injured in an accident with a student driver, it is essential that you hire an experienced attorney willing to fight for full and fair compensation for your damaged vehicle, medical expenses, lost wages or employment, as well as pain and suffering.
Contact our offices today to schedule a free consultation so you can learn how the legal team at Max Meyers Law can help you win justice and peace of mind. When you call, be sure to request a copy of our free book Car Accident Secrets Unlocked, so you can learn more about how to protect yourself both on the road and off.
What are the most common types of bicycle accidents in Washington?
Every bicyclist in Washington State has their favorite stretch of road: taking the hills on Bainbridge Island, racing the waves along Elliott Bay Trail, or soaking in the scenery all along the Bay to Baker Trail. Even though every rider has their preferred route, we all share a common love for fresh air, a generous tail wind, and life on two wheels.
Unfortunately, life on two wheels also comes with common dangers which every rider—from bicycle messenger to triathlete-in-training to cross-town commuter—will face. Understanding common accident types, where they happen, and what to look out for will keep you safe and rolling this cycling season.
Common Accidents on Open Roads
One common type of accident on the open road is sideswiping—which occurs when a bicycle rider and a car are sharing a lane of traffic when the car veers toward the cyclists, either driving them off the road or hitting the cyclist with the side of their vehicle. A similar accident type occurs when a car which is traveling at a higher rate of speed hits a cyclist from behind when overtaking the rider.
In each of these open-road accident types, the cause is frequently distracted driving. Drivers in cars and trucks who take their eyes off the road to send a text, check their map, or take a bite from their drive-thru lunch may not see a bicycle rider until it is too late. Alcohol and drugs also increase accident risk.
Common Accidents at Intersections and Crossings
Though bicycles are considered road vehicles in Washington State, it rarely seems as if cyclists are treated equally at intersections and crossings where traffic signals and right-of-way rules dictate behavior. The speed of impact in these accidents is usually (though not always) slower than open-road accidents, so they may seem less likely to cause injury, but statistics show that even low-speed collisions between cars and bicycle riders can cause serious injury and death, especially when a cyclist strikes their head on the vehicle or pavement during the accident and suffers a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Frequently, motorists fail to even see bicycles at intersections or other crossings, or forget to consider the bicycle as having the same right of way that cars have, resulting in an accident. For instance, cars turning left across oncoming traffic are required to yield to oncoming traffic, but frequently drivers don’t see—or believe they can “beat”—a bicycle rider travelling straight through the intersection in the opposite direction, and the bike and car collide when the driver pulls into the cyclist’s path. Similarly, drivers turning right at an intersection may not notice a cyclist directly to their right and turn directly into the rider or otherwise block the cyclist’s path—resulting in a crash.
Here again, distracted driving is often the cause, though another cause is “biker blindness”, in which drivers become so focused on other motorists at an intersection that they completely ignore bicyclists around them.
Common Accidents with Parked Cars
It may seem paradoxical at first, but some of the most damaging accidents between bicycles and cars happen when the car is not even moving at all.
When a car parallel parks on a city street, for instance, the driver may forget to check their surroundings before opening their door into traffic. That is bad luck for the car door if a semi happens to be passing at that moment, but it is terrible luck for the cyclist coasting downhill when a car door opens directly in front of them. Cyclists who are “doored” make up only two percent of all bicycle/car accidents nationwide, but in large cities like Seattle, as many as one in four accidents are the result of “dooring”.
What Should I Do If I Am in an Accident on My Bike?
Regardless of whether your accident occurs in the city or on a trail, on the open road or in a parking lot, the first thing every cyclist must do if they have been involved in an accident is seek medical attention. Serious injuries, including TBI and spinal trauma, may not show symptoms for hours or even days, so seek treatment even if you do not feel hurt. This treatment will also establish your injuries at the time of the accident, which may be important when seeking compensation for medical care or lost wages caused by a negligent driver.
The next thing to do after being injured by a negligent driver while riding your bicycle is contact an experienced bicycle accident attorney in Washington. Contact our offices today to schedule a free consultation to learn how Max Meyers Law can help protect your rights, secure full and fair compensation for your injuries, and get you back on the road again. Be sure to ask for a copy of our free book: Bicycle Accident Secrets Unlocked to learn more.
What does a motorcycle endorsement mean in Washington State, and why do I need one?
Motorcyclists are required to have a motorcycle endorsement to ride legally in Washington State. Getting that endorsement may be a hassle, but motorcyclists who ride without the endorsement put themselves at risk both on the road and off.
What Is an Endorsement?
A motorcycle endorsement is a special designation added to a Washington State driver’s license to certify that an individual has proven they understand how the rules of the road apply to motorcycle riders and that they are competent to ride their motorcycle on Washington’s roads and highways.
The motorcycle endorsement, also referred to as the 2W endorsement, requires a cyclist to pass four tests: two written exams covering motorcycle knowledge and two evaluations of motorcycle driving skills. If a motorcycle rider wants to use a side-car attachment, a stabilizing conversion kit, or a motorized trike, that rider needs to earn their 3W endorsement, which includes a single written exam followed by a single driving test.
Motorcyclists under the age of 18 must earn their endorsement by completing an approved motorcycle safety course and passing the tests at the end of that class. Riders who are older than 18 do not have to take the course and may sign up to take the test at any approved motorcycle training school.
What Are the Penalties for Riding Without an Endorsement?
It is illegal to operate most two- and three-wheeled cycles without an endorsement. Some mopeds do not require one, but it is the cyclist’s responsibility to check whether their vehicle requires an endorsement: any bike or trike with an engine larger than 50cc OR which can travel at speeds above 30 m.p.h. requires the proper 2W or 3W endorsement to operate on the road.
Motorcyclists who are pulled over on vehicles like this without the proper endorsement face a fine of $386 or more; in addition, their scooter, motorcycle, or motor-tricycle can be impounded by law enforcement. Washington State also requires all motorcycle drivers and their riders, even those on vehicles with engines smaller than 50cc, to wear a helmet every time they get on the road.
How Does a Lack of an Endorsement Affect My Personal Injury Claim?
It is important to remember that Washington is a comparative negligence state, which means that the fault or blame for an accident can be shared between the motorists involved in an accident if it can be shown that the actions of each rider contributed to the accident. Because it is illegal to operate a two- or three-wheeled vehicle without the proper endorsement, investigators could interpret that behavior as negligent. This means that the motorcyclist may be considered partially at fault for the accident because they were driving without proof that they understood motorcycle laws and regulations or evidence of driving competency for their vehicle.
This is especially worrisome for motorcycle riders who were injured in an accident that was caused by another driver, because the lawyers for that other driver will argue in court that their client should not be held liable for the motorcyclist’s injuries because that rider was not properly licensed. Even if the court determines that the motorcyclist was not the primary cause of the accident, opposing lawyers may attempt to use comparative negligence to decrease or eliminate the amount of compensation their client must pay the injured motorcyclist.
In addition, because the injuries sustained by motorcyclists are frequently severe, and therefore expensive to treat, insurance companies may attempt to deny payment to an injured motorcyclist by arguing that driving without a motorcycle endorsement shifts responsibility for the injuries to the motorcycle rider.
What Can I Do If I Have Been Injured Driving a Motorcycle Without the Proper Endorsement?
Do not let traffic investigators, opposing counsel, or an insurance company bully you out of the compensation you deserve. Contact our offices to schedule your free consultation to learn how the legal team at Max Meyers can help you. When you talk with our staff, be sure to request our free book: Motorcycle Accident Secrets Unlocked to learn more about how to protect your rights as a motorcyclist in Washington State.
When I choose an attorney to represent my bicycle injury case, what do I look for?
Every year in the United States, thousands of bicyclists are injured—and hundreds killed—in traffic accidents. For those injured cyclists and their families, finding the right attorney to represent their interests with investigators, opposing counsel, insurance companies, and the court is essential if they hope to get full and fair compensation for their injuries or losses.
But how are people supposed to find the right lawyer to represent them in a bicycle injury case? Follow this simple checklist to find someone right for you:
Look for Experience
Every lawyer receives training that might allow them to practice different types of law, such as family law, criminal defense, or personal injury. Receiving an introduction to the subject in law school is no match for years of trial-tested experience in court, however. Further, laws regarding traffic, roads, and bicycles are different from state to state, so it is essential to find an attorney who is licensed and routinely practices in the state where the injury occurred. When researching an attorney to represent your bike accident case, be sure to find someone with experience fighting—and winning—for cyclists in Washington State.
Look for Courage
When you select an attorney to represent your interests, you need someone who will not back down—someone who is willing to go to court and fight hard to get their client the fair judgment and generous compensation they deserve. Some lawyers are nervous about going to trial where they will have to go toe-to-toe with legal representation for the defendant or from big insurance companies; they may even encourage their client to accept a small settlement to avoid the courtroom. Make sure the attorney you choose has a reputation for not accepting anything but the full and fair compensation their client deserves, even if it means going to court.
