Dog bite laws vary by state, so if you are bitten by a dog in the state of Washington, who is legally responsible for the dog attack? Who is responsible for paying your medical bills, recovery expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering?
Washington is known as a strict liability state in terms of dog bite laws. Among the majority of states, Washington does have statewide dog bite statutes in place. This law is favorable to dog bite victims and tough on the owners of such dogs. The state’s dog bite statutes hold dog owners strictly liable for injuries and damages their dogs cause whether or not the owner had knowledge of the dog’s viciousness. Should the owner have knowledge that their canine companion has dangerous propensities or has bitten someone before—they also will be held strictly liable.
The location of the incident is important since Washington’s dog bite law states liability can only be imposed against the dog owner in two situations:
- If the victim is lawfully in or on a public place
- If the victim is lawfully present on the dog owner’s property.
So if the victim is trespassing on your property when bitten by your dog, you are not held to the strict liability standard. Alternatively, you will be held strictly liable if you invited the victim for a dinner party and your dog bites him or her. Unfortunately, the statutory law of Washington State does not cover all dog bite situations. In cases where liability cannot be assigned by statutes, victims may be able to recover under the common law principle of negligence.
Common Law Negligence
In the situations where statutory law is not triggered, victims may be able to recover under a common law negligence claim. There are four necessary factors that a plaintiff must prove in order to hold the dog owner liable under a negligence theory in the State of Washington: duty, breach, causation, and damages. A dog owner has a duty to act as a reasonably prudent person and protect other members of society.
People who are liable for negligence in a dog case include anyone who unreasonably failed to control the dog on that day, breaching that duty, and thereby caused injury to another person. When it can be shown that the actions or inactions of the defendant were unreasonable and those actions or inactions were the proximate cause of injury, then the dog owner is likely to be held liable.
For more help with a claim, talk to a Washington dog bite lawyer.