Dogs play an important role in keeping people company and defending their properties. Unfortunately, sometimes even the calmest dog can end up attacking and biting someone. So what happens if you hang “Beware of the Dog” signs on your property and someone ends up getting bitten by your dog? Is it their responsibility or yours? Our attorneys explain who is liable for a dog bite in this situation.
Is a Dog Owner Still Liable for a Dog Bite Even After Posting Beware of the Dog Signs?
The state of Washington has a dog bite statute that is very favorable to victims and makes dog owners fully responsible for the actions of their dogs. This is called a strict liability rule. If someone is lawfully on your property and your dog ends up biting them, the dog owner may likely be responsible for any damages suffered by the victim.
The fact that the dog owner posted “beware of the dog” signs around their property may not necessarily release them from being held liable for a dog bite. If anything, the victim may claim that the owner knew the dog was aggressive and did not take action to restrain the dog or prevent the attack. Consulting an attorney is recommended if you are dealing with a dog bite accusation.
Is There a One-Bite Rule in Washington?
The one-bite rule states that a dog is not considered dangerous unless it has bitten someone in the past or shown signs of aggression. In addition to proving the dog has bitten before, victims may also need to show the dog owner was negligent.
Because Washington is a strict liability state when it comes to dog bites, the victim only needs to demonstrate they were in public property or lawfully in a private property. Dog owners may be held responsible regardless of whether the dog has bitten anyone before or not.
What Are Possible Defenses a Dog Owner May Have Against a Dog Bite Accusation?
One of the most common defenses against a dog bite accusation is when the owner can successfully demonstrate the dog bite victim was unlawfully on their property. Someone who was trespassing onto private property or otherwise present without the owner’s consent may not have the grounds to sue for a dog bite. Another possible defense is to show that the victim was provoking the dog by taunting the animal or showing threatening behavior against the owner of the dog.
If you are a dog owner whose dog was accused of biting someone, you need a strong legal team on your side. At Church & Page PLLC, our attorneys can help you by conducting a thorough investigation of what happened and developing a defense strategy to strengthen your side of the story. Contact us for a consultation at (509) 638-1414.