Personal Injury Portland

Portland Dog Bite Injury Attorney

Every year, thousands of Oregonians are bitten by dangerous dogs. In even more frequent cases, the victim of a dog bite can suffer serious lacerations which may require follow up plastic surgery, and result in permanent scaring. Many of those attacks involve Pit Bulls, Rottweiler’s, and other dangerous breeds. Bites from dangerous breeds can lead to serious injury and death. In fact, national statistics show that Pit Bulls were responsible for 66% of the fatal dog attacks in the United States (Source).

2019 dog bite fatality statistics

Marc Johnston is an experienced Portland personal injury attorney, who has represented adults, children, seniors and adults who have been bitten and disfigured by dangerous dogs. The owner of a dangerous dog is legally responsible for the injuries inflicted upon a dog bite victim. Almost all homeowners insurance includes coverage for dog bite injuries, and applies when a loose dog attacks a victim away from the dog’s home. Our lawyer is skilled at finding the insurance policies to cover your injuries, including lost wages, pain and suffering, and plastic surgery (considered ‘elective’ under most health insurance policies).

Why Dogs Bite

While most dogs are friendly and loving, even the sweetest of dogs will sometimes bite. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA), dogs usually bite as a result of a reaction to something. For example, a dog may bite if it is stressed because it feels like it or its territory is threatened. Or, a dog might bite because they are scared or have been startled. Sometimes, a dog will bite to protect another dog or a person. Or, a dog might bite simply because it doesn’t feel well.

While you can’t always avoid dog bites, knowing how to stay safe around dogs can help. Ways to reduce your risk of a dog bite include keeping a safe distance between you and unknown dogs, never approaching a dog that’s eating or chewing on a bone/toy, and slowly backing away from a dog that seems scared or aggressive – signs to watch for include a dog’s ears being pinned back against their head, growling or showing teeth, staring, having raised hackles, and tucking a tail between the legs.

Injuries from a Dog Bite

While you may be able to avoid a dog bite by avoiding dogs that seem scared or threatened, sometimes, there’s nothing that you can do. If a dog attacks, a victim could suffer a wide range of serious injuries, including:

  • Infection;
  • Bleeding;
  • Traumatic brain injury;
  • Bone fractures;
  • Scarring;
  • Disfigurement;
  • Facial injuries;
  • Soft tissue injuries; and
  • More.

In addition to the physical injuries that a person who is attacked by a dog may suffer, dog bites can also lead to psychological injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and a fear of dogs. Of course, injuries are also painful and may lead to suffering; are expensive to treat, which can contribute to high medical bills; and can be disabling, resulting in lost wages.

Liability for a Dog Bite in Portland

When you have been bitten by a dog, the most important thing to figure out is who is going to pay for your injuries. That’s where the theory of liability, or legal responsibility, comes in. In Oregon, the state’s strict liability statute holds the owner of a dog liable for the economic damages resulting from a dog bite. Section 31.360 of Oregon Statutes holds that in order to bring forth a claim for economic (actual, tangible, monetary losses) damages, the victim does not need to prove that the owner of the dog could foresee that the dog would cause the injury. In other words, the plaintiff doesn’t need to prove the defendant’s negligence in order to be held liable.

However, if the victim of the dog bite wants to hold the dog owner liable for non-economic damages–that is, damages for pain, suffering, emotional distress, etc.–then they will need to prove that the dog owner acted negligently. For example, they may need to prove that the dog had a history of aggression, of which the owner was aware, and therefore the owner should have restrained the dog but did not. This is often called the “one-bite rule.”

Keep in mind that there are certain defenses that a dog owner may be able to leverage in order to avoid liability. For example, they may be able to claim that the plaintiff was trespassing at the time of the dog bite, or that that victim provoked the dog. If you were committing a crime at the time of the bite, this may also be a defense that the dog owner can use against you.

What to Do After a Dog Bite

If you’ve been attacked by a dog, it’s important that you understand what steps you need to take in order to preserve your right to recover damages and ensure that you get the treatment that you need.

First, you should identify the dog owner immediately. Make sure you write down the dog owner’s name and contact information, as well as the location of where the dog bite happened. If available and possible, see if there is any video footage of the accident. You should also call the non-emergency police to report the dog bite while you are still at the scene, or the emergency police if your injuries are severe enough that you need emergency medical care.

Next, you should get treatment for your injuries. It’s important to see a doctor soon after a dog bite to rule out the possibility of rabies. You may also need stitches to address any bleeding, as well as other medical care in some cases.

Once you are able to, you should report the dog bite and the dog to the Health Department in the county in which the bite occurred, as well as animal control.

At this point, it’s a good idea to hire an attorney. An attorney can follow up with the dog owner on your behalf and initiate the claims process. An attorney can also help you to understand whether you should pursue a claim for economic damages, noneconomic damages, or both, as well as the viability of each claim type. Your attorney will also know how to calculate what your claim is worth.

As you heal and recover, you should keep a journal about your injuries. Note your level of pain, how you’re impacted each day, how your injuries affect your ability to do certain things, your mental health, and more. This journal may be used during the claims process as a source of evidence to help you recover compensation for pain and suffering damages. If your doctor has made certain recommendations for your recovery or has prescribed a treatment plan, be sure to follow it to a “t”. If you don’t, then the insurance company may say that you failed to do your due diligence to mitigate further harm, which can result in your settlement amount being reduced. If you have any questions about this, talk to an attorney.

Contact a Portland Dog Bite Lawyer

There is nothing more tragic than a child or adult who has been disfigured by a dangerous dog. If you or a loved one is bitten by a dog, make sure and seek immediate medical attention. Next, make sure and contact the police to file a report. If you have suffered a dog bite in Multnomah County, contact Multnomah County Animal Services to file a report. Shortly thereafter, you should seek the advice of a Portland dog bite lawyer. Our Oregon dog bite injury attorney will immediately act to preserve necessary evidence, as well as photograph and document your injuries.

A serious dog bite can very damaging and stressful to your life. Hiring a skilled dog bite personal injury lawyer will both protect your rights, and give you peace of mind that your claim is being handled properly. This will give you and your family the freedom to focus on recovery and healing, which is exactly what you should be doing.

Call Johnston Law Firm today at 503-546-3167 or e-mail us. We offer a free initial consultation and flexible hours by appointment.

The Johnston Law Firm, LLC proudly represents clients in all cities and counties in Oregon: Portland, Gresham, Milwaukie, Lake Oswego, Tigard, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas.

Marc Johnston
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