Animals can attack, often without warning, and dogs are no exception. You may already be cautious around large dogs or around certain dog breeds, like pit bulls. But any dog, regardless of size or breed, is capable of injuring you or your loved ones. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to severe or fatal injuries. Virginia dog bite laws impose a duty on dog owners to take care of their animals and protect others from harm. When dog owners act carelessly, they are accountable for the injuries their animals cause. A court may order a negligent dog owner to pay you compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and emotional suffering, among other expenses.
But recovering compensation through a dog bite lawsuit requires more than simply proving who owned the dog that bit you. Virginia dog bite laws require evidence of culpability. As a result, knowing the applicable laws can give you an advantage if you need to sue a dog owner.
What Is a No-Bite State?
Some states impose strict liability on dog owners for injuries their canine companions cause. In these states, you do not need to show that the dog owner acted negligently. Nor do you need to show that the owner had reason to believe their dog was dangerous.
In fact, in a strict liability state, you can hold a dog owner responsible for damages even if the dog owner acted reasonably and carefully in restraining and containing the dog.
Attorneys often refer to these states as “no-bite” states. This references the fact that, in these states, dog owners are responsible for any harm their dogs cause, even if they take proper precautions.
Virginia Dog Bite Laws Give Every Dog “One Bite”
Virginia, on the other hand, is a “one-bite” state. In a one-bite state, a court will only hold a dog owner liable for injuries the dog causes if the owner already knew the dog might have aggressive tendencies. The victim must be able to prove that the owner was indeed aware of this danger.
Often, successful injury victims meet this requirement by showing the dog in question had previously attacked another person.
So, to succeed with your claim in a one-bite state, your lawyer must show:
The Owner Knew of Aggressive or Vicious Tendencies
First, your lawyer will need to prove that the dog’s owner knew or should have known that their dog was aggressive. Meeting this obligation requires more than showing the dog belonged to a specific breed or was a certain size.
Instead, there must be evidence specific to the dog at issue. The evidence should prove that a reasonable owner would have known their dog was likely to attack humans.
Evidence of a prior bite or attack meets this obligation. But other incidents involving aggressive behavior toward humans, such as snarling, chasing, or growling, could also satisfy this requirement.
There Was Negligent Care and Control
Next, you must establish that the dog’s owner did not properly care for the dog or control the animal as a reasonably careful person would have.
Evidence that the owner did not have an adequate fence or enclosure for the dog can meet this element. Similarly, showing that the dog’s owner did not have the animal on a leash in a public space can help.
The measures the owner should take are related to the size and history of the dog. Reasonably caring for a chihuahua will look different than providing reasonable care and control for a large dog. Virginia’s dog bite laws can make you understand about your case.
You Suffered Injuries and Losses
Last, the available evidence needs to show that because of the dog owner’s negligence, the dog bit or attacked you and caused you harm. You also bear the responsibility of proving the injuries you sustained and the amount of compensation you need to address that harm.
Under Virginia dog bite laws, you can recover damages for losses such as:
- Past and future medical costs, including hospitalizations and medications
- The time you missed from work due to your injuries
- Mental distress and anxiety that the attack causes you
- Damage the dog did to any personal property, like clothing, electronics, or vehicles
If the dog bite or attack led to fear and a decrease in your enjoyment of life or your ability to participate in hobbies, you may be able to recover compensation for these losses as well.
Defenses Available Under Virginia Dog Bite Laws
A negligent dog owner may succeed in escaping liability if there is a defense to your claims. For instance, suppose that you antagonized the dog while it was on its property or in a place lawfully. The dog owner can use that fact to avoid blame for the incident.
Antagonizing the dog could include interacting with it after it is clearly showing signs of agitation or after its owner asks you to stop. Teasing, taunting, or harassing the dog could also count as agitation.
Second, it is also a defense to liability if the dog bit you while you were trespassing on the owner’s property. Consider if a ball goes into a dog owner’s yard while you play a sport.
Despite a clearly posted “Beware of Dog” sign, you jump the fence. The dog then bites you because you are a stranger, and you are on its property. In this case, you would have a difficult time holding the dog owner liable for your injuries.
What a Skilled Dog Bite Lawyer Can Do in Your Case
Virginia is a “one-bite” state. Hence, determining whether you have a claim for damages after a dog bite can be complex.
If you or a loved one suffered a dog bite injury, you need the expertise of a qualified dog bite lawyer. The skilled team at The Joel Bieber Firm can assist you in taking action against a negligent dog owner. We are experienced in gathering the evidence needed to support claims of negligent ownership.
Contact us today to get started toward recovery.