Is An Owner Liable For Injuries Caused By Their Dog?
Washington law is clear that a dog owner is liable if their dog bites or injures another person. This is known as strict liability meaning that the injured victim does not need to show that the owner acted in a negligent way, or that the owner knew or should have known that their dog was likely to attack someone. As long as the injured victim was lawfully on private property or in a public place, the owner will be held responsible.
Washington's strict liable laws for dog bites or injuries are much more favorable than other states. Many states follow what is known as the "one-bite rule" in which provides that a dog owner will only be liable for injuries caused by their pet if the dog had previously shown aggression or bit someone.
While strict liability is the general rule in Washington there are some exceptions. If the injured victim was either trespassing at the time the bite or injury occurred, or if the injured victim provoked the animal enticing the attack. Under these circumstances, the injured party may be found liable or partially liable for their own injuries, possibly preventing any recovery. Additionally, an attack by a police dog may be exempt from liability under Washington law if the attack occurred in course of the dog's police duties.
In addition to the owner of the dog, if a third person had control of the dog at the time of the attack, the controller may also be found liable or partially liable for the victim's injuries. Under these circumstances, the victim may recover from either or both the owner and controller of the dog for their injuries.