Is the Owner Liable for a Dog Bite?

Dog Owner Walking DogIf you were the victim of a dog bite, you probably experienced pain and physical injuries. While some people might think that there is nothing you can do about your losses if an animal bit you, that is not necessarily the case. Washington State law protects people from vicious dogs and makes their owners pay for the harm they cause.

The Washington State Dog Bite Statute

Our state protects dog bite victims by making the animal’s owner financially liable. RCW 16.08.040 provides that:

“The owner of any dog which shall bite any person while such person is in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place including the property of the owner of such dog, shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner's knowledge of such viciousness.”

Examples of Dog Bite Liability

The owner can be liable in situations like these:

  • You were walking, running, or otherwise present in a public area, such as on a sidewalk, street, or park.
  • You were on the job performing your required tasks, like delivering mail or packages or reading a water or electric meter, whether you were on private or public property at the time of the attack.
  • You were on your own property or legally present on anyone else’s property.

Damages the Owner Has to Pay

The law provides that the owner has to pay “for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten.”

We can seek compensation for your economic damages, like:

  • All reasonable medical expenses related to the injury, including plastic and reconstructive surgery. Dog bites can be disfiguring, and people often need and want to remove or minimize the scars. The emergency room, doctors, surgical, hospital, physical and occupational therapy, and other medical costs are compensable.
  • Lost wages if you missed work because of the injury, surgeries, therapy, and recuperation time.

We can also pursue your non-economic damages, such as:

  • Physical pain
  • Mental suffering and anguish
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which many dog bite victims suffer
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of enjoyment of life, if the experience causes you to be unable to do things you used to enjoy, like going for walks or riding your bike, out of fear of being attacked again

Dog Bites and Homeowner’s Insurance

Many homeowner’s insurance policies cover dog bites. If the person whose dog bit you does not have homeowner’s insurance that will pay your damages, we can help you explore other options for recovering compensation for your damages.

Liability for Dog Bites to Trespassers

The statute does not make owners liable for dog bites if a trespasser comes on their property. There is only liability to people in public places or people who are lawfully on private property.

What Happens if the Dog’s Owner Claims the Dog Has Never Bitten Anyone Before

Faced with a lawsuit for monetary compensation, a dog owner might try to avoid having to pay for your damages. Some people will deny anything that is adverse to them.

But the statute makes the dog owner liable “regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.”

Liability for Police Dog Bites

If a law enforcement officer uses a police dog within the bounds of the law and the animal bites someone, the bitten person cannot bring a lawsuit under RCW 16.08.040. The statute specifically excludes the lawful application of police dogs from liability.

How We Prove Your Dog Bite Case

We will gather the evidence to build your claim for compensation. Here is how we will establish what happened and what you suffered:

The factual allegations: we can use the police or incident report, animal control services report, your testimony, and other eyewitnesses.

The medical expenses: we will establish the amount of these costs through your medical records and invoices. Your medical records can also link your treatment and injuries to the dog bite, which is essential for proving causation.

Your lost wages: we show how much time you missed from work. If you are self-employed, we will use other available records.

Your non-economic losses: we support your claim for things like pain and suffering by performing calculations and using your testimony and medical records.

Getting Legal Help for a Dog Bite Lawsuit in Washington State

You do not have to puzzle through the legal technicalities to determine whether you have a viable lawsuit if you experienced a dog bite. All you need to do is call Max Meyers Law at 425-399-7000. We will explain your legal options. We do not charge legal fees until you get compensation.

Max Meyers
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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.