Yakima Dog Bite Lawyers
You have probably heard it a million times: “dogs are man’s best friend.” However, it does not change the fact serious dog bites do happen, and they happen quite often. Statically speaking, an estimated over 4.7 million dog bites occur annually in the United States, of which about 585,000 require medical attention.
While most dogs do not attack people, some do. The ones that do bite can cause serious injuries. The most dangerous dog breeds with the highest incidence of attacks are pit bulls, rottweilers, German shepherds, and Dobermans.
If you have been bitten by a dog in Yakima, do not hesitate to contact a lawyer who can help you receive compensation for your damages. At Brumback & Ottem, our Yakima dog bite lawyers have decades of experience assisting clients to seek compensation for their injuries caused by dogs.
What Are the Most Common Injuries Caused by Dog Bites?
In most cases, dogs cause injuries to the legs, hands, and face. Children are some of the most vulnerable victims of dog bites. A dog bite can result in various injuries that vary in their severity. Some of the most common ones include:
- Facial injuries
- Head injuries
- Neck injuries
- Eye injuries
- Broken bones
- Punctured wounds
- Tissue damage
The Yakima County Code (YCC) Chapter 8.36, the so-called “dog control ordinance,” defines “physical injury” as substantial pain or impairment of an individual’s physical condition directly caused by a dog’s behavior. The definition further specifies that “physical injury” includes cuts, scrapes, punctures, scratches, and other evidence of injury, “but not to include a bite or bites” (YCC § 8.36.020).
What is the Dog Bite Law in Washington State?
The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) imposes strict liability on owners of dogs that cause injuries to other people. RCW § 16.08.040, the so-called “dog bite law” in Washington state, provides that owners of dogs that bite any person are liable for the bitten person’s damages regardless of the dog’s history of previous attacks, viciousness, or aggressive behavior.
The strict liability rule applies to dog bites that occur on public and private property as long as the bitten person is lawfully on the property. In other words, you can hold the dog owner liable for your injury without having to prove that the dog was vicious and the owner was aware of the dog’s viciousness.
You can be barred from compensation if the dog owner can prove that you were trespassing at the time of the incident. Trespassing refers to entering and staying on someone else’s private property without permission.
What is a Potentially Dangerous Dog in Yakima, WA?
The Yakima County Code has its own definition of a “potentially dangerous dog” when dealing with dog bites. Under YCC § 8.36.020, a potentially dangerous dog is defined as any dog that:
- Without provocation (a) bites or otherwise causes injuries to an individual or a domestic animal on private or public property or (b) chases/approaches an individual on public grounds with “in a menacing fashion,” with apparent aggression or attitude of attack; or
- Reasonably known or should be known by the dog owner to have a predisposition to (a) attack, chase, or approach individuals with “in a menacing fashion,” with apparent aggression or attitude of attack without provocation or (b) cause injury or otherwise endanger the safety of other people or domestic animals.
If you were bitten or attacked by a dog in Yakima, do not hesitate to speak with an attorney who is familiar with local ordinances and state laws. Our Yakima dog bite lawyers at Brumback & Ottem are prepared to fight for the maximum compensation needed to recover from your injuries.
Defenses to Dog Bite Injuries in Washington
It is not uncommon for dog owners to use defenses to avoid liability for dog bites. The owner of the dog that bit you may be able to avoid liability if they can prove any of the following:
- You were trespassing when the dog bite occurred. Many dog owners use the trespassing defense to avoid liability for injuries caused by their dog. Under Washington law, you are entitled to compensation for injuries caused by a dog bite if you were lawfully on private property at the time of the incident.
- You provoked the dog. RCW § 16.08.060 provides a defense to dog bites when the injured victim provokes the dog. However, the owner of the dog must demonstrate proof of provocation.
- There were signs warning of a dangerous dog. A dog owner may not be liable for a dog bite if they can prove that their property had visible warning signs indicating that the dangerous dog was present on the property.
If the owner of the dog that injured you is trying to use any of these defenses in your case, contact a lawyer to protect your legal rights and fight for the best possible outcome in your case.
What Do You Need to Prove Your Dog Bite Claim in Yakima, WA?
If you suffered a dog bite injury in Yakima or other parts of Washington state, you need to establish the following elements to prove your claim and recover compensation:
- The defendant was the owner of the dog that bit you;
- You were injured by the defendant’s dog directly or indirectly (i.e., may be eligible for compensation even if you were knocked over but not bitten by the dog);
- You were lawfully on the property where the incident occurred; and
- You did not do anything to provoke the dog to attack you.
Speak with a knowledgeable attorney to gather the necessary evidence and prove your dog bite claim.
How Long Do You Have to File a Dog Bite Claim in Washington?
Washington law imposes a statute of limitations (a time limit) on dog bite claims. The time limit for bringing a dog bite claim is the same as for any other personal injury claim. Under RCW § 4.16. 080, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims, including dog bite claims, is three years from the date of the incident.
If you fail to file your claim within three years, a court will dismiss your case.
What Damages Are Available After a Dog Bite in Yakima, WA?
