Washington State Dog Bite Law

Washington state law imposes strict liability on the owner of a dog for personal injuries suffered by another person. The relevant dog bite statute, RCW 16.08.040, states as follows:

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.

A dog's owner may be held liable for injuries if an attack occurs in a public place or a lawfully private place, (including the dog owner’s own private property) so long as the victim was legally allowed to be there and was not trespassing or loitering at the time. There are exceptions to this, and it's important to know how state law can affect your rights if a person suffered personal injuries at:

  • A business, veterinarian's office, etc. You have the right to feel safe when you are in public, whether that's at a local business or a veterinarian's office. If a dog bites you at a place of business, you may recover damages.
  • A public park. Seattle and Washington state have a variety of on-and-off leash dog parks. Owners are responsible for any injury caused by their dogs in these spaces.
  • On the sidewalk. If a dog bites you or a loved one on the sidewalk, you should hold the owner responsible for injuries caused. Owners must take precautions to prevent this from happening.
  • Someone else's home. A dog's owner is liable for injuries their dog causes in their own home.

Dog owners are legally responsible for physical, emotional, and economic damage caused by their dog attacking another person. The law applies regardless of whether the dog has a history of vicious behavior, which is an important distinction.

Common Serious Injuries from Dog Bites

Some of the common injuries that may result from a dog bite include:

  • Puncture wounds. Some wounds require stitches and result in significant scarring. Others can be less serious, but may lead to infection in extreme cases.
  • Infection. If a dog bite wound does not receive immediate and proper medical treatment, serious infections may set in. 
  • Psychological issues. Dog bite victims may be left with serious psychological issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, after an attack.
  • Nerve damage. A dog’s bite can pierce the skin and do significant damage to the nervous system. Some injuries may be permanent.
  • Scarring. Bad dog bite wounds can leave victims with life-long scars that act as a reminder of the attack.
  • Facial injuries. Any dog bite attack victim can suffer injuries to the face, but children are particularly at risk. 
  • Wrongful Death. Dog bite attacks can result in death. Holding the owner of the dog responsible for a loved one’s death is key.  

Featured Dog Bite Lawsuits in the News

Seattle dog bite lawyerAward-winning personal injury attorney Chris Davis has handled some of the most notable dog bite & animal attack cases in Washington State history. 

As one of Washington state's most recognized dog bite lawyers with more than 25 years of experience, Mr. Davis is often featured by local or national news media covering dog bite issues or some of his individual cases.

You may have him on local stations such as KING5KOMO4KIRO7 and Q13Fox. Here are just a few cases you may have seen in the news. Click here to see video of TV interviews.  

Free Legal Consultation With A Dog Bite Attorney

If you or a loved one has suffered serious injuries after being attacked by a dog, Washington state law permits you to file a claim for financial compensation against the dog owner.

You may just want more information about dog bite legal claims and common insurance issues. If that's the case, attorney Chris Davis offers his free book, When the Dog Bites: The Essential Guide to Dog Bite Claims in Washington.

The team of Seattle dog bite lawyers at Davis Law Group will review your dog bite injury claim absolutely free of charge. We will also help you better understand whether you would benefit from hiring a lawyer. Call our office in Seattle at (206) 727-4000 or use the confidential contact form on this page to have your case personally reviewed by our attorneys.

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Christopher M. Davis is principal attorney and founder of Davis Law Group, P.S. in Seattle, WA.