Although many consider their dogs part of their family, even the most well-behaved dog can viciously lash out without warning or provocation. If you’ve suffered injuries from a bite inflicted by someone else’s dog, you deserve compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Contact D. Michael Mullori, Jr., Attorney at Law to discuss your legal options with a Prince William County dog bite lawyer. Since 1999, Mike Mullori has fought to protect the rights and interests of injured victims throughout Virginia. He strives to help his clients through the complicated recovery process from injuries’ physical and emotional effects. He works directly with his clients throughout their cases, keeping his caseload small to devote the time and resources each client needs.
Reach out to Mike today for a free, no-obligation case review to help with your dog bite claim.
What Is Virginia’s Dog Bite Law?
Virginia does not have a statute that governs liability for dog bite injuries. Instead, the state’s dog bite law comes from court cases. In Virginia, dog bite claims usually follow the legal rule known as the “one-bite” rule. Under the one-bite rule, a dog owner will have liability for injuries inflicted by their animal if the owner knew or should have known of the dog’s aggressive or vicious tendencies. In many cases, evidence of the dog owner’s knowledge of their dog’s vicious disposition comes from a prior bite or attack inflicted by the dog on another person or animal.
In addition, Virginia’s dog bite law allows injured victims to hold dog owners liable for injuries if a dog attack or bite occurred due to the owner’s negligence, even if the owner did not know of their dog’s aggressiveness. Proving negligence by a dog owner requires showing that the owner failed to use reasonable care to restrain their dog. Examples of negligent behavior may include failing to maintain a fence or enclosure on the owner’s property, which allowed the dog to escape.
An injured victim may also bring a claim of negligence “per se,” which holds a dog owner negligent for failing to comply with relevant law. For example, if a dog owner takes their dog out in public without a leash even though the county, city, or town has a leash ordinance, a dog bite injury victim may argue that the owner’s violation of the leash ordinance caused the injury.
Is the Dog Owner Responsible for Injuries from a Dog Attack in Virginia?
In most cases, a dog owner will bear liability for injuries their dog inflicts on another person in a bite that occurs in public or while the person is lawfully on private property. However, depending on the circumstances of a dog bite case, other parties may have some responsibility for a dog attack. For example, a dog walker or sitter who fails to use reasonable care to restrain a dog may bear liability if the dog then bites or attacks someone.
What If the Person Bitten Is Partly Responsible?
A dog owner or other responsible party may have a complete defense to a dog bite claim by arguing that the injured victim also bears some fault for the dog bite or attack. Virginia follows the legal rule known as pure contributory negligence.
Under this rule, an injured party may not pursue a legal claim if they bear any share of fault for their injuries. A dog owner or other liable party must bear 100 percent responsibility for a dog bite or attack for an injured victim to have a valid legal claim. Therefore, if a bitten person provoked the dog into biting or attacking, including by chasing, taunting, poking, or pulling, the injured victim may lose their right to recover compensation for their injuries.
Given the harsh consequences of Virginia’s pure contributory negligence rule, you should work with an experienced Prince William County dog bite lawyer if the dog owner tries to claim that you provoked the dog into attacking you.
What Are Common Injuries in Dog Bite Cases?
A dog can inflict many injuries with a bite or attack. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, young children face some of the highest risks of severe injuries and death from a dog bite or attack. This is because dogs can reach the vulnerable head and neck area of a child who may lack the strength to fight off the dog. A dog bite injury can also lead to various secondary health complications.
Common injuries and health conditions caused by dog bites include:
- Degloving injuries
- Puncture wounds
- Ligament, tendon, or muscle tears
- Broken bones, especially in the hands or feet
- Severed blood vessels and excessive bleeding
- Nerve damage
- Facial injuries
- Infections from viruses and bacteria in the dog’s mouth
- Traumatic amputation or loss of body parts due to damage or infection/necrosis
What to Do if You Are Attacked by a Dog
If someone else’s dog bites or attacks you, you can take the following steps to protect your legal rights to file a dog bite claim and put yourself in a favorable position to recover compensation:
- Notify the dog’s owner if you can locate them.
- Take photos of the area if you can, including necessary details such as a broken fence the dog escaped from.
- Seek immediate medical attention to begin treating your injuries and prevent secondary complications like infections.
- Follow your healthcare provider’s treatment instructions.
- Request copies of your medical records.
- Keep any bills, invoices, or receipts of your expenses from your injuries.
- Gather your pay records to calculate any lost wages you’ve incurred.
- Consider starting a diary or journal to document your recovery and the effects of the attack or injuries on your quality of life.
Finally, contact a dog bite attorney in Prince William County to discuss the next steps you can take to pursue money for your injuries and losses.
How Long Do I Have to File a Dog Bite Claim in Virginia?
Under Virginia’s statute of limitations for injury claims, you usually have two years to file a dog bite lawsuit. Filing a suit after the limitations period expires on your dog bite claim may lead to losing your rights to recover compensation if the trial court dismisses your case as untimely filed. You should contact a Prince William County dog bite attorney as soon as possible to ensure your case gets filed on time.