Seattle Washington Dog Bite Law 101

Author: Fernando Jimenez Date: February 16, 2017

Dogs can bite regardless of their breed, training, or whether or not they are provoked. If you’ve been bitten by a dog in Washington, you will want to understand the dog bite law basics before you hire a dog bite attorney.

What Information Should I Have to Report a Dog Bite?

When a strange dog bites and injures you, it is important to get the dog owner’s information as soon as you are able. This includes the name of the owner and their address and phone number. You should also get the names and phone numbers of any witnesses to the dog bite incident. Have a description of the owner and dog ready. You will use this information when you file a dog bite report by calling Seattle or another county’s Animal Control. Their officers will investigate the dog bite by getting statements from you, the owner of the dog, and any witnesses. If the dog is extremely vicious or the owner deemed negligent, the dog may be removed from the owner’s residence. In some cases, the owner may face criminal charges.

What are Washington’s Dog Bite Laws?

From section 16.08.050 in Washington’s Revised Code:

“(1) 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.”

Simply put, the above law states that if a dog bite victim was in a public place, such as a park, or welcomed into a private residence and got injured from a dog, the owner of the dog is responsible for the victim’s damages even if the dog had never bitten before or had always been calm and docile.

Exceptions to the Dog Bite Statute?

There are only a couple exceptions to the dog bite statute. The first is that if you are illegally in a private residence or building and a dog bites you, then the owner is not responsible for your damages. For example, if someone breaks into a home where a dog is residing and gets bitten by the dog that is protecting the home, then the person breaking and entering is not owed anything and may even face criminal charges themselves.

The second exception to the dog bite statute is for dogs employed by the government, including police dogs and drug-sniffing dogs. These dogs may be trained to use their bite to bring down criminals. If one of these types of dog bite you, you may not be able to seek damages from the government due to the nature of the dogs.

What is Strict Liability?

Washington State is a strict liability state, meaning that the owner of a dog that bites is immediately responsible for any injuries to the victim. Some states have enacted a One Bite Rule. This implies that if you were the victim of a dog bite but the dog had never bitten anyone else before, then the owner is not to blame and does not have to pay for your injuries. However, if someone is a keeper or harborer of the dog, then they can be held liable if they knew the dog was dangerous. You can also file a claim against the harborer or keeper if they were negligent and did not prevent the attack, even if they weren’t aware the animal was dangerous.

How Long Can I Wait Before Filing a Claim?

You have three years after the incident to make a claim.

The Advocates at Advocates Law are experienced in filing dog bite claims and making sure dog bite victims in Washington are fairly compensated for any injuries and pain and suffering. If you were bitten by a dog, you can contact us any time, day or night, and speak with an attorney who can help you through the process without pressure. Your initial call is always free so give us a ring!

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