Look for Good Communication
Though a good bicycle accident attorney has years of experience representing injured cyclists, you probably do not have a lot of experience being an injured cyclist. It is essential, then, that your attorney takes the time to explain the law fully, honestly evaluate the strength of your case, listen to your thoughts and concerns, and stay in contact as your case proceeds. Do not settle for a big-name firm that will not return your calls or high-powered lawyers who don’t listen to your needs. Get someone who is ready and willing to be present and support you at every turn along the way.
Look for Confidence
Following a bicycle accident, an injured cyclist faces a great deal of uncertainty. Will their injuries heal? Who is going to pay for their medical treatment? When will they be able to return to work? How can they afford an attorney and everything else at the same time?
When you choose an attorney to represent you, look for someone willing to stand behind their promise to fight hard for your interests. When a lawyer charges their clients hundreds of dollars per hour to represent them with no guarantee that they will win, that client may end up owing thousands of dollars in fees even if they lose in court or settle for less than what they deserve. Look for an attorney who is willing to share the burden and the risk with their clients by accepting a fee for their work only if their client wins in court.
Look for a Winning Record
Injured cyclists deserve good communication, experienced representation, and a confident partner when they look for an attorney to represent them, but the thing an injured cyclist needs most from their attorney is a win. When looking for someone to represent your bicycle personal injury claim, look for someone who can show you real, trial-tested results for clients for whom they stood up, fought hard, and won big.
Look No Further
Max Meyers Law has represented bicycle riders who were injured while riding, and they have won judgments and earned big settlements for those clients—an established firm with a winning record.
Fighting for the rights of bicyclists is more than a profession for Max Meyers, it is a personal mission. Meyers is an accomplished cyclist himself, taking part in the 200+ mile Seattle-to-Portland Bicycle Classic, cycling up Mount Rainier for 10,000 of total elevation gain, and pedaling across Washington, throughout the United States, and beyond. His commitment to injured cyclists is rooted in his passion for cycling. He even collected his best insights into bicycle safety, bicycle law, and legal recourse for injured bicyclists into a free book: Bicycle Accident Secrets Unlocked.
If you or a loved one have been injured while bicycling in Washington State, and you believe your injuries were caused by the neglect or recklessness of another, contact our offices in Kirkland or Bothall to schedule a free consultation to learn how Max Meyers can work for you.
Who is at Fault When a Vehicle Hits a Pedestrian After a Collision With Another Vehicle?
Determining who is at fault when a vehicle is involved in a chain-reaction collision that results in pedestrian injury is complex and will likely involve first responders, official police or transportation investigators, insurance adjusters, and legal representation for the individual motorists. Anyone—drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians—involved in a chain-reaction or multi-vehicle collision that resulted in serious injuries or fatalities is wise to retain legal representation to protect their interests during the investigation and any legal proceedings which may follow.
When Is the Driver at Fault?
If our theoretical driver was driving recklessly, exceeding the speed limit, driving under the influence, and ignoring traffic signals, they are likely to be assigned all of the liability for the accident and will be held responsible for the injuries sustained in the chain reaction that accident caused.
Common examples of grossly negligent traffic behavior include:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Excessive speeding
- Ignoring traffic laws and traffic signals
If the driver was intoxicated and driving 20 miles over the speed limit before losing control, striking a car, veering off course, and finally hitting a pedestrian in the crosswalk, it is clear that they are guilty of gross negligence. Even if that individual claims they were not responsible for the pedestrian’s injuries because they would not have hit the pedestrian had they not hit the car first, judges and juries would see that the driver’s negligence caused both the initial accident and the pedestrian’s injuries.
When Is Another Driver at Fault?
Even though the pedestrian’s injuries were directly caused by the impact with the hit vehicle, that driver may share only some of the blame—or none at all— if it can be argued that another driver’s negligence is what led to the initial collision.
Say our theoretical motorcycle, car or truck driver is traveling within their lane, obeying all traffic signals and laws, and moving just under the posted speed limit. As the cyclist or driver approaches an intersection, another car, hypothetically traveling on the same road in the opposite direction and 20 miles above the speed limit, makes a sudden left turn across traffic without signaling. They strike the law obeying driver as they move through the intersection and send the vehicle into the crosswalk where it strikes a pedestrian.
In this case, the hit vehicle may have hit the pedestrian but, legally, that driver did not cause the pedestrian’s injuries. Instead, the injured victim and their attorney must seek damages from the other driver whose grossly negligent behavior caused the accident which caused their injuries.
When Are Both Drivers at Fault?
Comparative negligence allows for the possibility that more than one driver may contribute, in varying degrees, to the same accident. Therefore, they may share some portion of the responsibility and restitution.
If, for example, a motorcyclist was exceeding the speed limit as they drove through the intersection before being hit by the car making the illegal turn, a judge or jury could decide that the actions of the motorcyclist “slightly contributed” to the accident, even though the driver of the car was mostly to blame. In this case, the pedestrian and their attorney must negotiate with both the driver and the cyclist to receive compensation for their injuries.
When Is the Pedestrian at Fault?
Contrary to popular belief, pedestrians do not always have the right of way. This is another complexity of comparative negligence: if the pedestrian behaved in a way that was negligent of their own safety, a judge or jury could determine they share a portion of the responsibility for their own injuries.
For instance, if the pedestrian was crossing the street in the middle of the block rather than the crosswalk, lawyers for the driver’s insurance company may argue that the pedestrian voluntarily put themselves at risk and is therefore partly responsible for their injuries. In that case, even if the jury determines the driver to be primarily at fault, they will decrease the compensation the at-fault driver must pay by an amount they determine is equivalent to the extent to which the pedestrian’s negligence contributed to the problem.
Get Help From an Experienced Attorney
As a pedestrian, your best hope for full and just compensation is to contact an established, experienced attorney to represent your interests during the investigation of the accident, the negotiation with insurance companies, and the argumentation in court. Contact our offices online or call 425-399-7000 to schedule a free consultation to learn how Max Meyers can work for your rights and well-being following an accident, no matter how complex.
Is a Bicyclist Considered a Pedestrian?
We have a lot of people who commute to work and ride bikes for recreation in the state of Washington. One question that comes up in conversation is around whether a bicyclist is considered a pedestrian or a vehicle? This can be a tricky question to answer!
A better question to ask is if someone who is riding their bike has the right to ride on the street, ride on the sidewalk, or both? Are they held to the same helmet and traffic laws as motorcycle riders? Are they treated with the same rights as pedestrians? And if they are recognized as both a pedestrian and a vehicle how do you determine when and where to treat them as each?
State and City Guidelines
As you can see, this is a tricky question to answer. Most states do look at bicyclists as both pedestrians and vehicles depending on the situation. It is important to know the rules of the road if you are a cyclist in Washington state. The laws can vary by county and even cities, so make sure you are familiar with the laws for the areas in which you will be riding.
Washington provides that every city and town may by ordinance:
- Regulate and license the riding of bicycles and other similar vehicles upon or along the streets, alleys, highways, or other public grounds within its limits;
- Construct and maintain bicycle paths or roadways within or outside of and beyond its limits leading to or from the city or town;
- Establish and collect reasonable license fees from all persons riding a bicycle or other similar vehicle within its respective corporate limits; and
- Enforce ordinances by reasonable fines and penalties.
(Source: Wash. Rev. Code §§35.75.010; 35.75.030; 35.75.040)
Bicycle Treated as a Vehicle
If a bicyclist is riding on the street, they are viewed and treated much like a vehicle would be. They are required to observe the rules of the road by adhering to signaled turns, traffic signs, and are also are required to have lights, reflectors, and helmets. There are some areas in Washington state where roads are closed to bicyclists and alternate routes to sidewalks or bike trails are provided.
In Washington, bicycles are vehicles according to the statute that defines vehicles and a person riding a bicycle has all of the rights and duties of a driver of a vehicle under Chapter 46.61 of the Revised Code of Washington, except for special regulations specific to bicycles and those provisions that by their nature can have no application. (Source: Wash. Rev. Code §§46.04.670; 46.61.755)
Bicycle Treated as a Pedestrian
The general rule is that if a bicyclist is riding on a sidewalk, then the cyclist is treated like a pedestrian would be. If a bicyclist is in a crosswalk, then a driver is supposed to yield to a cyclist. A person riding a bicycle is allowed to ride on the sidewalks along with pedestrians, though there may be some areas with signage that states otherwise or has lanes that are dedicated to bike traffic and foot traffic. Seattle does allow bicyclists to ride on the sidewalk. If a bicyclist is riding on the sidewalk, they are required to travel “at a rate of speed no greater than is reasonable and proper under the conditions existing at the point of operation.” Washington state law states:
Sidewalks, crosswalks—Pedestrians, bicycles, personal delivery devices.
(1) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian, bicycle, or personal delivery device on a sidewalk. The rider of a bicycle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian on a sidewalk or crosswalk. A personal delivery device must yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian or a bicycle on a sidewalk or crosswalk.
(2)(a) If a person is found to have committed an infraction under this section within a school, playground, or crosswalk speed zone created under RCW 46.61.440, the person must be assessed a monetary penalty equal to twice the penalty assessed under RCW 46.63.110. The penalty may not be waived, reduced, or suspended.
