Who Is at Fault for a Dog Bite?

Categories: Dog Bite

Who Is at Fault for a Dog Bite?

If someone else’s dog bit you, you’re not alone. Dogs of all sizes and breeds bite more than 4.5 million people in the United States yearly. And as many as 800,000 of those people need medical attention. Unfortunately, a dog bite can leave innocent victims with critical injuries and psychological trauma that lasts years. 

Luckily, Washington State has stringent laws that hold dog owners responsible for the damages their dogs cause when they bite people. And while a dog bite settlement won’t restore a victim’s physical health, it can go a long way to restoring a victim’s economic health and peace of mind. If you or a loved one are a dog bite injury victim, keep reading to learn about Washington State dog bites laws and whom to hold responsible.

Who Is Responsible for a Dog Bite in Washington?

Determining who is at fault for a dog bite in Washington is straightforward. Under Washington law, the owner of any dog that bites a person who is in a public place or lawfully on private property is liable for any damages the injured person suffers. Unless the victim was trespassing on the dog owner’s property, participating in a criminal act, or openly provoking the dog when the dog bit them, they would likely recover monetary damages for a dog bite claim from the dog’s owner.

When Is Someone Liable for a Dog Bite in Washington?

Unlike in other personal injury cases where an injured party must prove negligence to prevail, Washington’s dog bite laws follow strict liability.

Strict liability means the dog’s owner is liable for injuries the dog inflicts even if the owner was not negligent. So for example, if a house sitter took another person’s dog for a walk and that dog bit a person while walking down a sidewalk, the dog’s owner is liable for that person’s damages.

It doesn’t matter if the house sitter couldn’t control the dog or if the dog’s owner never permitted the house sitter to walk the dog. Regardless of the circumstances, the owner is still liable. With few exceptions, the dog owner is responsible whenever their dog bites someone, whether on public or private property, as long as the dog bite victim is not trespassing.

No “One Bite” Rule in Washington

Many states bar bite victims from filing a dog bite claim unless the offending dog previously bit another person or showed past aggression. This idea is known as the “one bite” rule.

In these instances, a victim cannot hold the owner responsible for damages unless the dog has a history of bad behavior. However, since Washington State does not follow the one bite rule, in most cases, dog bite victims are entitled to compensation regardless of the animal’s history.

Is There Dog Bite Shared Fault in Washington?

Since Washington is a strict liability state, a dog bite victim’s own negligence generally does not affect their claim. However, to win compensation, the dog bite victim must prove two things.

First, a victim must prove they were in the location lawfully when the dog bite occurred.

Second, under Washington law, the victim must show that they did not agitate the dog before the bite. Proof that the victim was trespassing or provoked the attack is a complete defense to an action for damages.

How Long Do I Have to File a Claim Against a Dog Owner?

In Washington, a victim must file a claim against the dog owner within the time provided by the state’s statute of limitations. Washington’s statute of limitations for most personal injury cases, including dog bites, is three years.

In other words, a dog bite victim has three years from the date the dog bite takes place to file a claim. Though Washington gives a victim three years to bring a claim, it’s better to file your complaint against the owner while the accident details remain fresh.

What Kind of Compensation Is Available After a Dog Bite in Washington?

Now that we know a dog owner will be held strictly liable for a victim’s damages, the next question is how much those damages are worth.

While there isn’t a set award amount for dog bite victims, insurance company payouts for dog injury claims in the United States average about $50,000. But each case is different, and each settlement will vary on several factors.

These factors include but are not limited to the injury’s severity, the length of follow-up care, recovery time, and the emotional and psychological pain suffered.

While each case has a different set of facts, all dog bite claims may include economic and non-economic damages. Economic compensation for a dog bite injury revolves around losses that are easy to calculate and measure. These include:

  • Current and future medical expenses, including emergency room treatment and hospitalizations;
  • Vaccines needed to prevent animal-related diseases like rabies;
  • Prescription medicines to prevent infection or address pain;
  • Surgery expenses, including cosmetic surgery to address scarring or repair damage;
  • Current and future lost wages;
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation;
  • Property damage;  and
  • Other out-of-pocket expenses.

Non-economic damages can include pain and suffering, psychological and emotional trauma, and loss of enjoyment of life. These damages are often harder to quantify because they are less concrete. But they are every bit as real.

Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner Can Help with Your Dog Bite Claim

The dog bite attorneys at Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner understand the physical and psychological trauma a dog bite causes its victims. Our attorneys have the skill and experience required to navigate Washington’s dog bite laws and will put that knowledge to work to fight for you.

With over 40 years of experience, our compassionate attorneys can help you through every step of the claims process. We will work with medical and economic experts to calculate your losses, build a strong case, negotiate with insurance companies, and even file a lawsuit to recoup your losses if that’s what it takes to prevail in your dog bite claim. 

If you’ve been injured by a dog bite, working with a knowledgeable attorney and skilled litigator can help assure you receive the dog bite compensation you’re entitled to. We offer free consultations, and you never pay unless we win. Call 1-206-488-1611 to get started down the path toward the settlement you deserve.

Author Photo

Matt Conner

Matt Conner has a proven track record of success. Following his graduation from Willamette University with a double major in mathematics and economics, Matt worked as an economist for the Office of Economic Analysis for the State of Oregon before moving onto working in mortgage banking and real estate.