In Washington State, dog bite laws are intended to force pet owners to take responsibility for their animals. These public safety laws can both prevent attacks and compel negligent owners to pay back bite victims who suffer severe injuries as the result of unjustified bites.
A Tacoma dog bite lawyer is familiar with all of the laws listed below. They can tell you which bite statutes the dog owner violated and which bite statutes you can use as a basis for your bite claim and personal injury lawsuit.
Dog Bites and Liability in Washington State
Dog bite and dog ownership laws in Washington State can be found under Chapter 16.08 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). They include the following:
When Washington Dog Owners Are Liable
RCW § 16.08.040 states that a dog’s owner is liable for any injuries the dog causes under the following circumstances:
- The victim was on public property. Such a scenario might happen if the dog owner fails to lock their fence and the dog escapes onto the street.
- The victim was “lawfully” visiting private property. For example, if the dog owner invited them to come to their house, that constitutes a lawful visit.
- It does not matter if the owner was aware (or should have been aware) of the dog’s violent tendencies. Even if the dog had never bitten anyone before and never showed signs of aggression, the owner is still responsible for any damage the dog causes.
Dog Bite Compensation in Washington State
The above law allows you to file a lawsuit against the owner of the dog who caused your injuries. Such a lawsuit could get you compensation for losses and injuries like the following:
- Medical attention required to save your life and minimize or manage symptoms
- Wages you lost because the dog bite forced you to stay home or even go to the hospital
- Wages or jobs you will lose in the future due to lingering symptoms or disabilities resulting from the bite injuries
- Physical pain and suffering you would not have experienced had it not been for the dog bite
- Scar tissue or disfigurement, especially if it affects very visible parts of your body (e.g., your face or hands)
- Emotional trauma that affects your ability to control your mood or to enjoy life the way you did before (e.g. if the sound of a dog’s bark now causes panic attacks)
For a free legal consultation, call 206-558-5555
Are Dog Bites Ever Legal in Washington State?
Yes, but only under very limited circumstances. The dog’s owner cannot be held liable for a person’s injuries if:
The Dog Was Provoked
RCW § 16.08.060 states that if a person purposely provokes or irritates a dog, then that person is responsible for their own injuries. Provocations may include:
- Handling the animal with undue harshness (e.g., tugging, poking, pushing, or grabbing)
- Throwing things at the animal
- Exhibiting erratic, loud, or frightening behavior intended to scare the animal
The Dog Was Responding to a Trespasser
Only people who were on private property legally can file a suit against the dog’s owner. If someone breaks into a house to rob it, for example, they are not protected under Washington State’s dog bite laws, and any attack from the dog is considered justified.
You Were Bitten by a Police Dog
If you were attacked by a police dog, you must prove that the police’s use of the animal was not “lawful” in your situation. For instance, maybe you had your hands up and were in the act of surrendering, or maybe you had not violated any law serious enough to warrant the use of a police dog.
If the police dog’s attack was justified, they are not responsible for any resulting injuries, and the victim does not have the right to sue.
Deadlines for Filing Dog Bite Cases in Washington State
Another law that you, as the survivor of a dog attack, must be aware of is the statute of limitations.
There are several statutes at work in Washington State, so which one applies to your case? That depends on your circumstances. For instance:
- If you were personally attacked and want to file a personal injury suit, RCW § 4.16.080 generally gives you three years from the day of the attack to bring a case against the dog owner.
- If your underage child was the victim of the attack, the three-year statute of limitations begins from the day they turn 18 rather than the day of the attack.
- If your loved one passed away because of the attack, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf. In this case, the three-year countdown begins on the day of your loved one’s passing.
Getting Fair Compensation After a Washington Dog Bite
Even though the law clearly states that dog owners are liable for unprovoked dog attacks, the liable party in your case may resist paying you damages. Their lawyer might try to “prove” that you provoked the animal or were trespassing on private property. A dog bite lawyer can protect you by:
- Informing you of your rights and your case’s true worth
- Building a case file that includes ample evidence of the dog owner’s liability and your own lawful behavior
- Speaking with all other parties on your behalf so that they do not get the chance to twist your words or convince you to give up your rights
- Either negotiating for a settlement from the owner’s insurance company or taking the owner to court to fight for a jury award
- Being available to you whenever you want to ask them for advice, reassurance, or guidance
- Empowering you to make smart legal decisions and take full advantage of your rights as a dog bite survivor
Put Washington’s Dog Bite Laws to Work for You
If you were attacked and injured by a dangerous dog, let Jackman Law Firm fight for justice on your behalf. Call our office for a free case review today. It is our mission to help clients get justice and fair compensation after a personal injury. Our personal injury attorneys can do so in your case by, to start with, educating you about Washington state’s dog bite laws.