(b) Fifty percent of the moneys collected under this subsection must be deposited into the school zone safety account.
Specialized Laws for Bicyclists
Because bicycle riders can be treated as both a pedestrian and/or a vehicle, many states have laws that are in direct relation to the bicyclist. One example of this would be that it is a common requirement that a bicyclist keeps to the far right of a lane at all times unless they are getting ready to make a left turn. A new safety law was passed in Washington state effective January 1, 2020 which states that Washington drivers must give cyclists and pedestrians three feet of space, or more, if passing them on the road. Here is what drivers need to know about this law:
- If there are two or more lanes, drivers must move out of the right lane to pass a cyclist.
- If there is only one lane in each direction, drivers must slow down and give the cyclist at least three feet of space.
- If there is one lane in each direction, but not enough room to pass, the driver must move into oncoming traffic when safe to do so.
Another example is that there are instances where a bicyclist can run a red light (if no other vehicles are approaching the intersection) because they are not heavy enough to trigger the sensors to change the light at a traffic intersection.
Bicycles are allowed to ride in the “bus only” lanes in Seattle, which other vehicles are not allowed to use. They are also allowed to ride two abreast on the roads.
Helmets are also required to be worn by minors in many states, even though adults may not be required to do the same. Washington does not currently have a state law that requires helmet use, however some cities and counties DO require helmets.
There are also many states that require bicyclists to use safety lights if they are out riding in the dark or at night so that other drivers and pedestrians are alerted to their presence and can clearly see them. You may have also heard a bicyclist riding down the sidewalk when all of the sudden you hear “on your left” shouted at you by the cyclist. In many areas it is required that a bicyclist say this to announce they are passing another pedestrian and to help avoid a collision.
Bicyclists and Law Enforcement
One of the unique things about treating a bicyclist like the driver of a vehicle is that a bicyclist does not need a driver’s license. A bicyclist is also not required to have insurance in order to ride a bike. Because of this, law enforcement is usually pretty laid back about traffic laws when dealing with a bicycle rider.
Sadly, many law enforcement officers are also unclear about traffic laws when it comes to bicyclists. Often times when a car hits a bicyclist, the cyclist is usually treated as a pedestrian instead of a vehicle driver.
Bicycle riders usually want to know about any penalties they may face if they break a traffic law while out riding. It is common for a bicyclist to ignore traffic lights and stop signs while they are riding out on the roads for a couple of reasons:
- The first reason is that bicyclists often think that everyone can clearly see them out on the roads and will yield to them.
- The second reason is that bicyclists may think that traffic lights and stop signs do not apply to them.
If a bicyclist is caught not following these rules of the road, then they can be issued a ticket by law enforcement. As mentioned above, a bicyclist is considered to be a vehicle while they are riding on the roads and they are subject to the same laws and violations. If a bicyclist receives a ticket it can potentially affect and go against their driver’s license if they have one.
There are other laws a bicyclist can be cited for as well, including the operation of a bicycle under the influence (DUI/DWI), or speeding. Any of these violations can go against their driver’s license, lead to fines and citations, and even jail time.
Duties Drivers Have to Bicyclists on the Road
There are special rights of bicycles that require duties placed on drivers to protect cyclists out on the road. Here are some of the duties place on drivers regarding bicyclists:
- Motorists must stay a safe distance to the left of a bicyclist when passing
- Drivers are prohibited from making abrupt turns in front of a cyclist
- Motorists must yield to oncoming bicyclists when making left turns
- Drivers must share the road with bicyclists and exercise caution when changing lanes
- Vehicle occupants must check for passing bicyclists before opening their door
Car Insurance Purposes
A new Washington court case in December 2020 defined bicyclists as pedestrians when it comes to insurance policies. Why is this important? Because when a pedestrian (and now a bicyclist) are hit by a negligent car driver, the bicyclist’s medical bills will be paid by the car’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. This is a special rule just for bicyclists and pedestrians and does not apply to car versus car accidents.
The attorneys at Max Meyers Law understand the issues that are important to bicyclists. If you have been in a bicycle accident, we can help to protect your rights. If you or someone you know has been in a bicycle accident, please give us a call for a free consultation today at 425-399-7000.
Do Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way?
There are millions of people injured every year in pedestrian accidents. One of the most common places that these accidents occur are at 4 way stops. It seems there is still a lot of confusion around who has the right of way when it comes to pedestrians and vehicles on the road. While pedestrian accidents commonly occur at 4 way stops, they also happen in other areas where people are trying to cross a road…or sometimes even a highway!
It is important for both drivers and pedestrians to understand who has the right of way in any given situation. By having this knowledge and understanding the rules of the road, we can help reduce the number of pedestrian injuries and fatalities here in Washington state.
Generally, Pedestrians Have the Right of Way
In general, pedestrians have the right of way. Drivers owe pedestrians a duty of care when they are out on the roads. A driver must possess a valid driver’s license and follow all traffic laws. The sad truth is that drivers often fail at meeting the duty of care for pedestrians…and other drivers for that matter. Here are some common examples of failure to provide duty of care:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Driving while distracted
- Failing to signal while turning
- Failing to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks
Injuries and fatalities can result when a driver fails the duty of safe driving that is owed to other drivers and pedestrians.
Pedestrians Do NOT Always Have the Right of Way
Even though pedestrians usually have the right of way, this is not always the case. A pedestrian cannot just run across the street in the middle of vehicle traffic just because they feel like it. Entering a roadway suddenly and unexpectedly so a vehicle has no time to react is not allowed in Washington. Doing this would not only put you in danger, but it also puts those operating vehicles in the flow of traffic at risk.
Pedestrians also owe a duty of care to other pedestrians and drivers out on the road. These are some of the common breaches of care seen by pedestrians:
- Suddenly and unexpectedly entering the roadway
- Walking in traffic areas where pedestrians are prohibited
- Entering a road or highway while intoxicated (drugs and/or alcohol)
- Crossing in the middle of the street
- Crossing the street outside of a crosswalk
- Disobeying a traffic signal (crossing the street when there is a “do not cross” signal)
Pedestrians can be held accountable for prohibited behavior just like drivers are. In some situations, a driver and pedestrian may both be at fault in an accident. If both the driver and pedestrian are at fault in an accident, it is important to figure out the percentage of fault for each party in order to determine liability and resolve any legal claims correctly.
Washington state Pedestrian Laws
Every state has their own pedestrian laws. Below are laws specific to the state of Washington for pedestrians:
- Traffic signals - Pedestrians must obey traffic signals and traffic control devices unless otherwise directed by a traffic or police officer (RCW 46.61.050).
- Sidewalks - Drivers and bicyclists must yield to pedestrians on sidewalks and in crosswalks (RCW 46.61.261).
- Pedestrians on roadways - Pedestrians must use sidewalks when they are available. If sidewalks are not available, pedestrians must walk on the left side of the roadway or its shoulder facing traffic (RCW 46.61.250).
- Moving into traffic - No pedestrian or bicycle shall suddenly leave a curb and move into traffic so that the driver cannot stop (RCW 46.61.235).
- Drivers exercise due care - Every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the horn when necessary (RCW 46.61.245).
- Stop for pedestrians at intersections - Drivers shall stop at intersections to allow pedestrians and bicycles to cross the road within a marked or unmarked crosswalk (RCW 46.61.235). See Washington's Crosswalk Law for more information.
- Yield to vehicles outside intersections - Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway (RCW 46.61.240).
How Do You Prove Responsibility in a Pedestrian Vehicle related Accident?
It is crucial to have as much evidence when proving negligence by the vehicle in a pedestrian accident case. Calling the police to the scene of the accident is always recommended so that a police report can be filed, however, a police report will not always show or make a liability determination for an accident. Be sure to take the following steps after your accident:
- Make sure that you are safe and address any injuries you have sustained immediately.
- Document the scene (take photos with the camera on your phone if you can or have someone else take photos for you).
- Get the contact information from any witnesses at the scene of the accident if you can do it safely.
Negligence a Common Reason for Pedestrian Accidents
Pedestrian accidents are the result of negligence in most cases. There may be a rare instance where a crazy driver is out there trying to intentionally hit people, but the odds of that happening are very low. If you as a pedestrian have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, then you may have a legal claim against the party who is responsible. Filing a claim will allow you to recover compensation for the following:
- Cost of medical treatment (doctor visits, hospital visits, surgeries, etc.)
- Income lost due to missing work
- Pain and suffering
- Other losses (Wrongful death)
How to Avoid Pedestrian Accidents
Unfortunately, not everyone is going to follow the law when it comes to the rules of the road. No one wants to be involved, hurt, or at fault in a pedestrian accident. Here are some precautions both drivers and pedestrians can take to limit the chances of being injured or involved in a fatal accident:
- Everyone should slow down at a crosswalk. Drivers should be scanning the area for pedestrians even if they have a green light. Pedestrians nearly always have the right of way at crosswalk whether the crosswalk is marked or not. There is a chance that someone may be a slow walker and still crossing the street as well, so be on the lookout! Pedestrians should also be on the lookout before crossing at an intersection. Be sure to look both ways even if you have a signal that is telling you it is ok to cross. Also, be sure to look for drivers who may be attempting to run a yellow light.