If you suffered a dog bite injury in Yakima, you might be able to seek compensation for your economic and non-economic damages. You can obtain compensation for any expenses and losses associated with your dog bite injury, including:
- The cost of emergency treatment
- Hospitalization costs
- The cost of necessary vaccinations
- The loss of income (lost wages)
- The cost of treatment to heal the wound
- The cost of cosmetic surgery to reduce scarring
- Pain and suffering
These and many other types of damages might be available in your case if you were bitten by a dog in Washington state. If you were bitten by someone else’s dog, you could seek compensation through the dog owner’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. Consult with an attorney to discuss all available options for compensation.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dog Bites in Yakima, WA
Does Washington State Have the ‘One Free Bite’ Rule?
No, unlike many other states, Washington state does not have the “one free bite” rule. Under the one free bite rule, the owner of a dog can be held liable for dog bites only if the owner knew or should have known about their pet’s dangerous propensities or viciousness because of past incidents.
Instead of the one free bite rule, Washington state imposes strict liability upon owners of dogs that bite and injure other people.
Can I Sue a Property Owner for a Dog Bite on Their Property?
Generally, you cannot sue the owner of the property on which your dog bite occurred. In Washington, strict liability does not apply to property owners in dog bite cases, even if you were attacked by a stray dog that wandered onto the property owner’s land. However, you may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit against the property owner if you can prove their negligence in causing your injury.
Should I Report My Dog Bite in Yakima, WA?
Yes, you should report your dog bite if you were bitten in Yakima. YCC § 8.36.020 provides that people who have been bitten by dogs or exposed to a dog’s saliva through open wounds must report the dog bite to their local animal control office. The same requirement exists for doctors, veterinarians, and other healthcare providers who have information about a dog bite or a patient’s exposure to a dog’s saliva through an open wound.
When reporting the dog bite, you must describe the dog that bit you, provide the name and address of the owner, and the location where the incident occurred.
If you suffered a dog bite injury, speak with our Yakima dog bite lawyers at Brumback & Ottem to determine whether or not you are entitled to compensation for your losses and damages. Call 509-350-5382 to schedule your free case review.
What motivates a dog to bite?
Dogs may bite for a variety of reasons. A poorly trained or abused dog is more likely to bite. A well-trained dog is likely to be more balanced, more trusting, and less wary of strangers. Dogs can bite out of fear, to assert dominance, to protect territory or based on survival instinct. Dogs should not be taught to bite, and to do so is to train them inappropriately. Young children are the most vulnerable and should generally not be left alone with animals, including dogs. Dogs can perceive an infant as "prey" and natural instinct can cause them to attack. The risk increases if the child interferes with a feeding dog. Proper training, observation, awareness and diligence will best prevent a dog attack. Without a doubt, dogs are great for home security to alert homeowners to the presence of trespassers. Dogs are great companions and are often viewed as part of a family. Training and care are important. So often, dogs are bought on the spur of the moment and then forgotten. Dogs should be seen as a full-time, long-term responsibility with potential for great rewards.
Do laws aimed at preventing dog bites help?
Laws are only as good as they are enforced. With tight city budgets, animal control is often the first to receive budget cuts. The key with Washington state dog bite laws is that the owner of the dog is responsible. Identifying the owner often becomes an issue. Sometimes people run from responsibility and claim they do not own the dog. Homeowners policies will often cover a dog bite event. Some homeowner’s insurance policies explicitly exclude dog bites. Insurance coverage rarely exists when the dog's owner rents, and landlords are rarely found liable for their tenants’ dogs that bite. The best defense is awareness, and when you are out and about, keep an eye out for dogs, particularly when children accompany you. Dogs can act quickly, so stay aware. The law is not generally a preventative device, but instead, provides a remedy after the fact. The law generally operates to penalize the offending dog owner and/or dog (or both) in terms of fines and/or civil judgements. In extreme circumstances, criminal sanctions can be imposed against the offending dog owner.
Is there a certain breed that is more likely to bite?
All dogs can bite. From the little “lap” dogs to the bigger varieties, a dog can become mean and be more prone to bite for a variety of reasons. Again, it comes down to training and proper care. Some breeds receive more attention when they do bite due to the physical make-up of the particular breed of dog. Some dogs have very strong jaws and teeth that are more likely to cause injury. Some breeds, such as pit bulls, have been banned by cities given a propensity to bite and cause severe injury. So, genetics can play a role, yet other factors such as whether the animal has been fixed, appropriately trained and socialized, and safely confined are quite important as well. Probably the biggest factor is how well does the owner takes care of the dog.
Should children be taught about dogs?
This is common sense in most circumstances. Again, teaching your child awareness is key. Children should know that dogs are animals and not people. While this seems obvious to adults, children see cartoons and children's shows all the time where animals are humanized. In fact, all animals are in some ways represented in completely fictional ways. Bears, lions, snakes, etc. are portrayed as friendly and snuggly in a myriad of children shows. Children may develop a completely unrealistic perception of how animals behave. Dogs are no exception. Given this common perception, the first reaction for a child upon seeing a dog may be to run up and try to hug it. This could be a costly mistake with the wrong dog. Such actions may be interpreted by the dog as a form of aggression. Children need to learn that all dogs must be approached with a certain degree of caution, particularly when the dog is unknown, eating, with puppies or exhibiting signs of being stray. Dogs also can exhibit more aggressive behavior when running in packs of dogs. Children simply need to learn to be cautious and rely on parents to guide them.