You must file a lawsuit for dog bite injuries within three years in Washington State or you will lose your right to recover compensation for your damages. There are different types of dog bite injuries and health issues that can arise from them, but they are all categorized as personal injury, thus it is bound by this three-year statute of limitations and applies to dog bite cases in Washington State.
Tolling of the Statute of Limitations
Under some circumstances, the court will toll or suspend the state of limitations. Most of these situations involve either:
- The plaintiff (injured person) cannot legally file a lawsuit due to lack of capacity, such as being under the age of eighteen, or
- The defendant cannot be the subject of a lawsuit because of military duty, having left the state, or having gone into hiding.
When the Defendant’s Actions Can Toll the Statute of Limitations
If the dog owner is not a resident of Washington State, she might try to prevent you from suing her by staying outside of the state until the three-year deadline expires. This tactic will not work, however, because our laws say that the time limits will not run while a defendant leaves the state, lives elsewhere, or conceals herself. This extension of the statute is known as “tolling.” The same provision applies to Washington State residents who leave the state or hide to keep plaintiffs from serving them with lawsuits.
Example of tolling the statute of limitations. Let’s say that defendant Dave owned a dog that attacked and mauled plaintiff Pam. Fearing a lawsuit with a massive damages award, Dave left the country and stayed out of the public eye. Plaintiff Pam tried unsuccessfully to find him. After three years, Dave returned to Washington, thinking that Pam could no longer sue him for the dog bite. Fortunately for Pam, our state law does not count the time Dave was in hiding toward the three-year statute of limitations. The clock does not start to run until Dave comes out of concealment.
When the Law Considers a Lawsuit Filed for Purposes of the Statute of Limitations
You must either file the complaint with the court or serve the summons on the defendant to satisfy the requirement of commencing a lawsuit. You must accomplish both filing the complaint and service of the summons in compliance with the state law to be timely. This means that:
- If you filed the complaint before you served the summons, you must accomplish service of the summons personally or start service by publication within 90 days of when you filed the complaint.
- If you served the complaint personally or by publication before you filed the complaint, you must file the complaint with the court within 90 days of when you served the summons.
If you miss these deadlines, even if the first action took place before the three-year statute of limitations expired, the law will not consider the lawsuit as commenced in time. If you miss the deadline, you cannot file your lawsuit. Find out more about whether your dog bite case will go to court.
What We Have to Show in a Dog Bite Lawsuit in Washington State
Our dog bite liability statute says 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."
All we have to show is that you were:
- In a public place or lawfully on private property when the dog bit you, and
- That you were not trespassing or bitten due to the lawful use of a police dog.
Once we establish those factors, we then identify the owner and make a claim for your damages.
Dog Owner’s Defense as to the Viciousness of the Dog
As you can see, the statute specifies that the owner is liable for damages regardless of whether the dog had ever been vicious before. The dog owner might deny being aware of the dog’s viciousness in the event that the dog had bitten someone in the past, but the statute also makes that denial irrelevant. There is no “one free bite” rule in our state. Contact our firm at should you have any questions regarding the three-year statute of limitations for dog bite cases in Washington State.
How to Get Help for a Dog Bite Case in Washington State
You do not have to navigate the complexities of a dog bit case alone. At Max Meyers Law, PLLC, we take care of those issues for our clients. Just make sure that you do not delay in coming to talk with us so that you do not miss the deadlines imposed by the statute of limitations which would be three years for dog bite cases in Washington State.
We can meet with you at no cost to you to evaluate your claim for compensation for your dog bite injuries. Call us at 425-399-7000, and we will arrange your free consultation.