Dog Bites and Personal Injury

  • By:Kevin Swartz
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“Man’s best friend” can become your wallet’s worst enemy in a flash — of teeth. Liability for dog bites varies from state to state, however, in general, if you are the owner (or, “pet parent” if you prefer) harborer, or keeper of a dog that bites someone, you can be held liable for the injured person’s economic and in some cases, noneconomic (pain and suffering) damages.

In both Oregon and Washington where we practice, dog owners can be held liable for a dog bite victim’s economic damages. Economic damages can include: medical expenses, rehabilitative services, loss of income, and past and future impairment of earning capacity. Depending on how severe the bite is, things can get expensive pretty fast. Noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, may in some cases be more difficult to get, but they can be recovered as well.

Not So Free “One-Free” Bites.

Contrary to what many people may believe, you don’t get a free pass in life and in many states —– like Washington— your dog does not get one “free” bite. Fido bites, you pay. It’s as simple as that. It doesn’t matter that the dog had never bitten anyone before or that the owner had no idea that the dog would bite someone.

In Oregon, the laws are a little less strict. But not much. The dog bite victim does not have to prove that the owner of the dog knew or should have known that the dog would bite in order to recover economic damages, and it is no defense to the owner that he couldn’t foresee that the dog would bite someone.

However, in Washington, unless the dog is a police dog, the owner is strictly liable for the dog’s actions, if the dog victim was attacked in a public place, or private place where he had a right to be. This “absolute” or “strict” liability means that, consistent with other personal injury claims, the owner of a dog that has bitten someone will be liable for whatever amount of money the jury, judge or arbitrator determines is fair to compensate the victim for his or her economic and noneconomic damages. That means that the dog owner will be responsible for paying the victim’s past and future medical bills, wage loss, impaired earnings, anxiety, fear, sleeplessness, pain, mental anguish, disfigurement and more.

In Oregon, it is a little more difficult for the bite victim to get noneconomic (pain and suffering) damages. Because dog owners are not held strictly liable if their dog bites someone, the victim would have to prove that the dog had known “dangerous propensities.”

We Are Here To Help!

If you are the victim of a dog bite or own a dog that has attacked someone, we can help. We are experienced attorneys with offices in Washington and throughout Oregon. We offer free consultations, reasonable fees, and are committed to getting our clients the relief they need. To set up an appointment, call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568 or contact us through our website.

Posted in: Personal Injury, Uncategorized

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