Dog bite injuries can be both frightening and painful, often resulting in severe injuries including scarring, disfigurement, and even death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately 4.7 million dog bites every year with 800,000 people requiring medical attention. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reports the average cost of a dog bite-related hospital stay at more than $18,000.
A victim of a dog bite may be able to sue a dog owner, caretaker of the dog, or someone who “harbors” the dog. At Abeyta Nelson Injury Law, we use our considerable experience to protect the rights of our clients who have suffered injuries caused by dog bites.
Statutory Liability Under Washington State – Dog Owners
Washington does not have a “one free bite” law. Rather, Washington is a “strict liability” state when it comes to dog bites. Under Washington’s dog bite statute, RCW 16.08.040, a dog owner will be strictly liable for dog bite injuries if the injured person is in a public place or lawfully in a private place and the injured person did not provoke the dog. Under Washington law, a person will be usually found to be a dog’s owner if that person possessed, controlled, and cared for the dog.
Common Law Liability – Non-Owners – Dog Harborer
Under Washington law, any one who harbors or keeps a dog can be held liable for injuries caused by the dog. To be considered a “harborer” a person must do more than allow the dog to resort on their property. The harborer must treat the dog as living at their home and undertake to control its actions. Evidence of feeding and providing shelter for the dog would be facts helpful to establish harboring.
Violations of Local Laws and Ordinances
Under Washington law, cities and counties may create local rules with respect to dog bite liability in order to protect public safety. For example, Yakima City Code § 6.18.020 makes it “unlawful to keep, harbor, own or in any way possess a pit bull dog within the city of Yakima”. The violation of the city code may constitute evidence of negligence and make the pit bull owner liable for any injury caused by the dog.
Examples of dog bite cases may include a variety of scenarios, including: a young girl visits her grandmother and while playing outside is attacked by a neighbor’s dog; a man is at the park with his own dog and is attacked by an unleashed dog in the same park; a dog owner fails to control and warn of a dangerous dog and the dog attacks a mail carrier while delivering the mail.
If you or someone you love has been bitten or attacked, you should take immediate action to protect your rights and claims. It is important to identify the dog and the dog owner as soon as possible. You should also notify animal control and the police and have them do a report. Take pictures of the injury and contact any witnesses who may have seen the attack. Any evidence you can collect immediately will be helpful in pursuing your case. Most dog owners who own their own home will have homeowners insurance that will provide compensation to pay for medical bills, wage loss and pain and suffering.
The lawyers at Abeyta Nelson Injury Law successfully handle dog bite cases against both owners and harborers of dogs and dangerous pit bulls, achieving justice for our clients and recovering just compensation for their injuries. Remember, there is no charge to discuss your case with us and never an attorney’s fee unless we win your case.