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How Long After a Dog Bite Can You Sue the Owner?

Posted on January 31st, 2023

After a vicious dog attack, the last thing on your mind is filing a lawsuit. You’re preoccupied with seeking medical care, processing the trauma of the incident, and healing from any complications or secondary infections. Plus, the person who owned the animal may be a friend, neighbor, or even a family member—making it difficult to pursue litigation.

However, dog bites can result in a host of physical, financial, and emotional damages—and you deserve justice. You only have a limited amount of time to pursue a Washington dog bite lawsuit, and if you do not file in time, the court will dismiss your case. 

Liability for Dog Bites in Washington State

Washington has a strict liability statute when it comes to dog bites. Under this law, a dog owner is always liable if his or her animal bites another person. The dog does not need to have an aggressive history or previous bites on its record, and the owner does not need to have committed negligence. 

A dog bite victim almost always has the right to pursue a lawsuit and recover financial compensation. The only exceptions are if the victim was trespassing or committing a crime at the time of the attack, or if the victim provoked the animal to attack.

Washington’s Statute of Limitations for Dog Bite Lawsuits

Dog being walked by owner

The statute of limitations is a law that establishes a filing deadline for certain types of legal claims. If you do not file your lawsuit by the appropriate deadline, the court will most likely dismiss your case unless you qualify for a rare exception. 

In Washington, dog bite lawsuits are a type of personal injury claim. Therefore, the state’s statute of limitations for personal injury will apply to your case. Under this law, you must file your dog bite claim within three years from the date of the attack.

What to Do If You Are Injured in a Dog Attack

The moments after a dog attack can be scary. However, the steps that you take after the incident could impact your ability to recover compensation. To protect yourself and your future claim, take the following steps immediately after the accident:

  • Get to a safe place as far away from the dog as possible.
  • If you can, perform basic first aid on your bite by washing the area with soap and water, and applying a bandage.
  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible at a hospital.
  • Report the attack to animal control authorities. If you need emergency help, call 911.
  • Collect the owner’s name and contact information if you do not know it already.
  • Document evidence at the scene by speaking to witnesses and taking photographs and videos.
  • Contact a dog bite attorney who can represent your case.

Bitten by a Dog in Washington? Contact a Lawyer

The clock on dog bite lawsuits starts ticking on the day of your attack. Three years may seem like a long time, but it can pass very quickly. To protect your right to financial recovery, it is important to speak with a Washington dog bite lawyer as soon as possible.

A dog bite attorney can represent your case in court and help you recover the settlement that you deserve. After receiving medical care for your injuries, contact a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your dog bite case and plan your next steps.