- Make yourself easy to see. Wear bright clothes and reflective tape when you are out on walks. This is especially important if you are walking around at night. A study shows that in 2016, 75 percent of pedestrian fatalities happened while it was dark out. Drivers need to make sure that their headlights are turned on.
- Avoid intoxication. 48 percent of all fatal pedestrian crashes in 2016 involved alcohol (the driver and/or pedestrian). Driving drunk impairs a driver’s ability to slam their breaks on more quickly, increases the likelihood of a driver leaving the roadway, and driving up on to a sidewalk. Pedestrians who are impaired are more likely to stumble while walking and lose their ability to pay close attention. This could cause a person to stumble into the road or have poor judgement when it comes to how close an oncoming vehicle is in relation to where they stand.
- Avoid distractions. Both drivers and pedestrians should avoid electronics (phones) while on the roads. Everyone needs to be alert and pay attention to their surroundings.
Drivers should always do the following to prevent hitting a pedestrian:
- Always be cautious where pedestrians cross. Regardless if they are at an intersection or marked crosswalk, you should slow to a stop.
- Always come to a complete stop at a crosswalk. Never slow roll through a crosswalk as it presents an unnecessary risk.
- Make direct eye contact. Let the pedestrian know that you see them by attempting to make eye contact with them as they cross the road.
- Allow plenty of time for pedestrians to cross. It may take more time for children, elderly, or disabled people to cross the street. Give them enough time to do so and do not enter the crosswalk with your vehicle until they have crossed safely to the other side.
- Never pass stopped vehicles or vehicles breaking for a pedestrian. Slow down and stop. The last thing you want to do is to hit a pedestrian that is in the road as you try to pass a stopped vehicle.
Even if you are being responsible and following the rules of the road, accidents will still happen. If you have been injured in a pedestrian accident you should speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Give us a call at 425-399-7000 today to get your free consultation.
What Happens to the Dog If I File a Dog Bite Lawsuit?
Filing a lawsuit for dog bite injuries does not necessarily lead to authorities euthanizing the animal as a result. When you file a civil lawsuit, the local animal control authorities are not a part of that action and are not automatically notified of the incident. If you want the authorities to know about the dog bite and take action as a result, you will have to notify them directly.
The Lawsuit Has No Effect on the Dog
When you file a lawsuit against someone in civil court, you file papers that tell the court:
- Who you are (the plaintiff – the injured person)
- Who you are suing (the defendant – the dog owner)
- What happened that resulted in your injury (the dog bit you)
- Why the person you are suing is responsible for the harm you suffered (the defendant owns the dog)
- What you want the court to make that person do (recover damages for your injuries, losses, and expenses)
There are many different dog bite laws in Washington State. The location of your dog bite injury determines which may apply to any given situation.
How the Authorities Get Involved
Your city or county might have ordinances governing situations involving dogs who bite people. If so, you can notify your local animal control agency after a dog bite. The authorities then investigate the complaint and determine what actions to take afterward.
For example, if you were to report a dog bite injury in King County, authorities would use the relevant King County ordnances to decide whether the dog is a nuisance or vicious.
If they decide that a dog is a nuisance, the animal control agency can impound the animal. In some situations, the agency will allow the owner to redeem the animal if they agree to follow the agency’s guidelines. If they determine the animal to be vicious, the agency may euthanize the animal instead.
The King County Ordinance Concerning Nuisance Animals and Vicious Dogs
According to the King County ordinance about dogs that fit the definition of a nuisance or a vicious animal, the animal control agencies can take action after a dog bite if:
- The animal habitually snaps, growls, snarls, jumps, or otherwise threatens people who are legally using public spaces.
- The animal constitutes a danger to the safety of people who are not within the animal’s premises, or who are lawfully within the animal’s premises.
- The animal is not properly confined to its owner’s property or kept under its owner’s control.
Civil Penalties the Agency Can Impose on Dog Owners in King County
King County animal control authorities can assess a fine of up to $1,000 against the owner of a nuisance dog for each violation of the ordinance. Here is how the agency determines the amount of the penalty:
“The manager, in a reasonable manner, may vary the amount of the penalty assessed to consider the appropriateness of the penalty to the nature and type of violation; the gravity of the violation; the number of past and present violations committed and the good faith of the violator in attempting to achieve compliance with prescribed requirements or after notification of a violation.” [King County Code 11.04.200 Violations – Civil Penalty.]
How a Dog Bite Injury Lawyer Can Help
When a dog owner is fined for violating their local ordinance, the proceeds from the fine do not go to the injured party. A dog bite lawsuit is the only way to seek damages for your losses from the defendant. There is a statute of limitations for dog bite cases in Washington State, so it is important to begin the process as soon as possible.
At Max Meyers Law, we help people who are the victims of dog injuries. Call us today at 425-399-7000 for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss the details of your case.
Will My Dog Bite Case Go to Court?
Every case is different, so it is impossible to tell you whether your dog bite claim will settle or go to court. Here are the typical possibilities:
- Your lawyer contacts the dog owner, negotiates with the insurance company, and settles the case without having to file a lawsuit.
- The dog owner does not have insurance that will pay your injury claim, so your lawyer has to file a lawsuit against the owner.
- The dog owner has insurance, but the company refuses to pay a fair settlement of your claim, so your lawyer has to file a lawsuit.
- The case settles after your lawyer files a lawsuit but before trial.
- Your lawyer files a lawsuit and the defendant and his insurance company does not settle with you, so the case goes to trial, where the judge decides your fate.
Litigation is unpredictable. Even after your lawyer files a lawsuit, it might appear that the case is going in one direction, when it suddenly changes course. For example, the insurance company might play hardball for months and then, out of the blue, make a reasonable settlement offer.
Sometimes the insurance company’s lawyer will act cooperatively at first, and then stop returning phone calls from your lawyer. It is hard to anticipate what will happen in court cases.
Factors That Can Affect Whether Your Case Will Settle or Go to Court
The relevant issues in your case will depend on the facts of your case, but here are some aspects that can affect whether your case settles or goes to trial:
Whether the dog owner is liable. Under Washington State law, a dog owner is responsible whenever the owner’s dog bites or otherwise injures someone unless the injured person was trespassing at the time of the incident or the injury happened as a result of the lawful use of a police dog.
If the dog owner claims that the situation falls within one of these exceptions, the case is unlikely to settle without more investigation. Both sides, the plaintiff (you) and the defendant dog owner, will gather evidence to support their positions. If the parties cannot agree at that point, the case might have to go to trial for a judge to make a ruling as to what happened.
Your injuries. Your doctor might recommend that we wait to see how well you heal up before agreeing on a settlement amount for your injuries. Because of infection risk and complications, injuries from a dog can take a long while to heal.
We do not want to rush to a settlement, only to discover that you still need more medical procedures to treat your injuries. Once you settle, you cannot go back to the defendant and ask for more money, even if you have more medical bills.
Often people need multiple surgeries after a dog bite. The initial procedures try to repair the damage to tissues and organs. After addressing the medical crisis, you might need reconstructive surgery, particularly if the dog mauled your face. You might also need one or more plastic surgeries to minimize your scarring.
Psychological ramifications. Many people find that being the victim of a dog attack is traumatizing. They can develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the experience. PTSD does not always appear immediately after the attack, but when it does, it can be debilitating. Rushing to a quick settlement might not allow sufficient time for the psychological harm you could suffer to appear.
Insurance company actions. If the defendant dog owner has insurance that will cover your dog bite claim, the insurance company will probably pay for a defense lawyer to handle the lawsuit for them. The exception to this protocol is if the insurance company adjuster settles your claim before your lawyer files a lawsuit.
Once we file the lawsuit, the insurance company transfers the case to one of their lawyers. Transferring the case around like that will delay resolution of the dispute until the company’s lawyer becomes familiar with the file.
The insurance company will tell the adjuster and defense lawyer the maximum amount of money for which they can settle the case. This number is the “settlement authority.”
The adjuster and lawyer do not have authority to settle the case for more than that amount. If the amount of compensation you need to make you whole (or to come as close to it as a fair dollar figure would) is more than the settlement authority from the insurance company, the case will have to go to trial.
Unresolved factual disputes. The defendant might make some wild claims in an attempt to get out of liability for your injuries. He might deny that he owns the dog, or claim that you were trespassing. He might declare that some other dog caused your injuries, or that your medical bills were for a different accident.
In situations like this or when there is any other critical factual dispute that the parties cannot work out between their lawyers, the case will likely have to go to court. In trial, the judge can decide what the truth is and what is not.
If you have injuries from a dog, call Max Meyers Law, PLLC at 425-399-7000, to set up your free consultation. We can answer your questions and fight for your right to compensation.
Can I Sue for Emotional Injuries from a Dog Bite?
