We love our pets. They give us companionship and sometimes even protect us in the face of danger. But sometimes, animals can be dangerous: even domestic pets. Unfortunately, thousands of innocent people in the US become victims of dog bites every year. Dog bites can be minor, but these attacks can cause severe and sometimes life-altering injuries in many cases. The experienced Spokane dog bite attorneys at Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner PLLC understand the threat that dogs can pose to you and your family. That’s why our team has fought for personal injury clients—including dog bite victims—since 1972.
Spokane Dog Attacks
Washington has seen an epidemic of dog bites over the years. In fact, there were over $16 million in dog bite-related insurance claims throughout Washington in 2020 alone. And Spokane has seen its own tragedies. A dog seriously injured a Spokane woman in 2019, and other dogs have recently killed several animals. These incidents make it clear that aggressive dogs present a threat to people and other animals.
Off-Leash Dog Parks
Off-leash dog parks are some of the most common places for dog attacks. Spokane features several off-leash parks, including Hays Park and Underhill Park. Although letting your dog run free may be fun and allow the pet to get in some exercise, it can also increase the risk of an attack. There are leash laws in Spokane that you must obey when you are with your dog outside of these parks. Essentially, the laws state that owners must keep dogs on a leash no more than eight feet long whenever they are on public property.
Dog Bite Lawsuits
Dog attacks are very traumatic events and can often result in debilitating injuries. As a result, dog bite victims may be able to sue owners and other responsible parties. Attacks by police dogs, however, are sometimes exempt. Before you file a lawsuit, you need to know:
- Who you can sue;
- What elements must be present; and
- How long you have to file a lawsuit.
We will examine all three of these elements below.
The One-Bite Rule
You might have heard that if a dog has never attacked anyone before, you can’t sue. The legal term for this is “scienter.” It means the responsible party knew or should have known of the dog’s aggressive nature. States that require scienter for liability follow the “one-bite” rule. However, our state, Washington State, does not follow the one-bite rule. Instead, dog owners in Washington are liable for bites even if the animal has never shown aggression.
Who Is Liable?
In dog bite cases, dog owners are often defendants. As we discussed above, an owner is liable for dog bites even if the dog has never acted aggressively. However, other parties can also be held responsible. And if there is a responsible third party, the rules are a bit different. The one-bite rule does apply, and scienter is required for liability to apply to non-owners. In addition, you must show that the non-owner was the “keeper” or “harborer” of the dog. Keepers manage and control dogs while harborers house them.
An example of a harborer would be a kennel. Kennels house and provide food and water for dogs. A keeper might be a dog trainer who works individually with the dog. To prove negligence for either in a dog bite case, you will need to show that they had knowledge of the dog’s aggressive behavior and failed to take reasonable care to prevent an attack.
It’s generally a bad idea to provoke a dog for safety reasons alone. Even a friendly dog could turn aggressive if provoked. And it’s important to understand that your claim may be barred if you provoked the dog that attacked you. In other words, defendants might be able to get your dog bite claim dismissed if you provoked the animal.
Beat the Clock
Washington has a three-year statute of limitations on personal injury claims, including dog bites. This means the time you have to file your claim is limited. That said, it may be possible to toll (pause) this period. Reasons for tolling include:
- Non-resident defendants;
- A resident defendant who has left the state; and
- Concealed defendants.
However, you shouldn’t assume that the statute of limitations has paused regardless of the circumstances. It’s a good idea to file within the statute of limitations period if you can.
What Should You Do After a Dog Attack?
If a dog attacks you, it is crucial to stay calm. Your health and safety are your top priorities. You may need to do several things after being bit by a dog.
Step 1: Seek Medical Attention
After being bit, the most important thing you can do is seek medical attention, even if you think you’re not that hurt. Dog bites can lead to dangerous infections or diseases that might not manifest immediately. The bite could also have caused soft tissue or other internal injuries. Treatment could involve sutures, antibiotics, and possibly skin grafts in severe cases.
Step 2: Notify Animal Control
An unprovoked attack is a warning that an animal is dangerous. If you are attacked or witness an attack, you need to notify animal control so officials can track down the dangerous dog and prevent it from attacking others.
Step 3: Gather Evidence
It’s a good idea to collect evidence of the attack when it is safe to do so. Some of the things you can do to document the attack include:
- Taking pictures;
- Collect witness information; and
- Obtaining police reports.
It may also be a good idea to take a moment to reflect on the attack while it is still fresh in your memory. Write down as much as you can remember from the incident. This could be important to establish the timeline of events, and so you don’t forget details that may become important as your case progresses.
Step 4: Talk to a Lawyer
As a dog bite victim, you may be eligible for compensation. But it can be difficult to find a Spokane dog bite attorney to handle a dog attack claim. When looking at Spokane dog bite lawyers, there are a few factors to consider:
- Does the attorney practice personal injury law?
- How often do they handle dog bite cases?
- How long have they been practicing law?
Find out the answers to these questions before hiring a firm to represent you.
We Can Help
Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner PLLC has experienced Spokane dog bite attorneys on its team. You deserve a Spokane dog bite lawyer who knows how to handle the complexities of a dog bite claim, and we have the experience you need. We have been fighting for clients like you since 1972—and we look forward to helping you get fair compensation for your injuries.
We also handle other types of injury cases, including:
Contact us today to set up your free consultation.