Police use dogs to help capture criminals and attack if need be. But what happens if the police dog bites you? Can you file a claim? Find out here.

If a police dog attacks me, can I pursue an injury case?

 

A:

Many police departments have trained dogs working with officers in the field. Police dogs can be trained to sniff out drugs and explosives and to track people and locate evidence. They are also used to protect their handlers and, in some cases, to apprehend criminals. These dogs are trained to defend and attack and when they do, they can do some serious damage.

Considering the potential pain and suffering a police dog can cause, you may think that Washington dog bite laws would include police dog attacks; however, you’d be wrong.

Canine Immunity—Police Dogs Are Mostly Above the Law

Washington has strict dog bite laws that protect victims in situations where a canine causes severe damage. However, these laws don’t always apply to police dogs. Since police dogs are specially trained to detain possible suspects with force, they can’t be blamed for doing their job. As such, Washington law states that any trained dog handler who uses a police dog in the line of duty is immune from civil action for damages caused by the canine’s actions.

In other words, police dogs and their handlers are not liable for bite injuries as long as the attack was reasonably justified by law enforcement standards. However, there are times when this immunity can be called into question.

Exceptions to the Rule

There are limits under the law as to what a police dog is permitted to do. Violations include:

  • Attacking of innocent bystanders. Police dogs should only be used to apprehend or detain criminal suspects or individuals thought to have contributed to a crime. When a police dog attacks an innocent bystander, immunity may be lifted and a claim may be pursued.
  • Using excessive force. Just as police officers are accountable for using excessive force on suspects, so are their dogs. If a suspect is cooperating and does not have a weapon, the handler should not allow the police dog to attack.
  • Prolonging the attack. If the suspect has already been subdued or handcuffed, the dog should not continue his hold or be commanded to attack further. If he does, and the handler makes no effort to stop him, the suspect may have a case of excessive force.

When the Law Bites…Bite Back

If you were the victim of a police dog attack and feel that your injuries were unjustified, contact our Bellevue office today. Common dog bite injury claims can be difficult, but protected police dog bites are nearly impossible to prove without an experienced lawyer. Call today at (425) 289-1990 and see how we can help you secure your injury claim.