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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. Explore your potential right to file a lawsuit with the help of a Richmond personal injury attorney. A dog bite injury claim against the pet owner could give you the financial compensation you need during this hard time.

Virginia’s “One Bite” Rule

In Virginia, a dog must meet the definition of a “dangerous dog” before an owner can be held liable for negligence of their canine. Their dog must have attacked and caused injury to another person or animal. If the owner doesn’t know if their animal has a history of prior attacks, they cannot be liable for the animal’s actions.

The exception to this rule is if the owner violated animal control ordinances, such as requirements to keep the dog on a leash. That being said, Virginia’s contributory negligence law prevents any injured party from receiving compensation if they are at all at fault for the animal’s attack.

Negligence and Negligence Per Se

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.

1. The pet owner owed a duty of care.

All dog owners in Virginia owe a duty to reasonably prevent bites and attacks.

2. 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.

3. The pet owner’s negligence caused the bite.

The owner’s breach of duty must have contributed to the dog biting the victim.

4. The victim suffered specific damages.

Specific damages include medical bills, lost wages, and legal fees related to the injuries sustained in the animal attack.

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.

Get Help With a Dog Bite Claim

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.

An attorney can help you fight back against defenses and prove the pet owner’s negligence, making you eligible for financial recovery.