We live in a dog-crazy culture and for good reason. Dogs can be loving, playful, and completely adorable. But they are still animals. And like many animals, they can be dangerous. The attorneys at Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner PLLC are very aware of these dangers. Our Olympia dog bite attorneys are experienced litigators who understand the complexities of dog bite cases. Since 1972, we have been fighting for the rights of personal injury victims.

Attacks in Olympia

Dog bites have been a big problem throughout the State of Washington. In 2020, there were over $16 million in dog bite-related insurance claims throughout Washington, according to NW Insurance. Sadly, Olympia has been the subject of several brutal attacks. A “hybrid-wolf” attacked a 3-year-old boy in Olympia. And multiple dogs attacked and killed a 92-year-old woman in her neighbor’s home.

Off-Leash Dog Parks

There are several off-leash dog parks around Olympia. Some of the local parks include Hawk’s Prairie, Barclift Park, and the one at Anderson Island. Your risk of getting bit is greater at these parks than at a normal park because the dogs can roam freely. In general, dog owners in Olympia must keep their dogs on a leash, physically controlled, or otherwise properly safeguarded. Failure to comply with this ordinance is a civil infraction.

Can You File a Lawsuit After a Dog Bite?

Dog bites are traumatic and often debilitating. Fortunately, the State of Washington allows victims to file a lawsuit against an owner or other responsible party after a dog bite. Note, however, the law usually does not cover police dogs. So when can you file a lawsuit?

The One-Bite Rule

You may have heard that you can’t file a lawsuit if a dog has never attacked someone. This comes from a legal concept called “scienter.” Scienter means that the responsible party knew, or should have known, about the dog’s aggressive nature. States that require scienter for liability follow the “one-bite” rule. That is the controlling rule in some states but not Washington. In Washington, owners are liable for dog bites, even if the dog has never shown aggressive behavior.

Who Is Liable?

Owners are the most common defendant in dog bite cases. But this does not mean other parties can’t be held liable too. As discussed above, an owner is liable for a dog bite even when the dog has never acted aggressively. For other parties, the one-bite rule comes into play. For a non-owner, scienter must be present to prove liability. You will also need to show that the non-owner was a “harborer” or “keeper” of the dog. A harborer is one who houses a dog while a keeper manages and controls the dog.

Example: Big Paw Kennels agrees to board an aggressive dog named Brutus. The owner informs the kennel that Brutus can be very aggressive. Mark, an assistant at the kennel, takes Brutus to an off-leash park, as instructed by the kennel. Brutus gets loose and attacks a person at the park.

In this example, neither the kennel nor Mark would likely be strictly liable for the attack under Washington law. That said, they might still be liable for negligence because they were aware of Brutus’s aggressive behavior but still allowed him to go to the off-leash park.

Don’t Provoke

You may not be able to pursue a claim if you provoked a dog. Provocation is a defense to dog bite claims in Washington. In any event, it’s generally a bad idea to provoke a dog for safety reasons alone. Let’s say in the above example, Brutus is doing just fine at the park until you throw a rock at him. Throwing the rock may have jeopardized your claim because it likely provoked the dog.

Beat the Clock

You have only a limited amount of time to file a dog bite claim in Washington. The Washington statute of limitations on personal injury claims, including dog bites, is three years. Although this period can sometimes be tolled (paused), it’s usually a good idea to try to file your claim within the allotted time to be safe.

What Should You Do After a Dog Attack?

If you are attacked by a dog, it is important to stay calm. Your health and safety are your top priorities. There are several things which you may need to do after being bit by a dog.

Step 1: Seek Medical Attention

The most important thing you can do after being bit is to seek medical attention, even if you think you’re not that hurt. A dog bite could lead to a dangerous infection. Dogs can also spread diseases such as rabies. There is also a chance that the bite may have caused internal injuries. The bite needs to be thoroughly cleaned by a medical professional. You may also require antibiotics, skin grafts, and other treatments.

Step 2: Notify Animal Control

An unprovoked attack is a sign of a dangerous animal. If you have been attacked or witnessed an attack, you should notify animal control. It is important to find dangerous animals before they are able to attack someone else. Animal control may be able to locate the animal and remove it before it attacks again.

Step 3: Gather Evidence

When it is safe to do so, you may need to start gathering evidence of the attack. Take pictures of the wound. Talk to people who witnessed the attack, and ask if you can collect a statement from them. You may also want to check if any nearby security cameras captured the attack.

Step 4: Talk to a Lawyer

You may be eligible for compensation when you are bit by a dog. Dog bite claims are complicated, and not all injury attorneys in Olympia are dog bite lawyers. You will want to talk to an experienced Olympia dog bite lawyer.

Fortunately, our team at Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner PLLC includes experienced Olympia dog bite attorneys. You have suffered enough. Let our team help you get the compensation you deserve. We are committed to serving personal injury victims. Contact us today for your free consultation.