According to the latest statistics from the Insurance Information Institute (III), nationwide 17,802 people were victims of dog bites in 2019, up 18.1% from the year before. Those claims resulted in $796.8 million in insurance payouts for an average of $44,760 per incident.
QuoteWizard analyzed 2019 American Veterinary Medical Association, Insurance Information Institute, and State Farm dog bite claim data to compare state claims, the cost per claim, and overall liability payouts. In 2019, Washington recorded 425 dog bite claims averaging $37,681 per incident for a total statewide liability of $16.01 million.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a dog bite incident in Seattle or anywhere in Western Washington, contact me at The Law Office of Dan N. Fiorito III. Don’t haggle with the insurance companies by yourself. Let me carry out the negotiations and, if necessary, take matters to court to achieve the best possible compensation for your injury.
Washington statutes hold dog owners strictly liable for their pet’s biting behavior. A person bitten by a dog is covered under the state’s personal injury laws, with a three-year statute of limitations, but negligence by the dog’s owner need not be proven. The owner is strictly liable for dog bites.
Note that this strict liability applies only to bites. Other behavior by the dog resulting in injuries, such as knocking someone over, is still covered under the state’s negligence statute. So, if you’re injured by anything other than a bite, you must prove negligence on the dog owner’s part.
Under the Revised Code of Washington Section 16.08.040, dog owners are liable for dog bite injuries "in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place including the property of the owner."
Generally, homeowners’ insurance policies contain liability protection of $100,000 to $300,000, which will cover dog bites even if they occur off the insured premises. However, some insurance companies limit payments to $90,000 per incident and $30,000 per person. Above that, the policyholder must pay the difference. Additionally, after the first incident, the insurance rate could skyrocket, or the policy canceled altogether.
Renters’ insurance will also often cover dog bites, but liability protection is typically lower.
A dog owner really only has two defenses, given the wording of the Washington statute. If the person bitten is trespassing on the owner’s private property, that would violate the requirement to be “lawfully in or on a private place including the property of the owner” to file a claim.
The other defense kicks in when the bitten person provokes the attack. The dog bite statute states, "Proof of provocation of the attack by the injured person shall be a complete defense to an action for damages."
There isn’t a statewide pet licensing or leash law that governs Washington except for a legal mandate against “loose dogs.” Licensing and leash laws are instituted and enforced by individual cities and municipalities.
In Seattle, except for cats and pigeons, all animals are required to be on a leash. Animals also may not run loose anywhere in Seattle except in designated “off-leash” sites. A fine of $54 can be assessed for each leash violation.
Washington law recognizes and places restrictions on both “potentially dangerous dogs” and “dangerous dogs.”
Potentially dangerous dogs mean those that have bitten a person or a domestic animal without being provoked or have approached or chased a person in a menacing manner. Dangerous dogs are those that inflict severe injury or have killed a domestic animal outside of the owner’s property. Potentially dangerous dogs that bite again can also be re-categorized as a dangerous dog.
Severe injury means “any physical injury that results in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations requiring multiple sutures or cosmetic surgery.”
By law, dogs deemed dangerous must be securely confined indoors, or kept in a securely enclosed and locked pen or structure, “suitable to prevent the entry of young children and designed to prevent the animal from escaping.” Sometimes a muzzle may also be required for walking the dog in public.
If these conditions are not met and the dog is not validly registered or covered by liability insurance, the local animal control authority can confiscate the dog. Confiscation can also occur if there is a repeat offense.
Also, once a dog is designated as potentially dangerous or dangerous, strict liability extends to any injurious action by the dog. That is, should a dog knock you over and cause you to be injured, you no longer have to prove negligence on the owner’s part.
At The Law Office of Dan N. Fiorito III, I serve clients in Seattle and throughout Western Washington, including the Puget Sound Area, Bellevue, Tacoma, and Everett. I will hear your story and strive for the best possible outcome. I will handle the insurance companies and help seek fair compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.