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What does Washington law say about dog bites?

by | Jun 13, 2023 | Uncategorized

If you encounter a person at a public park, or visit someone’s home who has a dog, your safety should be of utmost importance to the dog owner. In fact, a person who owns a dog must take all precautionary measures available to keep you safe if you are in the same vicinity as the animal. When dog bites occur in Washington, the owners of the pets are liable for damages.  

While every state has its own laws regarding dog bites, in this state, it doesn’t matter if a dog has never bitten anyone, or has attacked on a previous occasion. When a bite occurs, the owner of the dog is liable for damages.  

Different law codes govern police dogs 

K-9 units (police dogs) are not treated the same as dogs owned by private citizens. Dog bites that occur from animals working on duty in law enforcement are separate cases. A town, city or law enforcement officer or department may be liable for injuries that occur when a police dog bites someone, but the burden of proof is much different. 

Damages that occur from dog bites 

If someone’s dog attacks you, your injuries could be quite severe, perhaps even life-threatening. In addition to medical treatment (and the expenses that arise from such), you could suffer emotional trauma, as well as lost wages if you must take time off work during recovery. Under Washington law, all these issues are compensable as damages when a person seeks restitution because of a dog bite. 

RCW16.08.040 makes it clear that dog owners are responsible for damages that occur if their pet bites someone, whether the incident occurred in a public place or on private property. Such laws may not apply if the person bitten was unlawfully present at the location. 

Hundreds of thousands of people seek medical attention for dog bites every year 

Of the more than 4 million people who suffer dog bites in Washington and across the country every year, at least 800,000 of them seek medical attention. The legal term “strict liability” refers to states like this one, where dog owners are always responsible for damages if their pets bite, provided someone permitted the person bitten to be on the property at the time.  

If the person who suffers injuries was trespassing or the dog owner can prove that he or she provoked the animal, then strict liability rules would not apply.  

Seeking support after a dog bite 

Similar to a Washington motor vehicle accident, it’s always best to seek immediate medical attention after a dog bite. Even if you think your injuries are minor, if there is any broken skin, the wound could become infected, which could take a turn for the worse and become a life-threatening situation.  

Someone who is well-versed in personal injury laws can provide guidance and support regarding state laws relevant to dog bites.