Dog Bite Liability

Strict Liability

Dog BiteDog owners are generally strictly liable when their dog bites someone. Under Washington law

“[t]he 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.”

RCW 16.08.040. That means that a dog owner is almost always liable for his pet’s attacks on law abiding people. If the dog attack causes damages, the dog owner is responsible for compensating the victim.

Dog Bite Damages

Dog attack damages include pain and suffering, emotional and psychological trauma, treatment bills, and property damage. Bite wounds affect different people different ways. For some victims, a dog attack is merely painful. For others, the bite inflicts emotional trauma, too. Treatment frequently causes people to miss work, and interferes with family and personal time. The attacking dog’s owner can be responsible for all bite related damages.

Invitee, Licensee or Trespasser

Liability for damages turns on the victim’s status as an invitee or licensee or trespasser.

An “invitee” is someone who comes onto another’s property, premises or business establishment upon invitation. An open business impliedly invites people in to look around and shop. Customers are, therefore, invitees. Dog owners are generally liable to invitees for dog bites.

A “licensee” is a person who enters land with permission of the owner, but without the purpose of conveying some economic benefit to the property owner. You are a licensee when you visit a friend’s home, for instance. Dog owners are generally liable to licensees for dog bites.

The statute doesn’t apply, however, in trespass cases. Trespass involves knowingly entering or remaining on another person’s property without permission. Dog owners are generally not responsible for attacks on trespassers.

The law also does not apply to law enforcement animals. Police abuse with a K9 is illegal, and those victims have legal rights under other statutes.

What to Do After a Dog Bite

If a dog bit you, you should seek prompt medical attention at an emergency room, or other treatment provider. You should also report the incident to your local humane society. The Humane Society can verify immunizations and rabies inoculations with the dog’s owner. Keep an eye on the wound site. Increased pain, swelling, or redness can indicate an infection. Do not hesitate to return to the doctor’s office if you have any concerns about pain or infection.

Schedule an appointment with a lawyer at your earliest convenience. You have rights. You must, however, act quickly to protect those rights. Call our experienced dog bite attorneys today for a free consultation, 253-683-4180. We take dog bite cases on a contingent fee basis, which means we don’t get paid until you do, so call today.

Injury Attorney

January 2015