Yes, you can sue for emotional injuries from a dog bite if the injury falls within the statute and you suffered physical common injuries. Many people sustain psychological harm from dog bites because the experience of a dog attack can be terrifying and traumatizing. There are dog bite laws in Washington State for these very incidences.
Washington State’s dog bite liability statute says that:
“The owner of any dog which shall bite any person while such person is in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place including the property of the owner of such dog, shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner's knowledge of such viciousness.”
You can sue for “such damages as may be suffered,” which can include emotional harm. There are two exceptions to our state’s dog bite liability statute: trespassers and the lawful use of a police dog. So, as long as your injury was not from the lawful action of a police dog or from an incident in which you were not legally on the property where the incident happened, your damages can include psychological consequences of the attack.
Damages You Can Get for a Dog Bite in Washington State
The dog owner is liable for all of your damages. In addition to the economic losses, like medical bills and lost wages, dog bite victims can seek damages for things like:
Pain and suffering. Being the victim of a dog attack can be physically painful. A dog’s powerful jaws can cause excruciating injuries as the animal’s teeth rip and crush your flesh.
Pain and suffering compensation can also address the inconvenience the injury caused. A significant injury can disrupt your life and that of your family. Merely paying your medical bills does not take care of the disruption to your schedule.
Being attacked by a dog is terrifying. This mental distress is compensable as pain and suffering, even if you do not suffer ongoing emotional consequences from the incident.
Disfigurement. Many people live with disfiguring injuries from dog bites. Dogs tend to attack the face and throat or hands and arms. These areas are often visible when people are going through their everyday activities, which means that friends, co-workers, and strangers can see the enduring reminders of the experience.
Sometimes a person needs reconstructive or plastic surgery after dog bites. The surgeons might need to rebuild areas of a person’s face. Depending on the extent of damage to the skin, the patient might also need skin grafts. The economic costs of these procedures are compensable, as well as the pain and suffering and other emotional losses.
Loss of enjoyment of life. Fear of another dog attack can leave a person unable to go outdoors, hiking or walking, or in public.
If your physical injuries leave you with impairment, such as difficulty walking or maintaining your balance, you might be physically unable to perform certain activities that used to bring you joy.
Anything reasonably connected to the attack and your injuries can affect your enjoyment of life. We will talk with you about how the experience has changed your life.
Fear of animals. It is not surprising that many people are afraid of animals after a dog bite. This fear can stay with a person for years after an attack. The victim might be too afraid to have any pets after a dog bite, which can cause a loss of companionship.
PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common after a dog attack. PTSD is more than the initial terror of getting bitten by an animal. PTSD can damage your relationships, your mental health, and your ability to work for a living.
How to Get Help for Emotional Injuries from a Dog Bite
We can arrange a free consultation for you. All that you have to do is call Max Meyers Law at 425-399-7000. There is no charge for the meeting and no obligation.
What Is Strict Liability for a Dog Bite?
The dog bite laws in Washington State hold a dog owner liable even if he was not negligent. The legal concept of strict liability in these situations means that whenever a dog bites someone, the owner is responsible for the injuries. There are, of course, a couple of exceptions to this general rule.
Dog Bite Law in Washington State
A dog’s owner is responsible when her dog bites someone as says the dog bite laws in Washington State. The state statute that controls these situations is RCW 16.08.040, which says:
“The owner of any dog which shall bite any person while such person is in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place including the property of the owner of such dog, shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner's knowledge of such viciousness.”
Exceptions to Strict Liability for Dog Bites in Washington State
The dog owner is not automatically responsible for the injuries when a dog bites someone in these two circumstances:
1. The bitten person was trespassing at the time of the dog bite. Washington State law does not protect trespassers from dog bites. Many people keep dogs on their property to frighten away trespassers, and our law allows this conduct. A landowner does not have to prevent his dogs from biting trespassers.
2. The bite happened during the lawful use of a police dog. When a police dog bites someone, the owner (the law enforcement agency) does not have to pay damages to the injured person unless someone was using the police dog unlawfully.
Let’s say that an officer was using a drug-sniffing police dog within department guidelines. A suspect became violent, and the dog bit him. The suspect cannot collect damages from the police department.
No “One Free Bite” for Dogs in Washington State
Another aspect of strict liability is that the very first time a dog bites someone, the owner is liable. In some other states, there is a “free bite” rule that bars an injured person from compensation if no one has previously reported the dog for biting. In our state, however, the dog owner can protest that she did not know her dog was vicious, but the owner will still be responsible to anyone the dog harms.
Reasonable Damages for a Dog Bite
The owner will have to pay all of your damages in a strict liability case. The statute holds dog owners responsible “for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten.” In other words, you can make a claim for whatever reasonable expenses you incurred as a result of the dog bite.
Reasonableness is a judgment call. A judge would probably find a person’s direct medical expenses to treat the bite reasonable but would not make the dog owner pay for the injured person to get unnecessary cosmetic procedures done while having surgery to repair the bite damage to her arms.
Types of Damages in Strict Liability Dog Bite Claims
The concept of strict liability does not affect what kinds of compensation you can collect so that you can pursue the same damages as in any other personal injury lawsuit. These categories can include:
Medical bills to repair the injury. These expenses can include the ambulance, emergency room, diagnostic testing, laboratory work, imaging like X-rays and CAT scans, treatments, procedures, hospitalization, and physical therapy.
Dog bites often require additional care, such as surgery to repair tissue damage, reconstructive surgery (particularly when a dog mauls a person’s face), and plastic surgery to minimize scars. Sometimes a patient requires skin grafts.
Lost wages if you missed work. You might have missed work because of the dog bite event, the medical care, physical therapy, and recuperation time. If you did not get paid or you lost income, the dog owner can be responsible for this loss.
Pain and suffering damages can compensate you for the physical pain, emotional distress, and inconvenience the dog bite caused. Paying the out-of-pocket expenses like medical bills does not compensate a person for the agony a dog bite can create.
Experiencing a traumatic injury can throw a wrench into your schedule and disrupt your life. If you have children or other loved ones who depend on you, the injury can disrupt their lives as well as yours.
PTSD. Many people who get mauled by a dog carry the burden of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for years afterward. PTSD is a legitimate condition that can impact your life in many ways, causing depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.
Disfigurement. Dogs tend to bite the face, throat, and hands of people, which makes dog bites particularly disfiguring. The jagged presentation of these wounds makes them even more noticeable. Going through the rest of one’s life enduring whispers and stares when out in public is a loss, and the law can make the dog owner pay.
How to Get Legal Help for a Dog Bite Injury
If you call Max Meyers Law at 425-399-7000, we will schedule your free consultation. There is no obligation, and we do not charge legal fees until you get compensation. A dog bite lawyer can help you today.
Should I Call the Police After a Dog Bite?
You should call the police after a dog bite if the animal was vicious or acted oddly and might bite another person or animal. If an animal is on a rampage, it is a danger to the public. A dog who is frothing at the mouth, running with an unusual gait without an injury, or behaving oddly in some other manner might have rabies, which also puts the public at risk. In these situations, you should call the police and animal control.
Why Calling the Police or Animal Control Helps to Prevent Rabies and Tetanus
If someone had called the authorities before the animal bit you, you would not be facing the possibility of rabies shots or a tetanus vaccination. Notifying the authorities can help to ensure that the animal does not bite more people and expose them to lethal diseases.
Violation of Leash Laws
Many cities and communities in Washington State have leash laws that prohibit dogs from running loose. Although dog bites can still happen if a dog is on a leash, the authorities want to know about stray animals or dogs whose owners violate the leash laws.
Leash laws are in place to protect the public. When people do not obey leash laws, they expose the public to rabies, tetanus, and other medical conditions as well as dog attacks.
One of the most pressing concerns with a dog bite is infection, particularly rabies. Rabies is a viral infection that an infected animal spreads with its saliva. Most cases of rabies transmission happen through bites. Rabies can be one of the more common dog bite injuries.
How rabies passes from a dog to a human. When an infected dog bites a human, its teeth puncture the tissue of the victim, carrying the saliva-borne virus deep into the flesh of the person.
Treatment for rabies. The only medical option is to get medical care immediately after a dog bite. The medical professionals will clean your wound, repair tissue damage, and evaluate your risk of rabies. If they determine that there is any credible risk of rabies, you will have to undergo rabies injections, which include:
- An injection of rabies immune globulin, a shot that acts quickly to block the rabies virus from infecting you after a dog bite. The medical professional will inject the rabies immune globulin into more than one location, including near the site of the bite. You must have this shot as soon as possible after the dog bite for the shot to have a chance to prevent rabies.
- Four rabies vaccinations in your arm. Your doctor will inject the series of four rabies vaccines throughout 14 days.
- Unless you have had a tetanus shot recently, your doctor will likely give you a tetanus booster shot, since dog bites are deep puncture wounds that can cause tetanus as well as rabies.
