Washington Dog-Bite Laws for Pet Owners
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of J.D. Smith with Law Office of J.D. Smith, PLLC.
Dogs are a popular choice of furry companion around the world, and especially in the United States. However, the laws regarding what to do and who is responsible when a dog bites someone can vary significantly from state to state. Some states practice the one-bite rule, which may shield pet owners from liability if the bite was the first sign of being aggressive the animal showed.
However, Washington state does not practice the one-bite rule; instead, the state imposes strict liability for dog owners, meaning that a dog’s owner can be held liable for any damages that occur if their dog bites someone, except under special circumstances.
Revised Code of Washington section 4.16.080 details Washington’s strict liability approach to dog bites.
According to this statute, a dog’s owner is liable for any damages that occur as the result of the dog biting. It should be noted that other injuries that can be caused by a dog are not covered under this statute. Unlike some other states, the injured party is not under the obligation to prove that the injury occurred as a direct result of the owner’s negligence or that the owner should have been reasonably aware that their animal posed a risk.
However, if the dog’s owner can prove that the injured party was provoking the animal at the time of the attack, it may be possible to argue that the injured party is liable for their own damages rather than the pet owner.
Dog bite victims in Washington have three years from the date of the injury to file a claim.
Depending on the state, the statute of limitation or window of time in which an injured party can file a claim may vary significantly. In Washington state, the victim of a dog bite is eligible to file for up to three years from the date the bite occurred, and after that time waives their right to pursue legal recourse. However, collecting and filing the necessary evidence can take time, so it’s recommended to begin the process as soon as possible if you have been seriously injured by a dog bite.
Other exceptions to liability may exist if the injured party was trespassing at the time of the bite.
It’s also important to keep in mind that strict liability may not apply if the person injured was trespassing or committing another crime at the time of the bite. Similar to provoking the animal, committing illegal acts such as trespassing on private property could waive the dog owner’s liability in the event of an attack. However, proving this can be difficult. If there is any question of liability after a dog bite, it’s advisable for both sides to talk to a lawyer for a better understanding of the situation and to learn about their options.
Dog owners can better protect themselves from liability by taking precautions.
While it may not be possible to shield yourself from liability altogether, a pet owner can greatly mitigate the risk of an incident by taking intentional precautions with their animal. Right away, the best thing a pet owner can do is honestly acknowledge whether or not their dog has exhibited potentially aggressive tendencies, even if this only occurs in a particular scenario.
Acknowledging a dog’s potential for aggression can help the pet owner make a preemptive plan for treating the behavior at its source as well as installing safeguards to protect others from a bite. Installing and properly maintaining fences, gates, kennels, and leashes are all good ways to make sure you know where your dog is at all times. Pursuing professional training and early socialization opportunities are also recommended to make sure your pet is on the right track for safe behavior.
To learn more about dog bite laws in Washington, or if you have suffered a dog bite injury, reach out to a dog bite lawyer in your area.