Dog Bite Liability Laws in Washington State
Dog ownership can bring a lot of joy and companionship to your life, but it also comes with responsibilities. One of the most significant of these is ensuring that your dog does not pose a risk to others. Unfortunately, dog bites can happen, and when they do, the owner may be held liable for any damages or injuries that result. In this blog, we will explore the dog bite liability laws in Washington State.
Under Washington State law, dog owners are strictly liable for any injuries or damages caused by their dogs. This means that the owner is responsible for any harm their dog causes, regardless of whether the owner knew the dog was dangerous or had any prior knowledge of aggressive behavior.
The Washington State dog bite statute is found in Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 16.08.040. It states that:
"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."
This law makes it clear that dog owners are strictly liable for any harm their dogs cause, regardless of whether the dog had a history of aggression or not.
It is important to note that the dog bite statute applies only to bites, not to other types of injuries that a dog may cause. For example, if a dog knocks over a person and causes them to break their arm, the dog owner may still be liable, but not under the strict liability statute. In such cases, the injured person would have to prove that the dog owner was negligent in controlling their dog and that negligence caused the injury.
Washington State law also recognizes the legal doctrine of comparative negligence. This means that if the person who was bitten contributed to the bite in any way, their damages may be reduced in proportion to their level of fault. For example, if a person was bitten while trespassing on the dog owner's property, the damages they may recover could be reduced by the percentage of fault that the court assigns to them.
If a person is bitten by a dog, they should seek medical attention immediately. They should also report the bite to the local animal control agency or police department. It is also recommended that they contact a personal injury attorney who is experienced in dog bite cases. An attorney can help the injured person understand their legal rights and options and assist them in pursuing a claim against the dog owner.
In conclusion, dog owners in Washington State are strictly liable for any harm their dogs cause to other people. This means that if your dog bites someone, you will be held responsible for any damages or injuries that result. It is important for dog owners to take steps to prevent their dogs from harming others, such as keeping them on a leash, properly training them, and monitoring their behavior.
If you or someone you know has been bitten by a dog, it is important to seek medical attention and legal advice as soon as possible. Call Scott & Scott, PLLC, today at (206) 622-2200.