How Much Is a Dog Bite Settlement?

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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.

Max Meyers
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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.