The warm weather of springtime brings the ability to enjoy the fresh air. Kids are playing out on the street as the sun beams down through the clouds and old Fido finally has the opportunity for a walk around the neighborhood or park. But what happens if Fido is not trained as well as expected? What happens if Fido gets off his leash and charges towards the children playing down the block? What happens if Fido intentionally (or even accidentally) bites a neighbor?
Washington has one of the strictest dog bite laws in the nation. RCW 16.08.040 provides that – unless the dog is substantially provoked, or the injured person is trespassing on your property – the dog’s owner is strictly liable for any bite no matter the circumstances. This standard is different than most cases in Washington, which typically require that the potentially at-fault party be proven – at a minimum – negligent. If negligence were the standard in Washington, the injured party would have to prove that the owner acted or failed to act in a reasonable fashion to prevent the dog bite. That is not the requirement in Washington.
Strict liability means that the dog’s owner is automatically at fault if the conditions of the statute are met. If a burglar breaks into your home and your Fido takes a nip, you may not be liable. Similarly, if the local kids run up and kick your pet, which returns the favor with a bite to the ankle, you might not be held responsible. However, in most other situations, if your dog bites another individual, you will be responsible for their damages.
Fortunately, most homeowner’s insurance policies will cover dog bites even if the bite happened outside your home. Some insurance policies will not cover certain breeds of dogs or may charge extra for certain breeds of dogs, so contacting your carrier to make sure you are fully covered is the first step towards protecting yourself.
Owning a dog is a major responsibility, and even the most loving and cuddly of dogs will occasionally bite out of excitement or fear. Using proper leashes and safety equipment will help ensure your pet stays within your reach. Similarly, taking extra precautions and training your companion will help minimize the risk of future bites. There is no guarantee, however. So, dog owners must always be vigilant because even a small bite can lead to major injury – especially to children.
If your dog bit someone, contact your insurance company right away. If you were bitten by a dog, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at the law offices of Magnuson Lowell, P.S. Our team of qualified professionals understands the law and will help support you after a dog bite. Call today for a free case evaluation.