Who out there isn’t a dog lover? America seems to have a love affair with pets. Pet food and supply stores have become national chains occupying huge warehouse stores set up to supply us with every need or whim for our pets. The latest phenomenon is the doggie day care facility where you take your pet to spend the day with other dogs while you go off to work. Heck, mine even has a web cam so you can check on your dog’s activities during the day. We truly are a nation obsessed with our pets. So what happens when one of our pets attacks someone? Animal bites can result in very serious injuries. Every year hundreds of people in Oregon and Washington visit emergency rooms because of attacks by dogs. Are we automatically responsible when this happens? What if the dog has never bitten anyone in the past and has always had the sweetest temperament? Washington State has enacted a strict liability law for dog attacks. It used to be that the owner wasn’t responsible unless they had knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities. Long referred to as the “first bite rule”, a dog owner wasn’t on the hook until there was a record of the dog biting someone in the past. In order to recover damages from the owner you had to prove they were negligent in allowing the dog to interact with people, given his history of biting someone in the past. This is no longer the case. Now an animal owner is strictly liable for his dog’s behavior. No matter how sweet the dog has been the past. As long as the person who was bitten was legally entitled to be where he or she was, and they didn’t do anything to torment or provoke the dog, the owner is strictly liable for the attack. You no longer have to prove any negligence on behalf of the owner. You are entitled to recover damages for the bite. This usually takes the form of medical bills, wage loss and an amount for what you went through, to include a reasonable figure for any permanent scarring left from the bite. When these claims are made, they typically are paid for by the dog owner’s homeowners or renters insurance. Claims resulting from animal attacks, like auto accidents, usually have to be brought with a certain time after the attack. If you miss the deadline, you can lose all right to recover damages.
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