In the U.S., millions of dog bite incidents occur annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many of which need medical treatment. Aside from physical injuries, some victims experience mental trauma or emotional distress because of a canine attack. If you continue to suffer because a dog bit you, know that you have the legal right to seek damages from those liable.
Whether you decide to pursue a claim through the insurance company or a lawsuit, you can work with a Virginia dog bite lawyer from Pintas & Mullins Law Firm. Call us at (800) 816-0755 for a free initial consultation with a team member today.
Virginia Has No Specific Statute on Dog Bites
States have different laws regarding dog bite accidents; however, Virginia does not have a specific statute for such incidents. Instead, it follows the common law principle of the “one-bite rule” in determining who should be held responsible for resulting injuries.
The rationale behind said legal standard is that an owner has no reason to believe their dog may be dangerous or attack someone unless it happened previously. So, if a canine had never bitten or displayed aggressive behavior before, its owner might not be liable.
However, the one bite clause can be misleading. Simply because the owner is unaware of their dog’s propensity to harm others does not mean the first biting incident is forgivable. Also, it does not deny an owner’s liability for any injuries suffered.
The injury victim has to show that the dog’s owner knows of the potential hazards. In one-bite rule cases, the burden of proof is often more challenging than in strict liability states. Since proving the pet owner’s knowledge of danger can be fact-specific, you could seek assistance from a Virginia dog bite lawyer to help you. They may consider aggressive behaviors, previous complaints about the canine, and warning sign placements as an admission of the dog’s inherent dangerousness.
Proving Liability Based on Negligence
When it comes to establishing an individual’s liability under the one-bite rule, negligence is the commonly used legal theory. A person is liable if they acted negligently or carelessly, and that action resulted in harming others. If an animal owner knows that their dog can hurt people, a reasonable person will prevent it through restraints or controls. For instance, they must put a leash on the canine before walking them in a public area.
It is also negligence if the dog owner does not follow the law. In places where it is mandatory to put canines on a leash, failure to do so makes them liable for attack-related injuries. Virginia has a law on dangerous dogs, Virginia Code § 3.2-6540, that owners should understand, lest they face penalties for violations.
To recover damages from a dog bite, you must show first why a party should be held liable. Negligence claims must have four essential elements—duty of care, breach, causation, and damages. Duty of care pertains to how a reasonably prudent person will act. For instance, in Virginia, some places encourage putting dogs on a leash or keep them in enclosed areas to prevent possible attacks. If the dog owner does otherwise, it is a breach of their duty to other people.
When an unrestricted canine bites you, you can say the attack caused your injuries. This pertains to the causation element. Moreover, you must prove you suffered damages from the dog bite incident, including medical expenses, lost wages, mental trauma, and pain and suffering.
Complicated legal matters such as those mentioned merit the need for a professional. A Virginia dog bite lawyer from Pintas & Mullins Law Firm will help you establish clear-cut liability to ensure that you receive fair compensation for your experience. Call today for a free consultation.
You Might Have Also Been at Fault
Those who are found liable for a dog bite incident must share the financial responsibility of compensating you for injuries. However, they may also raise the issue of comparative negligence.
Virginia is among the few states that follow the principles of contributory negligence. This rule prohibits victims from recovering any damages if they are partly at fault for the accident. Perhaps, you teased the dog by repeatedly hitting it with a stick, provoking it into biting you. The same applies if you ignored the posted warning sign and entered the property, causing the canine to attack suddenly. In both scenarios, your conduct is negligent.
Many dog owners will use contributory negligence as a defense against legal claims. If proven, you cannot receive compensation for expenses incurred and lost wages. A Virginia dog bite lawyer can help you establish that there was no negligence on your part.
Time Limits Set for Bite-Related Injury Lawsuits
For personal injury cases such as dog bite accidents, states set time limits known as a statute of limitations. This deadline establishes how long individuals can bring a legal action for a specific circumstance. Virginia Code § 8.01-243 states that victims have two years from the accident date to pursue civil damages for personal injury. If you seek compensation for damaged property, you have five years to do so.
Injury victims only have two years to file an injury lawsuit; once the deadline expires, your chances of recovery are almost nil to none. The court may dismiss your case even without a hearing. While few rare exceptions allow delaying or pausing the statute of limitations, it is better to consult a legal professional to know where you stand strategy-wise.
How a Lawyer Can Help You
A Virginia dog bite lawyer from Pintas & Mullins Law Firm can provide legal counsel to build a strong case on your behalf. Should your case go to trial, we can defend your rights. To get started, call (800) 816-0755 or complete a free case evaluation online.