Who is Liable in Your Dog Bite Case?
Knowing your rights and getting help with Phillips Law Firm
In Washington State, the animal owner may be strictly liable for their dog’s actions. Harboring dangerous and aggressive pets, specifically dogs, can land animal owners in trouble. If an owner is aware that their dog has bitten or injured someone or something before and are capable of doing it again they can be considered liable for their dog’s actions.
Dogs lacking an aggressive history fall under the “one-bite rule“. The owner would only be considered liable if the dog attack was due to negligence.
As far as the common law is concerned, dogs are usually regarded as harmless and in order to recover “it must be shown that the defendant knew, or had reason to know, of a dangerous propensity in the one animal in question.” W. Prosser, Handbook of the Law of Torts § 76, at 500 (4th ed. 1971). Accord,Johnston v. Ohls, supra at 404.
Dogs must be on a leash in public and be fenced in the owner’s property securely. When a dangerous dog is not properly restrained animal bite accidents can occur. To prevent dog attacks, Washington dog bite laws now include strict liability of the animal owner. This means if a dog bites any person on either public or private properly, the owner is liable for damages incurred by the victim.
Section 16.08.040:”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.”
What if the attack happened on an apartment complex? Landlords are protected from dog bite liability in Washington State. A landlord can only be held liable for a dog bite if they are the owner or keeper of the animal in question.
The rule in Washington is that the owner, keeper, or harborer of a dangerous or vicious animal is liable; the landlord of the owner, keeper, or harborer is not. Clemmons v. Fidler, 58 Wn. App. 32, 35-36, 791 P.2d 257, review denied, 115 Wn.2d 1019, 802 P.2d 125 (1990); Markwood v. McBroom, 110 Wash. 208, 211-12, 188 P. 521 (1920); Shafer v. Beyers, 26 Wn. App. 442, 446-47, 613 P.2d 554, review denied, 94 Wn.2d 1018 (1980).
If there is a seemingly dangerous dog in your neighborhood it might be a good idea to talk to the pet owner to prevent an attack. While this action may seem silly or aggressive, you cannot assume the owner is aware of the problem. Calmly and respectfully express your concerns or fears; maybe even bring another neighbor to the meeting to confirm community concerns. Your neighbor may have the same concerns as you but have not looked into arrangements of finding a more appropriate home for their pet because they have been ignorant of the situation up until your meeting. Your neighbor’s response might be confrontational but always remember never threaten or intimidate them in return. While your meeting may be uncomfortable, it may put you at ease knowing you have taken appropriate action to protect your neighborhood.
If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, please contact Phillips Law Firm at 1-800-708-6000, we are waiting to assist you 24/7, offering a free case evaluation. Remember our no fee promise. If we do not recover anything for you, you do not owe us an attorney fee