Dogs may be man’s best friend, but they are not friend of every person. There are estimated to be 4.5 million dog bites annually in the United States.
Most dogs don’t bite. However the ones that do often cause serious injuries. Many injuries are to the hands, legs, and face. Many victims are vulnerable young children or trusting adults. When dog attacks occur, it is often a vicious surprise. Victims of dog bites usually feel betrayed by a dog they thought they could trust.
Dog bites create scars and permanent disfigurement. They also induce emotional trauma in the victims, some who end up fearing dogs for many years.
Washington law is helpful to the victims of dog bites.
RCW 16.08.040 imposes strict liability on the owners of dogs in the situation were, the dog bites 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 the dog. It matters not whether the attacking dog had a propensity for viciousness or whether the owner had previous knowledge of the dog’s viciousness.
RCW 16.08.010 makes the owner or keeper of any dog liable to the owner of any animal killed or injured by such dog, for the amount of damaged it sustained, and the costs of the collection.
Under previous law, there was a trend toward allowing one free bite, under the rationale that the owner needed to know their dog had a propensity towards viciousness. Under current Washington law, this is no longer true. Strict liability is imposed upon the owner of the dog that bites a person, when that person is in a public place or lawfully on private property.
RCW 16.08.060 provides a complete defense to a dog bite case where the victim provoked the dog attack.
There are many factors to consider when analyzing the value of a dog bite case. Pictures are invaluable; the helplessness of the victim is a plus. The breed of the dog makes a difference. The amount of medical and psychological treatment needed is important and the permanency and location of the scars makes a big difference.
Victims of dog bites agonize over what to do when the dog owner is a friend, neighbor, or family member. They may be concerned about the dog or their relationship if a lawsuit is necessary. These are real concerns. There are ways to work around these concerns.
Get medical care and get detailed and close up photos, figure out who owns the dog and if appropriate get animal control or the police involved. Hire an expert to evaluate and video the dog. Interview the dog’s veterinarian, dog sitter, dog walker, and neighbors. Get the dog owner to pay you for your injuries and inconvenience. Get a lawyer if you need to. Contact Us to talk about what can be done.
Strict liability allows a finding of liabitlity (dog owner must pay) without requiring proof of negligence (fault). It eases the burden of proof. Strict liability makes it easier for the victim of a dog bite to recover for their injuries and medical bills, because of the inherent danger dogs pose to humans.