Seattle Injury Attorney | Dog Bite Injury

Nearly 4.5 millions Americans suffer dog bites each year, half of them children. About 885,000 dog bite injury cases are enough to require medical attention. in 2012, more than 27,000 people in the US underwent reconstructive  surgery as the result of a dog bite. [1]

Liability for injury caused by a dog may rest on either strict liability or negligence, or both. Our Seattle Injury Attorney can help.

Strict Liability.

In Washington a dog owner is strictly liable for injuries resulting from dog bite that occurs “on a public place” or when the injury victim was “lawfully in or on a private place”. [2]

In order to prevail on a theory of strict liability the injury victim does not need to prove that the keeper of the dog knew or reasonably should know the dog had vicious or dangerous propensities likely to cause the injury complained of. This is contrary to previous Washington law and the law regarding dog bite injury in many jurisdictions. [3]

For injury caused by other animals strict liability may still apply if the owner or keeper of the animal knew or reasonably should know the animal had vicious or dangerous propensities likely to cause the injury. If so, the owner or keeper is liable for injury regardless of negligence.

Strict liability applies only to one who owns or keeps the dangerous animal. A landlord is not strictly liability for injury caused by a tenant’s dangerous animal.[4]


The owner is also be liable if he is negligent in failing to prevent the harm. The amount of care required is commensurate with the character of the animal.

A negligence cause of action arises when there is ineffective control of an animal in a situation where it would reasonably be expected that injury could occur. The amount of control required is that which would be exercised by a reasonable person based upon the total situation at the time, including the past behavior of the animal and the injuries that could have been reasonably foreseen.[5]

The two theories of liability are not mutually exclusive. Both theories may apply.[6]

This is a short summary of Washington law regarding liability for dog bite injury. It is not a substitute for legal advice. Contact our Seattle Injury Attorney for more information.

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[1] See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at .

[2] RCW 16.08.040.

[3] Arnold v. Laird, 94 Wn.2d 867, 621 P.2d 138 (1980).

[4] Frobig v. Gordon, 124 Wn.2d 732, 881 P.2d 226 (1994).

[5] Id., citing Johnston v. Ohls, 76 Wn.2d 398, 457 P.2d 194 (1969) and adopting The Restatement (Second) of Torts.

[6] Id.



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