There are an estimated 4.7 million dog bites each year in the United States, according to the American Humane Association. Many of these attacks involve a dog that is familiar to the victim. Many occur on or near the victim’s own property.

A dog bite can result in painful and costly physical injuries, as well as the psychological ramifications of the attack. You may have options for financial recourse if a dog attacked you or your child. Below, you will find answers to some of the most pertinent questions regarding dog bite law in Washington.

What should I do after a dog bites my child or me?

Dog bites carry a high risk of infection and scarring. Immediate medical care is necessary to reduce the chances of serious health complications. You should report the bite to the proper authorities once your or your child’s medical needs have been tended to.

Report the dog bite to Everett Animal Control by calling 425-257-6000. You also may report the bite to the Snohomish County Health Department if the dog broke the skin. The Health Department can be reached at 425-339-5278.

Who is liable for a dog bite or attack in Washington?

The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 16.08.040 establishes a code of strict liability in the event of a dog bite. The statute asserts “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.”

There are exceptions to an owner’s liability. For instance, RCW 16.08.060 establishes provocation as an affirmative defense in a dog bite action. An owner may avoid liability if she or he can prove you provoked a dog leading up to the attack.

Other exceptions include in cases in which the dog bite victim trespassed or otherwise committed a criminal act at the time of the attack. The dog’s owner, however, must be able to prove his or her property was outfitted with suitable fencing or enclosures. The owner also must prove there were clearly visible signs warning children and adults of the dog’s presence.

What evidence do I need to present in a dog bite claim?

Evidence of the attack and injuries will be crucial in establishing negligence, liability and damages. Evidence may include:

  • reports filed with Everett Animal Control;
  • witness statements;
  • photos of the injuries;
  • hospital bills;
  • evidence of previous attacks (for example, a declaration of a potentially dangerous dog);

A lawyer may be able to help you collect and preserve evidence necessary to bolster your claim.

What will happen to the dog that bit my child or me?

Animal control officers may confiscate and quarantine the dog involved in your attack if it was previously declared dangerous or caused severe injury or death. The dog may remain under a period of observation. The dog may be euthanized in a humane manner depending on the details and outcome of the case.

I want to know more about my rights. What is my next step?

You have the right to contact a dog bite attorney to discuss your options for financial recovery after an attack. Take advantage of the free case consultations provided by the attorneys at Deno Millikan Law Firm. There is no obligation associated with the evaluation, and we will always respect your right to privacy. Call 425-259-2222 or complete our contact form.