Personal liability insurance may cover dog bites in Washington State, but coverage can vary depending on the terms of your specific insurance policy. It is important to review your policy or contact your insurance provider for detailed information on coverage limits and any exclusions that may apply.
In the United States, approximately 69 million U.S. households own a dog. Most people view their dog as a lovable and affectionate companion. However, for victims of dog bite attacks, dogs represent a symbol of a traumatic experience that they never want to relive.
These victims suffer debilitating injuries, emotional distress, and—in some cases—death. According to homeowners’ insurance claims data, in 2021 dog bite claims increased nationwide by 2.2% compared to 2020. If you sustained injuries from a dog bite, speak to a qualified personal injury lawyer about your options. You deserve to recover compensation for your losses.
Who is Liable for a Dog Bite in Washington?
In Washington, dog bites fall under a strict liability statute. Strict liability means that owners can be held liable for injuries caused by their dog without a requirement for the injured victim to prove they were negligent. Washington’s law governing dog bite liability provides:
“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 regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.”
However, there are scenarios where a dog owner may not be liable for a resulting dog bite. These include instances where the injured person was trespassing or provoked the dog. Additionally, they are excluded from liability when a police dog bites a person in the line of duty.
What Types of Insurance Cover Dog Bites?
Insurance policies covering dog bite legal expenses include homeowner and renter insurance policies. This coverage is generally referred to as a personal liability component of the policy.
Some insurance companies may refuse to insure homeowners for personal liability if they own certain breeds of dogs that are generally characterized as dangerous, such as pit bulls. Some insurance companies may decide on coverage on a case-by-case basis. Other insurance companies may not inquire about the breed of a dog a homeowner may have when writing or renewing homeowners insurance policies.
Understanding a dog owner’s insurance personal liability and limitations is vital to your recovery of compensation. Your personal injury lawyer investigates the coverage limits of the dog owner’s insurance policies to determine whether your claim may exceed policy limits. In these situations, the dog owner is personally responsible for all damages above those policy limits.
Does Personal Liability Insurance Cover Dog Bites?
While personal liability is typically included as a standard part of most homeowners, renters, and condo insurance policies, it is possible to purchase standalone personal liability insurance that would cover losses in the absence of a homeowners or renters insurance policy.
Or a person may have a standalone personal liability policy to supplement the coverage provided in other policies. However, standalone personal liability policies are less common and are typically only carried by those with many assets needing protection.
Common Injuries Suffered in a Dog Bite Attack
Dog bite injuries take several different forms and lead to a wide range of injuries. However, most commonly, the following injuries result from a dog bite attack:
- Nerve damage,
- Head and facial injuries,
- Loss of limb or amputation injury,
- Torn tendons and ligaments,
- Facial disfigurement,
- Permanent scarring,
- Sepsis and other infections,
- Tetanus, and
- Emotional trauma.
Many who suffer injuries in a dog attack never fully recover from the experience. Even after their wounds heal, many are left with psychological trauma that leaves previous dog lovers fearful of any dog they encounter. Anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other emotional effects impact your life and change your routines. You deserve to recover for these unseen yet debilitating injuries.
What Compensation Can I Recover in a Lawsuit?
Injured victims may recover compensatory damages in the form of economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages include financial losses related to your dog bite injuries. These include losses that are identifiable and proveable through financial records. These damages include the following:
- Past and future medical expenses,
- Property damage,
- Loss of income, and
- Loss of future earnings.
After experiencing a dog attack, it’s vital to save all tangible evidence of expenses related to your injuries, including receipts, invoices, bills, and other similar documentation. Your attorney uses this information to establish clear support for the economic damages portion of your claim.
Non-economic damages include intangible and subjective losses related to your injury. These damages are not supported through tangible evidence like receipts and invoices but through your testimony and the testimony of other experts. Non-economic damages include the following:
- Pain and suffering,
- Loss of enjoyment,
- Loss of consortium,
- Emotional distress, and
- Permanent disfigurement.
Without the assistance of a qualified attorney, recovering non-economic damages will be much more difficult. But don’t overlook this category of compensation. It is your right to receive it if you’ve been bitten by someone’s dog. Non-economic damages provide the financial support for your emotional suffering after an attack.
With over 40 years of experience, the legal team at Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner provides world-class legal support to their clients. Clients and legal industry organizations have recognized our attorneys and their work for effectiveness and results. We understand the hardships you are facing. We treat all our clients the same way we wish to be treated if we were in your shoes.
We want you to feel empowered to make an informed decision for yourself. This means that we discuss your rights and options, return your calls and emails promptly, handle all communications and paperwork, update you on the progress of your case, meet all deadlines, and are willing to take your claim to trial if the parties cannot reach a favorable settlement.
We work on a contingency fee structure, meaning there are no up-front costs to your case. We don’t get paid unless we obtain a settlement or judgment on your behalf. If you are struggling with what to do after getting bitten by a dog, we are here to help. We know what needs to be done so that you can move forward with your life. Contact us today for a free consultation to find out how we can help you.