According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 4.5 million people are victims of dog bites each year. Of these individuals, approximately 800,000 require medical attention. More than half of victims of dog bites are children. Many instances require extensive surgeries with permanent disability and/or disfigurement. Serious financial consequences can also include loss of employment or loss of the capacity (ability) to work.
Dog bites can involve any size or breed of dog. Even if the bite does not seem serious, many animal bites can become infected or transfer dangerous viruses requiring medical treatment or hospitalization.
Washington Dog Bite Law
When a dog owner fails to control their dog and it attacks someone, the owner can be held liable. In Washington, a dog bite victim can recover compensation through a settlement or by filing a personal injury lawsuit. A dog owner can be held responsible through the common law (case law), strict liability, or through property law (dangerous premises) in very narrow cases.
Strict Liability May Apply
A dog owner is liable for any injuries caused by their dog when in a public place, even if the dog never acted aggressive in the past. Under RCW 16.08.040, “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.”
Strict liability means that proving negligence (failure to use reasonable care) is not required – instead a victim only needs to show that the harm or injury was proximately caused by the defendant’s conduct, and the type of harm is covered by a category where strict liability will apply. This law applies when the injured person did not provoke the attack.
Case Example: Vicious Dog Bite
Our client suffered a severe hand injury when she visited a Kitsap County property where she boarded her horse. A dog on the property, which had previously been deemed “dangerous” by the City of Edmonds after seriously injuring a small child, attacked her and split her palm open, causing permanent nerve damage. No warning signs or fences were posted to keep the dog from having contact with her. Our client’s injuries resulted in permanent damage and she was no longer able to work with or enjoy having horses as she could before this loss.
Attorney Colleen Mriglot handled the discovery and settlement negotiations in this case and fought hard against defense tactics designed to minimize the client’s extent of injury.
Contact Sherrard McGonagle Tizzano & Lind’s Bainbridge Island Office to schedule your free case evaluation. We proudly represent injury victims throughout Washington State.