Dog bites are among the most frightening types of injuries people can suffer. Such attacks are very up close and personal, and often fulfill the fear of dogs that many have had since childhood.
Dog attacks are typically sudden, unexpected and vicious in nature, and often occur while the victim is engaged in seemingly safe family, recreational, or play activities at someone’s home or in a public place. Often, the dog involved belongs to someone in a position of trust — such as a family member, a relative, or a friend or neighbor. Both victim and dog owner are often in disbelief that the dog acted as it did. Those involved are often uncertain about whether insurance covers damages resulting from such incidents (unlike auto accidents, where most know how it works). Thus, when claims are brought following such attacks, the claims are often associated with personal and emotional issues not often present in typical stranger-on-stranger tort claims. Usually, the involved dog is the beloved pet of the owner and his/her family. They are concerned about having their dog taken away and euthanatized, or even being criminally charged for the dog’s actions or for failing to control their dog.
Oftentimes, even the victim is concerned about what impact reporting the incident or bringing a claim will have on the dog and/or its owner, who more often than not is a friend, family member, neighbor, or acquaintance of some kind. Sometimes the dog involved is among one of the breeds known to be aggressive and other times not. The victim is often a vulnerable toddler or small child who does not yet possess the fear or respect that most adults have for dogs (and over whom the dog may feel the ability to be dominant). Other times, the victims are the elderly with limited ability to physically defend themselves.
The injuries inflicted are often ugly — jagged lacerations on visible parts of the body (face, head, arms, hands, legs) that are subject to infection and other complications, require suturing or plastic surgery to treat, and often result in visible, residual scarring. Those injured often deal with psychological or emotional trauma not present in other less graphic types of injuries. After such attacks, the victim often develops a fear of dogs, and post-traumatic stress reactions are common. There are residual physical scars as well that come with a host of accompanying psychological damage.
The State of Washington has a dog bite statute (RCW 16.08.040) that is favorable to dog bite victims. The law makes the owner of the dog strictly liable for dog bites. Additionally, anyone who harbors, keeps, or is negligent with a dog can be held liable for injuries caused by the dog.