If you’ve been bitten by a dog, there are a number of relevant Washington-based laws that apply to your case.
Individual states set the laws governing personal injury lawsuits, and dog bite cases are just that, personal injury lawsuits.
Here, we’ll talk about the relevant Washington state laws that pertain to dog bite cases.
Washington State Dog Bite Laws
Under Washington’s dog bite statute, a dog owner is liable for any dog bite injuries if:
- The victim was bitten on public property or when on private property with the consent of the property owner, and
- The victim did not provoke the dog.
Washington’s dog bite laws apply strict liability for dog owners whose dogs bite another person or animal.
Strict liability means that the plaintiff does not have to prove the dog owner knew that the dog was likely to bite someone, or had done so in the past. You also don’t have to prove that the dog owner was negligent in supervising or restraining the dog. Evidence of the dog bite alone may be sufficient to prove liability. A dog owner may be held liable even for first-time dog bites.
Statute of Limitations in Washington Dog Bite Personal Injury Lawsuits
Any lawsuit involving a personal injury in Washington claim must be filed within 3 years of the incident. An exception applies for victims who were minors at the time of the incident. There is only one exception and that when the individual involved was a minor. In that case, the individual has 3 years to file after their 18th birthday.
Logistically, you should contact a lawyer immediately upon being released from the hospital and they should file your lawsuit within at least a year of the incident. The closer to the lawsuit is to the dog bite incident, the better your chances of recovering damages..
Defenses to Dog Bite Claims in Washington State
Dog owners facing liability for dog bites normally use two types of defenses: provocation and trespassing.
If a dog owner successfully proves that a person provoked the dog into biting him or her, such proof is considered a complete defense to a dog bite lawsuit. This means that the dog bite victim may not collect any damages related to the dog bite.
A dog owner may prove provocation by showing that the dog bite victim instigated, encouraged, or otherwise caused the dog to bite. An example of provocation includes hitting a dog and causing it pain.
Under the Washington dog bite statute, a dog owner is liable if their dog bites a person on public property or when a person is lawfully on private property.
A person trespasses on private property when he or she enters the property without the express or implied consent of the owner. If the property has clearly fenced or marked property lines, a person must obtain permission to enter the property to avoid trespassing.
If someone is attacked while trespassing on a dog owner’s property, the dog owner may not be held liable for the attack. Proof that the dog bite victim trespassed on private property may prevent recovery of damages.
Other Washington Dog Laws
Washington has several other dog laws about dangerous dogs that may apply in dog bite cases.
Under Washington law, a dangerous dog is one that:
- Causes severe injury to a human being without provocation on public or private property;
- Kills a domestic animal without provocation while the dog is off the owner’s property; or
- Was previously found to be potentially dangerous because the dog injured a human.
Dog owners may keep a dangerous dog, but the law requires the owner to register the dangerous dog.
Further, the dog owner must meet certain requirements to ensure public safety:
- The dangerous dog must be securely enclosed in a yard or structure so it cannot escape and children cannot access the dog;
- The owner must post a clearly visible sign warning of the dangerous dog; and
- The owner must have liability insurance or a surety bond of at least $250,000, payable to any person injured by the dog.
Finally, the dog owner must muzzle and properly restrain the dangerous dog to prevent dog bites or other injuries. Dangerous dog owners failing to meet any of these requirements may face additional liability if their dog bites and injures someone.
Certain counties and cities also regulate dog ownership based on breed. However, the law focuses mainly on the dog’s behavior, and dog owners can receive permission to own dangerous dog breeds if they can demonstrate the dog’s good behavior.
Who Pays for Dog Bite Damages?
If a dog bite occurs on the owner’s property, their homeowners insurance will cover the damages. Often, homeowners insurance policy limits are well over $100,000.
Some pet owners actually insure their pets, as well. In that case, their animal insurance policy would cover any potential claims against them.
If the owner has no animal, homeowners, or any other kind of insurance that can be used, you can sue them directly for your injuries.
We Can Help You with Your Case
If you’ve been bitten by a dog, you’ll want to ensure that you receive the full value of your claim. Not only does that include medical expenses and missed time from work, it also includes pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and loss of enjoyment.
The Yakima, Washington personal injury attorneys at Kapuza Lighty, PLLC have ensured excellent settlements for our clients. Give us a call or contact us online and we’ll begin preparing your case immediately.