Dog Bites? Muzzle Your Liability

By Cecelia Welch
Attorney, NLSO NW Whidbey

In the United States, it is estimated that nearly five million people are bitten by dogs each year. Thus, it is important for victims of dog bites to know how they can recover for damages and how dog owners can financially protect themselves when their dog injures a person.

Under Washington law, generally a dog owner is strictly liable for any dog that bites a person while in a public place or lawfully on private property (including the property of the dog owner). It does not matter that there was no history of viciousness on the part of the dog. However, proof that the injured person provoked the attack may be a complete defense.

It is in the best interest of the dog owner to have homeowner or other insurance which includes coverage for a dog behaving badly. Because most dog bites are from the pet of family or friends, having insurance may mean protecting not only the dog owner, but friends and family of the dog owner as well.

If you are a dog owner, when reviewing your insurance policy, make sure there is protection against canine-inflicted injuries and at least $250,000 coverage for personal liability in the event your dog is determined to be dangerous or potentially dangerous under Washington law. For more information, see RCW 16.08.040 and related statutes or


About rlsonw

Navy JAG Corps
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