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Dog Bite Liability Laws in Washington State

By Walton Law APCJune 5, 2024June 13th, 2024No Comments
Dog Bite Liability Laws in Washington State

While many American homes have dogs, they aren’t always man’s best friend. Unfortunately, dog bites happen regularly and can cause severe injuries and emotional trauma to victims. Dog bites can happen from dogs you know or strange animals, but they can cause severe injuries and trauma either way.

If someone else owned the dog, you have the right to seek compensation for your medical bills and other injury-related losses. You can do so even if the dog belonged to a well-known neighbor, friend, or family member, as you will not seek compensation from them personally. Their insurance coverage should come into play. However, dog bite claims are often more challenging than necessary.

If you or a loved one has suffered a dog bite in Washington State, any resulting injury claims will rely on Washington state dog bite liability laws. Applying the law to your injury claim can be complicated, so contacting a dog bite lawyer in Snohomish, Washington for legal assistance is critical. Not only will your attorney help you understand this state’s dog bite liability laws, but they can also pursue an injury claim so you can receive compensation for your damages.

Dog Bite Laws in Washington State

Washington State follows a strict liability rule regarding dog bite cases. This means that dog owners are responsible for any injuries caused by their dogs, regardless of whether the owner knew or should have known about the dog’s aggressive tendencies. Whereas some other states have a “one-bite rule.” In these states, the owner cannot be held strictly liable unless they know their dog has a history of biting or being aggressive.

According to the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 16.08.040, if a dog bites a person lawfully in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, the owner of the dog shall be liable for any damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.

However, the dog bite victim must be lawfully present on the premises during the incident for the strict liability rule to apply. Trespassers, for example, may not be eligible for compensation under dog bite laws.

Defenses in Washington Dog Bite Cases

Dog bite victims should be aware of the potential defenses that the dog’s owner and their insurance company may attempt to use to deny or devalue their claim. When it comes to dog bite cases in Washington State, there are a few potential defenses that the dog owner may use.

Washington Dog Bite Cases


One defense that a dog owner may assert is that the victim provoked the dog. In Washington, if the dog owner can prove that the victim provoked the dog, it may relieve them of liability. However, it should be noted that the provocation defense must meet a high standard, as it requires demonstrating intentional provocation or intentional acts that would reasonably provoke the dog.


Another defense that may be raised is that the victim was trespassing. If the dog owner can show that the victim was unlawfully on their property at the time of the incident, they may argue that they are not liable for any injuries caused by their dog. However, the trespassing defense may not apply if the victim was on the property for a legitimate reason, such as being invited or performing a duty.

When you hire a well-versed Washington dog bite attorney, they will expect such defenses and know how to refute them to seek full and fair compensation for your dog bite injuries. Without their help, it can be quite challenging to navigate this legal situation successfully.

Common Dog Bite Injuries and Potential Complications

Dog bites can cause injuries ranging from minor cuts and bruises to severe wounds and fractures. Some of the common dog bite injuries include:

  • Puncture wounds: Dog bites can result in deep puncture wounds that can lead to infections, especially if not properly treated.
  • Soft tissue injuries: Dogs have strong jaws, and their bites can cause damage to muscles, tendons, and ligaments, leading to long-term pain and mobility issues.
  • Facial injuries: Many dog bite victims, especially children, suffer from facial injuries that may require extensive reconstructive surgeries.
  • Nerve damage: Severe bites can damage nerves, leading to loss of sensation, muscle weakness, or even paralysis.
  • Emotional trauma: Dog bites can cause significant psychological and emotional trauma, leading to anxiety, fear, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In addition to these physical injuries, dog bites can lead to complications such as infections, scarring, and the need for ongoing medical treatment. It’s crucial to seek immediate medical attention after a dog bite to prevent further complications and document your injuries for potential legal claims.

Damages in Dog Bite Cases

If you’ve been bitten by a dog in Washington State and can establish liability, you may be entitled to various damages. The damages can be categorized into two main categories: economic and non-economic.

Economic damages are tangible losses with a specific monetary value. They can include medical expenses, future medical costs, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and property damage resulting from a dog bite.

Dog Bite InjuriesOn the other hand, non-economic damages are intangible losses that are more challenging to quantify. These can include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and disfigurement resulting from the dog bite.

In some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded. Punitive damages punish the dog owner for their willful or reckless behavior, such as knowingly harboring a dangerous dog or training it to be aggressive. However, only a judge or a jury can award punitive damages. If your case settles out of court, you won’t be eligible to receive these types of damages.

To maximize your chances of recovering the full compensation you deserve, work with an experienced Washington dog bite lawyer who can carefully evaluate your case, collect valuable evidence, and negotiate with the insurance company or pursue a lawsuit if necessary.

