Washington State Dog Bite Laws: Know Your Rights

Washington state dog bite laws


The trauma and pain of a dog bite is no small matter. Data from the CDC reveals that, in just one year, 368,245 people were treated for dog bite-related injuries in emergency rooms across the US. In addition to physical suffering, dog bite victims often experience emotional trauma and ripple effects from the injury in their daily lives.

If a dog bite has hurt you, read on to learn about dog bite laws in Washington State and how they can work in your favor.

Washington State Dog Bite Laws

Unlike other personal injury cases in which the injured individual must prove negligence, dog bite laws in Washington State follow strict liability. In other words, the owner of the dog is strictly liable for injuries the dog inflicts. The Revised Code of Washington, Section 16.08.040 states,

“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…”

Washington State dog bite laws also specify that the dog owner is responsible for damages regardless of the dog’s prior behavior. This means the dog owner cannot use ignorance of the dog’s viciousness as a defense.

Fortunately for the person bitten, Washington does not follow a one-bite rule.

In states that enforce a one-bite rule, the owner is only responsible for the bite if the dog had bitten someone before or showed signs of aggression in the past. Proving that the owner “should have known” about their dog’s aggressiveness can be difficult.

The strict liability aspect of Washington State dog bite laws is beneficial to those who have been bitten, opening up a compensation path.

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

In order to gain compensation, you must bring a claim against the owner of the dog that bit you. You do not have unlimited time to determine when to sue for personal injury. The statute of limitations for most personal injury cases is laid out in the Revised Code of Washington. RCW, Section 4.16.080 describes a list of actions that fall under the three-year statute of limitations umbrella. Taking legal action after suffering personal injury falls under this section. In other words, you have three years from the date the dog bite takes place to file a claim.

It’s better to bring a claim against the owner sooner rather than later. While the accident details are still fresh in your mind, your personal injury attorney can help you build a strong case.

How Can I Claim Compensation After a Dog Bite in Washington State?

A dog bite happens in an instant. But the pain and suffering after the ordeal are long-lasting. You have the right to seek compensation for the trauma you endured and related expenses.

Compensation for medical expenses is one aspect of a dog bite claim. Studies reveal that dog bite-related hospital stays cost an estimated 50% more than average injury-related hospital stays. Whether you had to visit the emergency room, stay at a hospital, or seek treatment for an infected dog bite, medical bills place you under a financial burden.

For many victims of dog bites, emotional trauma is another consequence of the event. The Revised Code of Washington, Section 4.56.250 classifies this type of suffering under the term non-economic damages, which are:

“subjective, nonmonetary losses, including, but not limited to pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, disability or disfigurement incurred by the injured party, emotional distress, loss of society and companionship, loss of consortium…”.

In order to claim compensation, the individual who suffered the dog bite must prove two important points:

First, that they were in the location lawfully when the dog bite occurred. If the bite occurred in a public place, proving this point is straightforward. If the bite occurred on private property, the victim must prove they were lawfully on the property (welcomed by the owner, invited in a professional capacity, etc.).

Second, the victim must not have agitated the dog prior to the bite. As RCW 16.08.060 states, “proof of provocation of the attack by the injured person shall be a complete defense to an action for damages.”

A skilled personal injury attorney will examine your situation and compile evidence to demonstrate these points. The attorney will also build the case displaying the damages—both economic and non-economic—that you have suffered.

What are my Legal Options after Suffering a Dog Bite

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or unsure about the next steps to take, Will & Will Law Firm is here to help. With over 35 years of combined legal experience, we know what it takes to get you the compensation you deserve.

Our knowledge of Washington law, dedication to each individual we represent and track record of success have grown us into the award-winning firm we are today. We will examine your unique dog bite case and walk you through the legal options you have. Schedule a free consultation today to learn how we can help you.

How can we help?

  • We only handle cases in Washington State. What City/County is your case located in?