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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  • How Does Insurance Work for a Dog Bite Case?

    Dog Showing TeethIf 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

    ClockYou 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 425-399-7000 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?

    Beware of Dog SignIf 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?

    Gavel on Top of Money Symbolizing a SettlementEvery 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:

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.  
    7. 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:

    • Trespassers
    • 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?

    Dog Owner Walking DogIf 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:

    “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.”

    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
    • Disfigurement
    • 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.

  • How Do I Report a Dog Bite in King County?

    Dog BarkingDog bites are significant medical issues for the person bitten and public health issues for the community at large. There is no cure for rabies once the symptoms appear. You should always get immediate medical attention after a dog bite so a health care professional can assess whether you need to undergo a series of rabies shots. As soon as you address the medical issues, you might need to report the dog bite to the authorities.

    When You Need to Report the Dog Bite to Animal Control

    The Public Health Department for Seattle & King County mandates that the owner should confine and observe the animal for 10 days after the bite. If confinement and observation are not possible, such as in the case of a stray or wild dog, you should report the bite to the local animal control agency where the dog lives. If you do not know where the animal lives, report to the agency for the location where the bite happened.

    How to Contact Your Local Animal Control Agency in King County

    Multiple animal control agencies serve residents of King County. You should call the agency for the appropriate location as follows:

    • Seattle Animal Shelter: 206-386-7387
    • Cities of Algona, Pacific, and Milton: 253-841-5595
    • City of Burien: 206-241-4647
    • City of Des Moines: 206-870-6549
    • City of Federal Way: 253-835-7387
    • City of Medina: 425-233-6420 or 425-233-6400
    • City of Normandy Park: 206-248-7603
    • City of Renton: 425-430-6850
    • City of Skykomish: 360-677-2388
    • Other cities and unincorporated areas should call this number for Regional Animal Services of King County: 206-296-7387

    Confining an Animal After a Dog Bite in King County

    If the dog that bit you gets sick or dies within the 10 days, you need to call the Department of Public Health at 206-296-4774 to see if it is necessary to have the remains tested for rabies.

    During the confinement, you need to observe the dog every day. For the entire 10 days, DO NOT:

    • Let the dog escape.
    • Allow the dog to be in the yard by itself or run loose.
    • Take it off of the property even in your vehicle, for a walk, or to a dog park.
    • Let any people, pets, or wild animals have any contact with the animal.
    • Vaccinate the dog for rabies within the 10-day confinement – but if its rabies shots are not current, DO get it vaccinated after the 10th day.
    • Sell, give away, destroy, or dispose of the animal.

    Risk Factors and Dog Bites

    There is a low risk of rabies throughout the state of Washington, but it can happen. Your highest risk factors of contracting rabies from a dog bite or scratch are if the injury occurred:

    • When you were outside of the United States
    • From an animal brought into the U.S. from another country during the last six months
    • From an animal that has been in contact with bats or other wild animals
    • From a hybrid dog, in other words, a dog that is a mixture of domestic and wild
    • From a dog that was sick and not behaving the way it usually does
    • From a wild animal, even if someone has made a pet of the dog

    Mandated Reporting of Dog Bites

    Washington State law requires that all healthcare providers immediately report animal bites to public health authorities (the local health department) when there is a suspicion that the bite has exposed a human to rabies.

    Public Nuisances and Vicious Dogs

    You can report a dog bite to your local animal control for them to be on notice that the animal might be a public nuisance or a vicious animal. Each designation carries different consequences.

    If a dog attacks, bites or tries to bite one or more persons two or more times within a two-year period, it is a public nuisance. The authorities can impound and dispose of the animal.

    A dog that endangers the safety of people, other animals, or property because of its tendency to attack or bite people or domesticated animals without provocation is a vicious animal. The authorities can investigate and require necessary measures to protect the public or can impound the animal. The county can charge the owner with a criminal misdemeanor.

    How to Get Legal Help for a Dog Bite in King County

    If you or someone close to you has experienced a dog bite, call Max Meyers Law for help with your legal case. There is no charge for the consultation. Call 425-399-7000 for your free case evaluation.