Dog Bite Laws in Washington State

As anyone in Washington or Oregon would know, the Pacific Northwest is a haven for dogs. For the most part, you’ll see them happily running about with their owner or playing with other dogs.

In rare cases, though, dogs can get aggressive and unfortunately injure people. If that happens, you’ll want to know who’s liable, especially as laws can vary from state to state.

Washington’s Dog Bite Laws

The first thing to know is that Washington’s dog bite statute, RCW 16.08.040, imposes heavily against the dog owner. This accounts for the following circumstances:

  • when the dog bite happens both in a public place as well as a private setting, so long as the person is there legally (such as the owner’s property)
  • regardless of whether the dog has bitten someone before (known as “The One Bite Rule”)
  • whether the owner was aware of previous instances of aggression or viciousness  

Are there exceptions to Washington’s dog bite law?

Dogs bite primarily for two reasons: protecting property and when they’re being provoked.

Starting with protecting property, this is why I mentioned “being on private property legally”. If someone is trespassing, or on private property without consent (implied or expressed), then the property owner may not be held liable if the dog attacks.

Further, if someone was proved to be provoking the dog—abusing, teasing, taunting, etc—then it may be used for the owner’s defense (this is unfortunately why a large percentage of dog attacks happen to children, who provoke dogs often unwittingly).

What to do if you’re bitten by a dog

Situations with dog bites need to be treated similarly as if it was an auto accident. The most important thing is to identify/determine who the dog owner is (assuming they are on site), and then get names of all witnesses. Of course, you need to get immediate medical attention as well.

Like other personal injury claims, Washington does have a statute of limitations for filing a dog bite lawsuit. In the state of Washington, you must file the lawsuit within three years of the date of the dog bite.

Contact an attorney in Vancouver, WA

Though dog bite laws lean heavily on the victim, you still need to obtain an experienced attorney to file the personal injury claim.

Matthew Philbrook is one of the most experienced personal injury attorneys in Vancouver, WA, and has specific expertise within dog bite attacks. Should you find yourself victim to one, call our law firm for a consultation.

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