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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.


About 4.5 Million Dog Bites Occur in the U.S. Annually

Out of the 4.5 million dog bites annually, around 800,000 of those bites required medical care. 

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U.S. Insurance Companies Paid over $530 Million in Dog Bite Claims in 2014

It is likely that the cost of insurance claims has only increased as the number of bites and cost of hospital care continue to rise. 

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90% of Children Injured by Dogs Knew the Dog

The dogs belonged to the victims’ neighbors in 15% of the cases, to a friend in 13%, and a relative in 10%.

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What is The Statute of Limitations?

There is a time limit to bring legal action for personal injury claims in Washington State. In most cases, the personal injury statute of limitations in Washington is three years from the date of the injury. However, the statute of limitations may differ depending on the specific facts and type of the case.

If an injured victim fails to either settle their case or file a lawsuit against the correct defendant before the statute of limitations lapses, they will be barred from receiving compensation for their injuries. This is why it is important to consult with an experienced dog bite injury lawyer as soon as possible to ensure you do not miss any important deadlines that will affect your case or prevent you from recovering.

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What Damages Are Available?

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Economic Damages

Economic damages compensate the injured victim for actual monetary loss. Examples include:

  • Medical Expenses (including cost of medical treatment and/or equipment)
  • Prescriptions
  • Lost Wages/Lost Opportunity
  • Domestic Service Expenses
  • Funeral & Burial Expenses
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Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are subjective, non-monetary losses. Examples include:

  • Pain & Suffering
  • Inconvenience
  • Emotional Distress
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life
  • Loss of Society & Companionship
  • Loss of Consortium
  • Pre-Death Terror & Fright
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Other Damages

Other types of damages injured victims may be entitled to include:

  • Replacement Cost of Clothing or Other Personal Property Damaged During the Attack
  • Transportation Expenses