Dog Bite Liability
Dog bites and attacks can cause serious injuries and sometimes even death. Every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs. One out of five of these dog bite victims -- approximately 885,000 people -- seek medical attention for their injuries including 600,000 children. Approximately 31,000 people each year require reconstructive surgery due to a dog attack and many of these require multiple surgeries. Approximately 16 people are killed each year due to a dog attack.Dog Bites in ChildrenChildren have the highest rate of injuries due to dog bites. Dog attacks are the fifth leading reason that children seek treatment at emergency rooms. Children between the ages of five and nine are at the highest risk for injury. Dog bite injuries to children under the age of four can especially serious because the injuries are most often to the head or neck.Nature of dog bite injuresDog bite injuries can sometimes last a life time. Some victims suffer disfigurement, often to the face. Other victims have extensive scarring or infection. In 2008, an elderly Sea-Tac woman had her ears ripped off when two pit bulls mauled her as she walked her grandchild to the school bus. Another serious dog attack in Western Washington that year left a Vancouver girl with injuries so severe to her upper lip and chin that she required 26 stitches. Some dog bite victims suffer permanent nerve damage to their limbs causing constant pain. One Seattle-area plastic surgeon said that victims of severe dog mauling require between two and five surgeries to repair the damage.Washington State Dog Bite LawThe Revised Code of Washington, 16.08.040 states:
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 bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner's knowledge of such viciousness.Washington State's dog bite statute supports dog bite victims and their families. A brief overview of the statute:
- Dog owners are liable for dog bites
- A person who harbors or is negligent with a dog is responsible for dog bite injuries
- If a dog has a history of biting, the dog owners may be held liable for injuries and the liability is expanded
- A person can be liable for negligence if he or she failed to control a dog on the day it injured another.
- Case law has to be looked at to determine what is meant by "dog owner" because a person who has custody or possession of an animal may also be liable.