A dog is undoubtedly one of the most loved animals in many American homes. While dogs can be friendly pets, they are also dangerous when they attack someone. Recent data from the American Veterinary Medical Association shows that over 4.5 million people visit hospitals for dog bites annually in the USA. The Virginia law requires dog owners to use reasonable care to restrain and control their dogs. They have this duty whether or not they are aware their dog is dangerous.
If you or a family member were injured due to a dog bite, it is crucial that you understand your rights to compensation as provided by Virginia law. An experienced personal injury lawyer can review your case and help you file a claim. But, we’ll cover what your rights are after a dog bite attack and everything you need to know.
How “One Bite Law” Affects Your Right to Compensation in Virginia
In many US states, a dog owner is liable for compensating a dog bite victim even when it was the first time the dog attacked someone. However, Virginia law takes a different path. Under the state’s one-bite rule, a dog owner is only held liable for injuries caused by their dog if the owner knew or should have known the dog might act aggressively against a person or pet. This means to be entitled to compensation, the victim of the dog bite must prove that the pet owner knew or should have known that their dog was dangerous.
Some of the ways to prove this include:
- Proof that the dog had bitten someone in the past. This proves the dog owner knew their dog was dangerous.
- Provide evidence that the dog had behaved aggressively in the past, such as jumping on people, racing them, and knocking them down.
Can I receive compensation for a dog bite even if the owner had no prior knowledge?
It is possible to recover compensation for your dog-inflicted injuries even when it is the first time the dog has attacked someone. To do this, you must convince the court the dog owner acted “negligently” or “negligently per se” regarding how they cared for their pet. Let’s look at the two terms in detail.
Negligence in Virginia Dog Bite Claims
Virginia laws permit suits based upon the negligence of a dog owner or keeper. Under this rule, a victim can take the dog owner to court in pursuit of financial recovery after a dog bite, even if the dog has never attacked or injured anyone before. However, for the owner to be held liable when they had no prior knowledge, you must prove their negligence. Negligence refers to the failure to exercise reasonable care based on underlying circumstances. A dog owner’s negligence can be any breach of duty of care that lead to the attack.
The following are some of the ways to prove negligence:
- The owner had a duty to use reasonable care to retrain the dog
- The owner failed to meet the responsibility to restrain their dog
- The owner’s failure to meet the responsibility caused your injuries
Negligence “per se” in Virginia Dog Bite Claims
In some cases, you can also argue that the owner’s behavior constitutes negligence “per se.” In dog bite cases this issue typically is dependent on whether your locality had a leash ordinance (a requirement to have your dog leashed at all times when it is outside) in effect at the time of the dog bite. For example, if you were walking in a public park and a dog attacked you because the owner did not have him on a leash, this may constitute negligence “per se.”
The negligence “per se” rule states a person will automatically be responsible for an accident if they broke the law without being further proof of negligence. Breaking Virginia’s dangerous restrictions could be grounds for a negligence claim against the pet owner. A personal injury attorney from Renfro & Renfro, PLLC can argue that the owner violated city ordinances requiring all dogs to be on leashes in public places.
What are recoverable damages in a dog bite?
If you or a loved one suffers injuries from a dog attack, you might be eligible for the following compensatory damages:
- Medical bills: Medical bills are the primary costs of a dog bite injury. The treatment cost for a dog-inflicted injury can be enormous. Your recoverable medical bills damages can include expenses such as emergency medical service fees, ambulance service fees, physician’s fees, medication, and more. You can also recover future medical costs, including home modifications and physical therapy.
- Lost wages or income: A dog bite injury will likely prevent you from working for a while. In such a scenario, you might be eligible for compensation for lost wages for your entire recovery period.
- Lost earning potential: A dog bite can result in disabling injuries that may prevent you from returning to work. If that is the case, you can recover reimbursement for your lost earning capacity.
- Physical pain and suffering: Dog bites can be debilitating and painful. Medical procedures to restore the body’s functionality, including surgeries and physical therapy, can also be painful. You can recover compensation for physical pain due to your injuries.
Our Expert Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help
A dog bite can lead to debilitating injuries and substantial medical bills. Even if it is a dog’s first bite attack, you still deserve compensation and have rights to sue the dog’s owner for negligence or negligence per se. The personal injury lawyers at Renfro & Renfro, PLLC are ready to fight for your rights. We will prove the dog owner acted negligently and seek maximum compensation for your damages. Call us today at (804) 601-4433 or contact us online for a free consultation. Let our team guide you through your claim and help you receive your deserved compensation.