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Who’s Liable For a Dog Bite in Washington State?

By Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. on November 11, 2016

In March of 2016, the tragic news of an elderly woman who was attacked and killed by her neighbor’s dogs shocked Seattle-area residents and brought into focus the state’s dog bite laws. Fortunately, Washington State has some of the most favorable laws when it comes to the victims of dog bites.

The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 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, 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.”

The statute clearly places the liability for dog bites on the owner(s) of the dog. There are also provisions in Washington law for expanded liability to other parties, including, depending on the situation, the harborer of the dog, the property owner where the dog is kept, and anyone who had prior knowledge that the dog may provide a threat.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a dog attack, the first step is to immediately seek out medical treatment. You will also want to promptly contact the proper authorities. The following information comes from Seattle Animal Control:

If you or your pet have been victims of aggressive behavior displayed by another animal, call us immediately at (206) 386-7387. Reports of dangerous or menacing animals will be investigated by our officers. Statements from the victim, owner and any witnesses will be taken. Proof of rabies vaccination may be required. The animal may be quarantined and/or impounded. Citations and/or criminal charges may result.

The determination of legal liability can be quite complicated when it comes to dog attacks, and can depend on where the attack occurred among other factors. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a dog attack, you deserve to be fairly compensated. That can include any of the following:

  • Current and future medical bills related to the injury (Ex: emergency room fees and skin grafts)
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disfigurement
  • Permanent injury or disability
  • Emotional trauma and mental anguish
  • Lost wages

In the worst cases, you may be entitled to wrongful death damages if you have lost a loved one from a dog attack.

If you or a loved one have been the victim of a Seattle dog attack, it is critical that you have someone on your side who understands what your rights are and can advocate on your behalf.

The legal team at Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. has decades of experience representing injury victims. Call us today at (888) 228-3860 to schedule a free consultation.

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