Symptoms of rabies. If you wait until you until you exhibit the signs of rabies, it is too late. There is no effective rabies treatment. Some of the symptoms of rabies include:
- Fever and headache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Confusion, anxiety, hyperactivity, and agitation
Tetanus Risk from a Dog Bite
Even if you are not at risk of rabies from a dog bite, you might need a tetanus shot. These shots only last for five to ten years. With particularly dirty wounds, medical practitioners usually give a booster shot if the most recent tetanus vaccination was more than five years ago.
Tetanus is a bacterial infection (unlike rabies, which is a virus). A person with tetanus (also called “lockjaw”) faces a dire outcome, as there is no cure for tetanus. The Clostridium tetani bacteria creates a toxin that attacks your nervous system and takes over control of your muscles. If you do not get a tetanus shot in time to prevent the bacterial disease, you can expect to suffer life-threatening symptoms, like:
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing.
- Muscle spasms in your jaw and neck. Your jaw can clench so hard that it breaks your jaw.
- Muscle spasms in other areas of your body intense enough to fracture your bones.
- Physical touch, noise, light, or even the movement of air around you can trigger a painful outburst of body spasms.
- Your abdominal muscles can become rigid.
- Fever and sweating.
- Fast heartbeat
- Your blood pressure can spike.
If you survive, it can take months to recuperate from tetanus, since the disease damages the endings of your nerves. Your nerves will have to grow new endings. Tetanus can be fatal, usually from respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, or pneumonia.
Getting Legal Help for a Dog Bite
If a dog bit you or a loved one, contact Max Meyers Law so that we can evaluate whether you might be eligible for compensation. You may be able to sue for both your physical and emotional damages. A dog bite lawyer can help you. We will be happy to line up your free consultation – call us at 425-399-7000 today. There is no obligation.
How Can a Dog Bite Lawyer Help Me?
Depending on who you ask, dogs are either the favorite or second-favorite companion pets in America. Despite how much we love our dogs, these animals can bite and attack people. As with many things, the public perception of the law about dog bites in Washington State is different from the actual law. Not to worry, a lawyer can:
- Advise you on the law,
- Explore whether you have a viable claim for compensation,
- Work directly with the insurance company to seek a settlement, and
- File a lawsuit to recover damages for your injuries.
There Is No “One Bite” Law in Washington State
People assume that if a dog bites them, they have to prove that the dog was vicious or had a history of attacks and bites that the victims reported to the authorities. While that might be the case in some other states, there is no “one free bite” rule in our state. If a dog bites you and the situation does not fall within one of the exceptions, the owner is liable for your injuries.
We will have to locate the owner of the dog and prove ownership. A lawyer can assist you in this process and collect the evidence needed to establish who owns the dog.
Liability for Dog Bites
The owner of a dog is financially responsible to dog bite victims under this state statute:
“The owner of any dog which shall bite any person while such person is in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place including the property of the owner of such dog, shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner's knowledge of such viciousness.” RCW 16.08.040
Interpreting and Applying the Law on Dog Bites to Your Injury
We will need to talk with you about the facts of your case to determine if the state law applies to your situation. In general, if you were in a public place or lawfully on private property, the law protects you. Our dog bite liability statute does not protect trespassers. Also, people who sustain dog bites as the result of the lawful use of police dogs cannot use the statute to seek compensation from the dog’s owner.
Recoverable Damages for a Dog Bite in Washington State
Our statute does not limit the number of damages the owner might have to pay for a dog attack. The owner can be liable for whatever reasonable costs or losses you incurred because of the dog bite. These damages can include:
Economic damages: Medical bills and lost wages. We can gather the documentation to establish the total amount of these damages.
The owner can be responsible for all of your reasonable medical expenses from the attack, including the:
- Emergency room
- Surgeries – initial trauma surgery and subsequent plastic and reconstructive procedures
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Prescription drugs
Also, we can seek compensation for any wages, salary, or other income you lost because of the attack, medical treatments, and recuperation time.
Non-economic damages. After a dog attack, you can experience physical pain, mental anguish, inconvenience, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life. We will calculate the reasonable amount of compensation for these losses.
Insurance Coverage for Dog Bites
Sometimes a person with a vicious dog does not have liability insurance that pays claims for people the dog injures. Insurance companies often refuse to cover a dog with a history of attacks. Many policies exclude dog bites or attacks entirely, regardless of the dog’s history. Some policies refuse to cover specific breeds that have a high incidence of large injury claims pay-outs.
If the owner of the dog does not have a homeowner’s liability policy that will pay your damages, we can explore other insurance options for you. For example, some people buy optional liability coverage in addition to their standard homeowner’s policy, called umbrella liability. Umbrella (also called excess liability) coverage can pay claims for injuries or property damage that other insurance does not cover. Some umbrella policies, however, exclude dog bites.
Animal liability insurance is a relatively new type of coverage, designed to meet the needs of dog owners to have liability protection and injured people to get compensation. We can explore whether the dog owner has this type of coverage. Be aware that some policy limits are low, such as $15,000, which can be grossly inadequate in the event of a significant dog attack.
How to Get Legal Help for a Dog Bite
We realize that Washington State’s dog bite laws may seem complicated, with the statute and its exceptions, insurance policies, and other technical issues. You do not have to figure out the law. The team at Max Meyers Law will be happy to talk with you and answer your questions about your claim for compensation for dog bite injuries. Just give us a call today at 425-399-7000, and we will schedule your free consultation.
What Should I Do if a Dog Bit My Child?
If a dog bit your child, there are several steps you should take right away to protect your child’s health and well-being and to preserve the right to compensation for his injuries. Of course, the first thing you should do is get him to a doctor or emergency room for professional medical attention.
Never Treat a Dog Bite Only at Home
Even a minor dog bite is a medical emergency because of the many adverse effects your child could experience as a result of these wounds. You should always take your child to an urgent care center, emergency room, or doctor’s office so that the medical professionals can:
Perform the initial trauma care that all dog bites need. Because a dog’s teeth can pierce deep into tissue, causing damage that you cannot see from the outside, the treatment team should evaluate things like internal bleeding and damages to muscles, blood vessels, tendons, ligaments, nerves, skin, and other organs. Your child might need surgery so that he does not lose the function of a body part. Plastic and reconstructive surgery can start in the emergency room to minimize disfiguring scars.
Dog bites are notoriously dirty wounds, so the professionals should clean and sanitize the injury to prevent infections.
Medical professionals should evaluate your child’s risk of exposure to rabies. Your child will need to undergo rabies shots if there is a possibility that the bite exposed him to rabies. You cannot wait to see if he develops symptoms (headache, weakness, fever, and general discomfort), because then it will be too late. We can only prevent this disease through immunization. Rabies shots include:
- A human rabies immune globulin (HRIG), and
- A post-exposure anti-rabies vaccination, and
- A tetanus shot (unless your doctor determines that you have had a recent tetanus shot)
Tetanus shots. Even if there is no risk of rabies, your trauma team will evaluate whether your child needs a tetanus shot. People develop tetanus, also called lockjaw, from the Clostridium tetani bacteria getting deep into tissue from a puncture wound, such as a dog bite. Tetanus shots do not last forever, so you should tell the doctor how recently your child has a tetanus injection. He might need a booster shot.
Tetanus kills 10 to 20 percent of the people who contract it, so take your child to an emergency room immediately if he experiences any of these symptoms after a dog bite:
- Rapid heart rate
- Muscle pain or spasms
- Clenching of his neck or jaw muscles
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
Infections from dog bites. Your child could develop other infections from the bacteria in a dog’s mouth. These infections can cause permanent nerve damage, require that your child have his hands or feet amputated, or be fatal. Some of these infections include pasteurellosis (cat scratch fever, which both cats and dogs can carry) and cellulitis, which can become flesh-eating strep or methicillin-resistance Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Follow-up Care After the Initial Medical Treatment for a Dog Bite
After your child receives professional medical attention for his wounds, you should keep a watchful eye over him. If the wound develops any signs of infection, like warmth to touch, redness, fever, headache, or increased pain, take him to the emergency room right away.
Also, seek professional medical care at once if he feels worse or different, the wound gets worse or does not heal as expected, or he has any other unusual symptoms. Be sure to follow the discharge instructions about changing the dressings and keeping the wound clean.
How Dog Bites Can Be Different for a Child Than for an Adult
As a child grows, bones elongate and skin and connective tissue stretches, so dog bite scars and other damage can get worse as the child gets older. A child might have to endure additional surgeries, physical therapy, and other painful procedures as he ages.
Depending on the age of the child, he might not be able to tell you what is going on inside his body. He should have a thorough medical workup to check for any internal damage from the attack.
Many children develop nightmares, fear of animals, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the trauma of a dog attack. You should talk with your child’s doctor about taking the child for counseling to help him through this emotionally painful experience.
How to Get Legal Help for Dog Bite Injuries
If your child has been the victim of a dog attack, you should talk with a lawyer to find out about compensation for what your child has gone through and could face in the future. You may have questions like if the owner is liable. You may be wondering how insurance works in these cases or how much a settlement could be for a dog bite. We will explain the dog bite statutes and your legal rights at no cost to you. To set up your free consultation with Max Meyers Law, call us today at 425-399-7000.
