Virginia Dog Bite Law

In Virginia, dog owners have various responsibilities imposed by state and local laws. These laws help protect the public and other animals from potential injuries inflicted by an aggressive or vicious dog. Virginia law also imposes liability on owners whose negligence leads to a dog bite or attack.

If you’ve suffered an injury due to a dog bite or attack, you deserve to seek compensation for your medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering. Reach out to D. Michael Mullori, Jr., Attorney at Law today for a free initial case review. Mike Mullori will explain more about Virginia’s dog bite laws and how they could affect your rights to compensation for your injuries and losses.

What Is Considered a Dangerous Dog Under Virginia Law?

Under Virginia law, law enforcement and local animal control officers can petition the court to declare a dog a “dangerous dog.” In a court hearing, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a dog either:

  • Killed or inflicted severe injury on a companion dog or cat, including a severe impairment of health or bodily function requiring significant medical attention or causing serious disfigurement, or
  • Directly caused severe injury to a person, including laceration, broken bones, or a puncture wound.

The law prohibits a court from deeming a dog dangerous based on various circumstances, including:

  • The dog’s specific breed
  • A person suffered injury from the dog while committing a crime or intentional trespass on the dog’s owner’s property while simultaneously provoking, tormenting, or physically abusing the dog or having repeatedly provoked, tormented, or abused the dog
  • A police dog inflicted injury in the performance of its duties
  • The dog inflicted injury while responding to pain or injury or while attempting to protect itself, its offspring, a person, or its owner’s property
  • The dog killed or inflicted severe injury on a dog or cat while engaged in lawful hunting or a lawful dog handling event

What Are the Virginia Leash Laws?

Virginia has no state law requiring owners to keep their dogs on a leash while off the owner’s property. However, Virginia allows counties, cities, and towns to adopt leash ordinances. Prince William County has an ordinance prohibiting owners from allowing their dogs to run “at large,” except when hunting. A dog runs “at large” off the owner’s premises while not under the owner’s or custodian’s control by leash, cord, or chain.

A violation of Prince William County’s leash ordinance carries a fine of $100 per dog. The leash ordinance does not apply when a dog participates in a formal obedience training class, a dog show, during formal field trials, while engaged in lawful hunting, or while in a dog park that permits dogs to run at large.

What Is the ‘One-Bite’ Rule for Dog Bite Cases?

In Virginia, dog bite cases usually follow a legal rule called the “one-bite” rule. Under the one-bite rule, a dog owner may have liability for injuries inflicted by their dog if they knew or should have known of their dog’s aggressive or vicious tendencies. Evidence of a dog’s aggressive disposition may come from a prior bite or attack the dog inflicted on another person or animal, giving the “one-bite” rule its name.

Do Counties and Cities in Virginia Have Their Own Dog Laws?

State law allows counties, cities, and towns in Virginia to adopt dog laws in addition to state animal control statutes. For example, Chapter 4 of Prince William County’s Code of Ordinances establishes various laws governing the ownership and handling of dogs.

How Can Dog Owners Be Held Liable for a Dog Attack?

A dog owner may have liability for a dog attack if the owner knew or should have known that their dog had an aggressive or vicious temperament. They might have such knowledge because their dog had previously attacked other animals or people. However, if a dog has no history of biting or attacking other humans or animals, or the owner does not know of prior bites or attacks on others, a dog bite victim could still hold the owner liable by proving that the bite or attack occurred through the owner’s negligence.

For example, a dog owner may negligently control their dog by failing to maintain a fence or enclosure on their property, allowing the dog to escape and run at large. An owner may also have liability for failing to follow local leash laws or other state laws or local ordinances governing the handling of dogs.

Can I Sue Someone if Their Dog Attacks My Dog?

You may have a legal claim if another person’s dog attacks and injures or kills your dog. The law considers dogs the owner’s property, so you may have a property damage claim against the owner of the dog who injured or killed your dog. You may have the right to recover compensation for medical expenses to treat your dog’s injuries or reimbursement if your dog dies from injuries they suffered in the attack.

What If Someone’s Dog Bites Someone on My Property?

Virginia law usually holds a dog’s owner liable for injuries — such as from a bite — inflicted by their dog. If someone else’s dog bites someone on your property, the injured victim will likely turn to the dog’s owner to file a compensation claim. However, you may have liability for the dog bite injury if you allowed the dog to enter your property, knowing that the dog had an aggressive or vicious temperament or had a history of biting or attacking other animals or people. You may also have liability if the dog’s owner placed the dog into your custody. That includes when you agree to dog-sit someone else’s dog.

What Should I Do If a Dog Bit Me?

If you’ve suffered injuries from a dog bite or attack, you can take steps to preserve your rights to recover compensation. Things you need to do after a dog injures you include the following:

  • Notify the dog’s owner if you can locate them.
  • Report the attack to law enforcement or local animal control.
  • Seek immediate medical attention to treat your injuries and prevent secondary complications from the dog bite.
  • Follow your healthcare provider’s treatment plan and instructions.
  • Request copies of your medical records for the treatment of your injuries.
  • Keep bills, invoices, and receipts for expenses you incur to recover from your injuries. Gather your pay records if you take time off or temporarily transfer to a lower-paying part-time or light-duty role.

Finally, contact a Prince Williams County dog bite injury lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your legal options for recovering compensation from the dog’s owner or other liable parties.

What Compensation Is Available for a Dog Bite Injury in Virginia?

When you suffer a dog bite due to the dog’s owner’s negligence, you could recover compensation for the losses you incur due to your injuries. Compensation available in a dog bite injury case in Virginia may include money for your:

  • Medical and rehabilitation expenses
  • Costs of long-term care and support you may need for permanent disability or disfigurement
  • Ongoing and future losses of wages or income if you cannot work or earn as much as you did before your injury
  • Pain and suffering
  • Reduced quality of life due to physical disability or visible scarring or disfigurement

Do I Have a Deadline to File a Dog Bite Injury Lawsuit in Virginia?

Under Virginia’s statute of limitations, you usually have two years after suffering a dog bite injury to file a lawsuit against the dog’s owner or other liable parties. If you file your lawsuit after the limitations period expires on your dog bite claim, the court could dismiss your case. You should speak with a dog bite attorney in Prince William County as soon as possible to ensure you don’t miss out on your right to file a dog bite injury lawsuit.

How a Prince William County Dog Bite Lawyer Can Help You

If you’re suffering an injury after someone else’s dog bites or attacks you, a dog bite lawyer in Prince William County can help you in a variety of ways. An attorney can advise you of your rights to recover compensation. Your lawyer can also relieve the anxiety and stress you may feel from pursuing a dog bite injury claim against a family member, friend, or neighbor. Most importantly, a lawyer can handle all the details of preparing and pursuing your claims for compensation while you focus on healing.

Let a Prince William County dog bite attorney help you by:

  • Recovering evidence to build a compelling legal case, including photos, surveillance footage, witness statements, and police and animal control records
  • Identifying all potentially liable parties and available insurance coverages
  • Documenting your injuries and losses to establish fair compensation in your case
  • Preparing and filing insurance claims or demand letters on your behalf to begin seeking financial recovery for your expenses
  • Negotiating with the insurance companies to pursue a settlement
  • Filing a dog bite injury lawsuit and taking your case to trial if necessary to demand full financial recovery and justice for you

Contact a Prince William County Dog Bite Attorney Today

After getting bitten or suffering injuries from a dog attack, contact Mike Mullori. He will work to secure the financial recovery and accountability you deserve from a negligent dog owner. Reach out today for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your legal options for pursuing a dog bite compensation claim.

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