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Virginia Dog Bite Law

It is extremely important to know your rights after a dog bite incident in Virginia. Otherwise, you may let a negligent pet owner off the hook for causing your injuries. Do not pay for your medical bills and lost wages yourself until you explore your potential right to file a lawsuit.

With the help of a Richmond personal injury attorney, we can help you recover financially from your attack. A dog bite injury claim against the pet owner could give you the financial compensation you need during this hard time.

Virginia’s Dog Bite Laws

The Code of Virginia §3.2-6540 details the rules on how the state investigates dangerous dogs, but much of the laws surrounding dog bite cases in Virginia are based on prior case law rather than a specific statute. Virginia follows a one-bite standard, in which a dog can have one attack without getting put down. However, an aggressive dog may exhibit attack behaviors that could count as a bite in advance.

Even if it is a dog’s first attack, you still deserve to be compensated and have a right to sue the owner of the dog for negligence. It is up to the state to determine whether the dog is too dangerous to be allowed to live.

Proving Negligence in a Dog Bite Case

If a victim wishes to take a pet owner to court in pursuit of financial recovery after a serious dog bite, he or she typically must base the case on the legal theory of negligence. Negligence is the failure to exercise a reasonable degree of care based on the circumstances.

A pet owner’s negligence could be any breach of duty of care that contributes to the attack. The owner could be liable for a bite if he or she knew or should have known the dog could be violent, yet failed to prevent harm. It takes four main elements to prove negligence for a dog bite:

  • The pet owner owed a duty of care. All dog owners in Virginia owe a duty to reasonably prevent bites and attacks.
  • The pet owner breached a duty of care. A pet owner could breach a duty of care by letting the dog run at large, ignoring leash laws or otherwise failing to control a dog.
  • The pet owner’s negligence caused the bite. The owner’s breach of duty must have contributed to the dog biting the victim.
  • The victim suffered specific damages. Specific damages include medical bills, lost wages, and legal fees.

If these four things can be proven, you have a case and can seek compensation for your injuries, including economic and non-economic damages. Dog bites frequently cause trauma in victims that could last for the rest of their lives.

What Is a Dangerous Dog Under Virginia Law?

A violent or aggressive dog may receive the status of dangerous in Virginia. Code of Virginia §3.2-6540 defines a dangerous dog as one that has previously bitten, injured or attacked a person or companion animal.

Someone with a dangerous dog in Virginia must take special precautions to prevent another attack. They include obtaining a dangerous dog certificate, using a special dog tag, confining the dog on the owner’s property, using a leash, and muzzling the dog.

Ignoring any of these rules, resulting in a dog attack, could be negligence per se on the owner’s part. Negligence per se is a person’s implied liability for an accident because he or she broke a law.

Negligence per se states a person will be automatically responsible for an accident if he or she broke a law, without needing further proof of negligence. Breaking Virginia’s dangerous dog restrictions could be grounds for a negligence per se claim against the pet owner.

Owners Must Control Their Animals

According to the law, the owner of an animal has a duty to know the behavior of that animal, if the animal might be inclined to cause injury and take reasonable measures to protect other people from danger.

This includes when the owner is not around at the time. A dog left to roam free around a yard could get out and attack someone. In this case, the owner would be liable because they should have known their dog’s desire to explore the neighborhood or defend the property.

Get Help with a Dog Bite Claim from an Attorney Today

Dog owners can use several defenses to combat liability for a dog bite incident. The owner may allege that you were trespassing on private property at the time of the attack or that you provoked the dog. If the dog was an official military or police animal at the time of the attack, you may not have grounds for a lawsuit.

Otherwise, if a dog bites you, contact an attorney to improve your odds of securing compensation from the pet owner. The attorneys at Pendleton Law Team can help you fight back against defenses and prove the pet owner’s negligence, making you eligible for financial recovery. Contact us for a free consultation.