How Does Insurance Work for a Dog Bite Case?
If a dog attacked you, you need to know about insurance coverage that might pay some of your damages. Unlike car accidents in which automobile liability insurance can pay your losses, most people are unclear about what insurance, if any, will compensate you for dog bite injuries. You have several possibilities for insurance benefits in these situations.
How Insurance Works in Dog Bite Cases
Types of insurance that can pay some of your dog bite damages include:
The homeowner’s liability policy of the dog owner. The homeowner’s liability policy of the dog owner might provide some compensation for your injuries, but the odds are against this situation. Most homeowner’s insurance companies limit the amount of money they will pay on dog bite claims, exclude particular breeds from any coverage, or refuse to pay any dog bite claims whatsoever.
For example, if the dog that bit you was a pit bull, it is unlikely that the dog owner’s residential policy will pay you any benefits because of the breed of the dog. If the policy provides some benefits for animal bites but limits the recovery to $5,000, by way of example, $5,000 is all you can collect from that policy, regardless of how high your losses were. Because the average payout for a dog-related claim is over $35,000, policy limits are often inadequate.
Dog owner’s umbrella liability policy. Many people pay an additional premium to have a rider to their homeowner’s insurance policy. This extra coverage, often called “umbrella liability” covers the homeowner if someone successfully sues the homeowner for negligence not specifically mentioned in the standard homeowner’s policy.
Unfortunately for dog bite victims, however, many of these unless umbrella policies now exclude coverage for animal bites or impose limitations similar to those in many standard homeowner’s policies. In these situations, the language of the policy will control how much, if any compensation you will receive under that insurance.
Dog owner’s dog bite insurance. For many people, having a dog is a necessity, not a luxury. People often need:
- Service dogs
- Therapy dogs
- Guard dogs
Also, some people have dogs that their municipality declares as dangerous because of their breed, but the dog owner has no acceptable options. For circumstances like these and the “work” dogs, the insurance industry created a form of coverage for animal liability. Even people whose dogs do not fit into these categories sometimes buy animal liability insurance simply for the peace of mind it provides.
Animal liability policies usually only cover injuries to third parties, not the dog owner or members of the owner’s family. That said, these policies provide some much-needed protection for the more than 4 million dog bite victims each year.
Your health insurance. If all else fails, your health insurance can be a way for you to receive the medical care you need. You can then pursue a claim for compensation against the dog owner.
Your Options If There Is No Insurance Coverage That Will Pay Your Losses
If there are no insurance policies that can help you, we can go after the dog owner’s personal assets. The first step is to sue the owner in civil court seeking compensation for your losses. Once we get a judgment from the court, we can attempt to collect that amount of money from the dog owner.
What Happens If You Were Partly Negligent
Does fault on your part matter in dog bite cases in Washington State? No, unless you were trespassing or your dog bite was the result of the lawful use of a police dog. If you do not fall into either of those situations, the dog owner is strictly liable for your damages.
Strict liability for dog bites in our state means that it does not matter how careful the dog owner was. If the person’s dog bit you and you were not within one of the exceptions, the owner has to pay all of the damages you incurred because of the dog attack.
Here are some scenarios that explain Washington’s strict liability law on dog bites:
- You were bicycling through a public park when Fido attacked and bit you. Fido’s owner is liable.
- The same situation, except that you had just robbed a store and Fido was a police dog, lawfully pursuing you. Fido’s owner is not liable.
- You are in a friend’s backyard at his invitation when his dog Spot bit you. Spot’s owner is liable.
- You trespassed into your neighbor’s backyard and his dog bit you. The dog owner is not liable.
Getting Legal Help for a Dog Bite Damages Claim
Do not worry about sorting through all the possible sources of insurance coverage for your damages. We handle those issues for our clients. Give us a call at 425-399-7000, and we will set a time to meet with you and talk about your legal options. There is no charge for the initial consultation. We do not charge legal fees until you get compensation.
Statute of Limitations for Dog Bite Cases in Washington State
You must file a lawsuit for dog bite injuries within three years in Washington State or you will lose your right to recover compensation for your damages. There are different types of dog bite injuries and health issues that can arise from them, but they are all categorized as personal injury, thus it is bound by this three-year statute of limitations and applies to dog bite cases in Washington State.
Tolling of the Statute of Limitations
Under some circumstances, the court will toll or suspend the state of limitations. Most of these situations involve either:
- The plaintiff (injured person) cannot legally file a lawsuit due to lack of capacity, such as being under the age of eighteen, or
- The defendant cannot be the subject of a lawsuit because of military duty, having left the state, or having gone into hiding.
When the Defendant’s Actions Can Toll the Statute of Limitations
If the dog owner is not a resident of Washington State, she might try to prevent you from suing her by staying outside of the state until the three-year deadline expires. This tactic will not work, however, because our laws say that the time limits will not run while a defendant leaves the state, lives elsewhere, or conceals herself. This extension of the statute is known as “tolling.” The same provision applies to Washington State residents who leave the state or hide to keep plaintiffs from serving them with lawsuits.
Example of tolling the statute of limitations. Let’s say that defendant Dave owned a dog that attacked and mauled plaintiff Pam. Fearing a lawsuit with a massive damages award, Dave left the country and stayed out of the public eye. Plaintiff Pam tried unsuccessfully to find him. After three years, Dave returned to Washington, thinking that Pam could no longer sue him for the dog bite. Fortunately for Pam, our state law does not count the time Dave was in hiding toward the three-year statute of limitations. The clock does not start to run until Dave comes out of concealment.
When the Law Considers a Lawsuit Filed for Purposes of the Statute of Limitations
You must either file the complaint with the court or serve the summons on the defendant to satisfy the requirement of commencing a lawsuit. You must accomplish both filing the complaint and service of the summons in compliance with the state law to be timely. This means that:
- If you filed the complaint before you served the summons, you must accomplish service of the summons personally or start service by publication within 90 days of when you filed the complaint.
- If you served the complaint personally or by publication before you filed the complaint, you must file the complaint with the court within 90 days of when you served the summons.
If you miss these deadlines, even if the first action took place before the three-year statute of limitations expired, the law will not consider the lawsuit as commenced in time. If you miss the deadline, you cannot file your lawsuit. Find out more about whether your dog bite case will go to court.
What We Have to Show in a Dog Bite Lawsuit in Washington State
Our dog bite liability statute says that:
"The owner of any dog which shall bite any person while such person is in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place including the property of the owner of such dog, shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner's knowledge of such viciousness."
All we have to show is that you were:
- In a public place or lawfully on private property when the dog bit you, and
- That you were not trespassing or bitten due to the lawful use of a police dog.
Once we establish those factors, we then identify the owner and make a claim for your damages.
Dog Owner’s Defense as to the Viciousness of the Dog
As you can see, the statute specifies that the owner is liable for damages regardless of whether the dog had ever been vicious before. The dog owner might deny being aware of the dog’s viciousness in the event that the dog had bitten someone in the past, but the statute also makes that denial irrelevant. There is no “one free bite” rule in our state. Contact our firm at should you have any questions regarding the three-year statute of limitations for dog bite cases in Washington State.
How to Get Help for a Dog Bite Case in Washington State
You do not have to navigate the complexities of a dog bit case alone. At Max Meyers Law, PLLC, we take care of those issues for our clients. Just make sure that you do not delay in coming to talk with us so that you do not miss the deadlines imposed by the statute of limitations which would be three years for dog bite cases in Washington State.
We can meet with you at no cost to you to evaluate your claim for compensation for your dog bite injuries. Call us at 425-399-7000, and we will arrange your free consultation.
What Are the Dog Bite Laws in Washington State?
If you have experienced the terror of a dog attack, you might wonder how the law can allow this to happen. Our state statutes are supposed to protect us and make it safe for us to walk around peaceably without fearing that animals will maul us.
The laws of Washington state do offer some protection by making owners responsible for paying whatever damage their dogs cause when they bite people. Here is the language of the statute:
“The owner of any dog which shall bite any person while such person is in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place including the property of the owner of such dog, shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner's knowledge of such viciousness.”
Who Is Liable Under Washington State’s Dog Bite Statute
The owner is the one liable when a dog bites someone. So, if some kids take the family dog for a walk and the animal bites you, the owner has to pay your damages. It is not a defense that the children could not control the animal or that the owner did not permit the kids to walk the dog.
Dog Breeds Do Not Affect Your Right to Compensation
Legislation in some parts of the United States targets specific breeds, but the law in our state cares more about the victim than the breed of the dog. It does not matter if the dog that bit you is a massive St. Bernard or a tiny Chihuahua. The law says “any dog.”
Who Gets the Protection of Washington State’s Dog Bite Law
The law protects “any person,” who got bitten when they were:
- In any public place, or
- Lawfully on private property
Trespassers cannot sue the dog owner for their dog bite damages.
No Cap on the Damages for Dog Bites
The owner has to pay “such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten.” Notice that the law does not say something like “up to $50,000,” or any other limiting language. Whatever damages you sustained from the dog bite are the responsibility of the owner.
