Why Dogs Bite
While they are almost universally considered our best friends, dogs are still animals and can bite. Whether to defend their territory, because they are scared or have been startled, they feel threatened, they are protecting something valuable to them, their prey drive is triggered by someone running by, or for no apparent reason at all, dogs will sometimes attack. According to WebMD, dogs bite about 4.7 million Americans each year, with half of them being children between the ages of 5 and 9,
Washington Imposes Strict Liability for Dog Bites
In Washington, the dog owner is strictly liable for the harm caused by an attack. This means that the victim of a dog attack does not need to prove the dog’s owner was somehow negligent in connection with the attack, or that the dog has a history of attacks.
The owner of any dog that bites any person who is in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for the damages suffered by the bitten person, even without any showing the dog was known to be vicious by the dog’s owner. RCW 16.08.040.
Provocation is a Defense
In Washington, a dog owner can escape liability by proving the dog was provoked to bite. RCW 16.08.060.
Common Dog Bite Injuries
Dog bites can cause serious injury and permanent scarring and disfigurement, especially to the face. Nerves, tendons, and tissues may be damaged, which can affect your mobility. In addition to physical injury, extreme anxiety and damage to self-esteem from scars and disfigurement may result. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about half of Americans bitten by dogs are children. Children, especially smaller ones, are more susceptible to emotional and psychological trauma, which can manifest itself in crying, sleep disturbances and nightmares, and withdrawal.