What to Do If You Get Bit by a Dog in Washington State

If you or someone you know has been bitten by a dog in Washington State, take the following steps to protect your rights and ensure your well-being:

  • Seek medical attention: Your health should be your top priority. Even if the injury seems minor, it’s vital to have a medical professional evaluate the wound to prevent infection and document your injuries. It may not seem like a significant injury today, but within a few days, you can notice additional symptoms or present with an infection.
  • Report the incident: Contact the appropriate authorities, such as your local animal control or law enforcement agency, to report the dog bite incident. This will help ensure that proper documentation is made and potentially prevent future incidents involving the same dog.
  • Gather information: Collect as much information as possible about the dog, its owner, and any witnesses to the incident. Take photographs of your injuries and the scene of the incident if possible.
  • Preserve evidence: Keep all records of your medical treatment, including medical bills, prescriptions, and any other expenses incurred due to the dog bite. Additionally, record how the injuries have affected your daily life, including missed workdays and emotional distress.
  • Consult with a Washington dog bite lawyer: Contact a trusted dog bite lawyer familiar with the laws in Washington State. They can provide legal advice, help you understand your rights, and guide you through pursuing a personal injury claim.

Why You Need a Washington Dog Bite Lawyer

Navigating the legal process and dealing with insurance companies can be overwhelming, especially when you’re recovering from a dog bite injury. Hiring a Washington dog bite lawyer has several benefits, including:

  • Legal skills and experience: A dog bite lawyer will have in-depth knowledge of the laws specific to dog bite cases in Washington State. They will guide you through the legal process and handle the paperwork while ensuring your rights are protected.
  • Investigation and evidence gathering: A skilled lawyer will conduct a thorough investigation to gather evidence, such as medical records, witness statements, and any history of the dog’s aggression. This evidence will strengthen your case and support your claim for compensation.
  • Negotiation and settlement: Insurance companies may try to offer a low settlement or deny your claim altogether. An experienced dog bite lawyer will negotiate with the insurance company to seek fair compensation for your injuries and losses.
  • Litigation support: If a fair settlement cannot be reached, your lawyer will be prepared to take your case to court and advocate for you during trial. Having a dedicated legal professional by your side will increase your chances of a successful outcome.
  • Peace of mind: Dealing with the aftermath of a dog bite can be stressful. By hiring a Washington dog bite lawyer, you can focus on your recovery and leave the legal matters to the professionals, knowing that your case is in capable hands.

What is My Dog Bite Case Worth?

Determining the value of a dog bite case can be challenging, as it depends on various factors, such as the severity of the injuries, the impact on your daily life, and the insurance coverage available. Your Washington dog bite lawyer will evaluate these factors to determine the potential value of your case.

To ensure that you receive fair compensation, provide your attorney with all the necessary information about your injuries, medical treatment, and the impact on your life. This will enable them to build a strong case and fight for full and fair compensation on your behalf.

What if a Dog Causes Injuries But Doesn’t Bite?

While most dog bite cases involve actual bites, dogs can also cause injuries without necessarily biting. For example, a dog may knock someone over, causing them to fall and sustain injuries. In such cases, the dog owner may still be liable for the injuries under Washington State’s strict liability rule.

If a dog has injured you in a non-bite incident, don’t hesitate to consult with a Washington dog bite lawyer. They will assess the circumstances surrounding the incident and advise you on your legal options. With their help, you can pursue a personal injury claim and seek compensation for your injuries and losses.

The Statute of Limitations for Washington Dog Bite Cases

If you or a loved one has been a victim of a dog bite in Washington State, you must understand the statute of limitations that applies to your case. The statute of limitations refers to the time limit within which you must file a lawsuit to seek compensation for your injuries and damages.

In Washington State, the statute of limitations for dog bite cases is three years from the date of the incident. This means that you have three years from the day you were bitten to file a lawsuit against the responsible party. Remember that you may lose your right to seek compensation if you fail to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations.

Dog Bite LawyerConsidering this, consult with an experienced dog bite attorney as soon as possible after the incident. Among many other things, they will ensure that your case is filed within the appropriate timeframe. Waiting too long to seek legal assistance can put your case at risk and may result in losing valuable evidence.

In addition to the statute of limitations, there may be other deadlines and requirements specific to your case. Consulting with an attorney will help you understand these nuances and ensure that you meet all necessary deadlines.

Remember, time is of the essence when it comes to pursuing compensation for a dog bite injury in Washington State.

Contact a Skilled Washington Dog Bite Attorney Today for a Free Consultation

If you or a loved one has suffered a dog bite in Washington State, don’t hesitate to seek legal assistance. Schedule a free consultation and begin pursuing your legal rights today. Experienced Washington personal injury attorneys understand the challenges of dog bite cases and will fight tirelessly to protect your rights. Don’t let a dog bite injury go uncompensated. Take action now and let a professional help you on the path to recovery and justice.