So, if you had a $3,000 emergency room bill and did not need additional medical care, the owner has to pay the $3,000 expense. On the other hand, if a dog bit someone in the face and the person needed several reconstructive and plastic surgeries, with medical bills totaling over $200,000, the dog owner is liable for that amount.
No Free Bite Rule in Washington State
In many states, you cannot hold the owner responsible for your damages unless the dog previously bit you or someone else. Known as the “one bite” or “one free bite” rule, this law puts the burden on the injured person to investigate and prove what the dog did in the past. Washington State protects dog bite victims and does not treat you differently because of the animal’s history.
It is also no defense in our state for the owner to declare that the dog has always been gentle. The law says the owner is responsible for the bite damages “regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner's knowledge of such viciousness.”
No Negligence Required
In most personal injury lawsuits, you have to prove that the person who caused your injury was careless or negligent. Thanks to Washington State’s dog bite statute, you do not have to show any negligence on the part of the animal’s owner. Our state law makes dog owners strictly liable to people their dog’s bite unless the victim is a trespasser.
Local Dog Leash Laws
Many municipalities throughout the state of Washington require that pet owners keep their dogs and other domestic animals on leashes whenever the animals are in public places. State law does not require the use of leashes except in state parks.
If a dog is violating the local leash law when the animal bites you, the owner can be subject to fines and other consequences in addition to having to pay your damages. Also, a judge and jury are likely to “throw the book at” a dog owner who refuses to obey the local ordinances, resulting in the injury of an innocent person.
Washington State Law on Reporting Dog Bites
Health care providers must report animal bites if they suspect that a human experienced possible exposure to rabies. They must notify public health authorities to prevent and “control communicable and noninfectious diseases” throughout the state.
The health care provider’s records can be valuable evidence for us to prove your dog bite damages case. The report will contain information about your case that can establish the owner’s liability for your losses.
How to Get Help for a Dog Bite Case in Washington State
You can meet with us for free to find out if you might have a claim for compensation for your dog bite injuries. Call us at 425-399-7000, and we will arrange your no-cost consultation.
How Much Is a Dog Bite Settlement?
Every dog bite situation is unique, so there is not one set dollar amount for all dog bite settlements. We can, however, explore the common topics that tend to affect how much compensation you can get in these claims. Here are seven factors that can impact the value of your dog bite case:
- Medical treatment. You should always get professional medical treatment right away for a dog bite injury. The trauma professionals will clean your wounds to minimize the risk of infection, repair tissue damage, administer painkillers, and call in surgeons or other specialists if appropriate. The emergency room personnel will also assess the risk of exposure to rabies and determine if you need to undergo a series of rabies shots. Although these injections are painful, they are the only hope for people bitten by an animal with rabies. Once symptoms of rabies show up, there is no treatment. The costs of all the medical treatment you needed because of the dog attack will be part of your damages claim. Your medical records will also serve as valuable evidence that the dog bite caused your injuries.
- Lost wages. Depending on the severity of your injuries, you might not be able to work for a while after a dog bite. You can collect compensation for the income you missed out on because of the attack, including recuperating time afterward.
- Ongoing medical care. You might need follow-up surgeries, physical therapy, or other medical treatment after the initial trauma care. As long as we can link these services to the dog bite, they are compensable.
- Decreased earning potential. A significant dog attack can cause you to be unable to make as much money as before. For example, if a carpenter suffers shoulder damage from a dog bite incident, he might not be able to perform all the tasks of his job. If he has to take a lower-paying job, the difference in his income can be part of his claim.
- Disfigurement. In addition to physical harm, terror, and pain, dog bites can be disfiguring. Dogs often go for the face and hands, causing disfiguring injuries. A mauling can subject a victim to the need for multiple reconstructive surgeries and scar revision procedures. The best medical care cannot always erase the scars of a dog attack.
- Disability. Dog bites can rip flesh apart and crush bones. The deep puncture wounds from a dog’s teeth and powerful jaws can destroy muscles, nerves, tendons, and ligaments. You can lose the use of your hands, arms, or legs. Some catastrophic dog attacks can leave the victim unable to work. When this happens, the dog owner is responsible for the disability of the victim.
- Complications. Dog bites are particularly prone to infection. A dog’s saliva carries many types of harmful bacteria. Since the dog’s teeth can carry the bacteria deep into a victim, an infection can develop deep in your muscles or other tissue. Some of these infections are lethal, and others can be debilitating. If you suffer different types of complications from the dog bite, the owner can be liable for those damages, as well.
What We Have to Prove for the Defendant to Be Liable for Your Injuries
Most personal injuries lawsuits make you prove that the defendant was negligent and that his carelessness caused your injuries. Dog bites in Washington State, however, are strict liability cases. That means that, no matter how careful the owner was, he is liable if his dog bites someone.
There are two exceptions to the strict liability for dog bites rule in Washington State:
- Lawful actions using police dogs
For all other dog bite injuries in Washington State, under the legal theory of strict liability, we must prove these elements:
- A dog bit you.
- The defendant owned the dog that bit you.
- The dog attacked you when you were in any public place or lawfully on private property.
- You were not trespassing at the time of the dog bite.
- Your bite was not the result of the lawful use of a police dog.
Note that we do not have to prove that the dog had bitten someone before you or that the owner knew the dog was vicious. Washington State does not have a “one free bite” rule. Even if the dog was as docile as a lamb in the past, the owner is liable for all damages the victim suffers when his dog bites someone.
How to Get Help for Your Dog Bite Claim
The team at Max Meyers Law can investigate the dog attack, collect the evidence to prove liability, gather the proof of your damages, negotiate with the insurance company, and see your case through trial. Call us today at 425-399-7000 to set up your free consultation. There is no obligation, and we do not charge legal fees until you get compensation.
Is the Owner Liable for a Dog Bite?
If you were the victim of a dog bite, you probably experienced pain and physical injuries. While some people might think that there is nothing you can do about your losses if an animal bit you, that is not necessarily the case. Washington State law protects people from vicious dogs and makes their owners pay for the harm they cause.
The Washington State Dog Bite Statute
Our state protects dog bite victims by making the animal’s owner financially liable. RCW 16.08.040 provides that:
Examples of Dog Bite Liability
The owner can be liable in situations like these:
- You were walking, running, or otherwise present in a public area, such as on a sidewalk, street, or park.
- You were on the job performing your required tasks, like delivering mail or packages or reading a water or electric meter, whether you were on private or public property at the time of the attack.
- You were on your own property or legally present on anyone else’s property.
Damages the Owner Has to Pay
The law provides that the owner has to pay “for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten.”
We can seek compensation for your economic damages, like:
- All reasonable medical expenses related to the injury, including plastic and reconstructive surgery. Dog bites can be disfiguring, and people often need and want to remove or minimize the scars. The emergency room, doctors, surgical, hospital, physical and occupational therapy, and other medical costs are compensable.
- Lost wages if you missed work because of the injury, surgeries, therapy, and recuperation time.
We can also pursue your non-economic damages, such as:
- Physical pain
- Mental suffering and anguish
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which many dog bite victims suffer
- Loss of enjoyment of life, if the experience causes you to be unable to do things you used to enjoy, like going for walks or riding your bike, out of fear of being attacked again
Dog Bites and Homeowner’s Insurance
Many homeowner’s insurance policies cover dog bites. If the person whose dog bit you does not have homeowner’s insurance that will pay your damages, we can help you explore other options for recovering compensation for your damages.
Liability for Dog Bites to Trespassers
The statute does not make owners liable for dog bites if a trespasser comes on their property. There is only liability to people in public places or people who are lawfully on private property.
What Happens if the Dog’s Owner Claims the Dog Has Never Bitten Anyone Before
Faced with a lawsuit for monetary compensation, a dog owner might try to avoid having to pay for your damages. Some people will deny anything that is adverse to them.
But the statute makes the dog owner liable “regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.”
Liability for Police Dog Bites
If a law enforcement officer uses a police dog within the bounds of the law and the animal bites someone, the bitten person cannot bring a lawsuit under RCW 16.08.040. The statute specifically excludes the lawful application of police dogs from liability.
How We Prove Your Dog Bite Case
We will gather the evidence to build your claim for compensation. Here is how we will establish what happened and what you suffered:
The factual allegations: we can use the police or incident report, animal control services report, your testimony, and other eyewitnesses.
The medical expenses: we will establish the amount of these costs through your medical records and invoices. Your medical records can also link your treatment and injuries to the dog bite, which is essential for proving causation.
Your lost wages: we show how much time you missed from work. If you are self-employed, we will use other available records.
Your non-economic losses: we support your claim for things like pain and suffering by performing calculations and using your testimony and medical records.
Getting Legal Help for a Dog Bite Lawsuit in Washington State
You do not have to puzzle through the legal technicalities to determine whether you have a viable lawsuit if you experienced a dog bite. All you need to do is call Max Meyers Law at 425-399-7000. We will explain your legal options. We do not charge legal fees until you get compensation.