A common law claim against a dog owner may be pursued in addition to a claim brought under Washington’s specific dog bite statute. The two types of claims are not mutually exclusive. Thus, a bite victim can pursue both common law and statutory violations against the dog owner. This only means that there are two theories being alleged to impose liability. It does not give a victim the right to collect any additional damages.
Under Washington common law, a person who keeps or harbors a dog, and who knows or should reasonably know the dog has vicious or dangerous propensities likely to cause the injuries complained of, is strictly liable for the injuries caused by the dog, regardless of negligence committed by either the keeper of the dog or the injured person.
Any injury caused by such an animal subjects the owner to strict liability without the need to prove that the dog owner was negligent. The term “negligent” requires that you prove the dog inflicted injury due to the owner’s failure to exercise reasonable and ordinary care.
Thus, a dog owner may be held liable for a dog bite if it can be proved that the owner merely had some prior knowledge of the dog’s dangerous tendencies. It is not necessary to prove that the owner acted unreasonably or that the owner was careless – only that the owner knew that his or her dog was potentially dangerous to people. The courts have also stated that it is irrelevant how the dog became unusually dangerous, i.e., whether the injury happens intentionally or inadvertently, or whether it is due to the dog’s heredity.
Attorney Chris Davis is the author of, “When the Dog Bites: The Essential Guide to Dog Bite Claims in Washington.” If you are looking for information on the dog bite law or just want to learn more about dog bite prevention, this book is for you.