Overview of King County, WA Dog Bite Laws
The state of Washington favors dog bite victims when it comes to claims and litigation. Owners are held strictly liable for dog bites under the law. As well, any person who keeps, harbors, or exhibits negligence with a dog can bear liability for any injuries caused by the animal. Landlords are generally protected from liability for injuries caused by canines. However, there is an exception if the landlord is the harborer or keeper of the dog.
If a dog has recently bitten or given an indication that it is inclined to bite someone, or if the dog has previously injured a person in another way, then the owner, keeper, or harborer may be liable for any injury the dog inflicts in the future. This aspect of the law regarding advance knowledge is referred to as “scienter.” It is applicable to dogs and all other domestic animals.
Liability in Dog Bite Claims
The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Section 16.08.040 covers the state’s dog bite law.
“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 legal representation offered by experienced Seattle dog bite lawyers can help you secure the compensation you are owed based on the Washington State dog bite law.
Strict Liability for Dog Bites in Washington State
This law establishes the principle of strict liability for dog owners. Under this concept, the owner of the dog is responsible for a bite it inflicts upon another person. There are very few exceptions to this rule. As the victim of the dog bite in Washington, you are not required to prove the dog is vicious.
You are also not required to prove the dog has demonstrated prior violent inclinations, or that the dog was outside the fence or off the leash when the incident occurred. As long as you, the victim, were not engaging in a criminal act, blatantly provoking the dog, or trespassing on the dog owner’s property, you are in a favorable position to recover compensation from the dog’s owner.
A dog’s owner is not the only potentially liable party for injuries caused by a dog. Other parties who may also bear responsibility under the Washington dog bite statute include:
The Harborer or Keeper of the Dog
The keeper or harborer is an individual who has permanent or temporary responsibility for the dog, but is not the dog’s owner. Examples may include a dog sitter, dog walker, veterinarian, kennel owner and their employees, dog trainer, dog groomer, or any other person having responsibility for the dog’s behavior when the injury was inflicted.
Scienter is a legal term for an individual with knowledge of danger or wrongdoing or the potential such actions before they happen. As it applies to dog bite injuries, a scienter would be an individual who had previously witnessed or had knowledge of a dog’s potential to act aggressively, but did nothing to stop it.
The law pertains to all domestic animals, not exclusively dogs. It can apply to wild animals if they are under legal ownership. It pertains to incidents that occur on private property or in public places, but only if the victim has a legal right to be in those locations. If the victim does not have that right, they take on contributory negligence, which means they have assumed risk associated with the situation. An injured party can carry contributory negligence if they do not exercise the level of care that a reasonable individual would exercise in the same circumstances. In this instance, however, an animal’s owner carries the burden of proof.
Our Seattle Dog Bite Lawyers Can Help
The experienced Seattle dog bite lawyers at our firm understand the various aspects of liability in these situations and how to help you obtain the recovery you need from the liable party. Contact us today for help with your case.