Dog Bite Accident Attorneys
In Virginia, victims of a dog bite or attack have the option to file a personal injury claim against the dog’s owner to recover the cost of medical treatment, pain and trauma, and other losses. In many cases, these costs are borne not by the dog’s owner but by their homeowners’ or renters’ insurance. This is great news for victims who know the dog’s owner and might otherwise be reluctant to pursue compensation from a friend or family member.
If you’ve been bitten by a dog in the Virginia Beach area, let the skilled legal team at Invictus Law help you pursue the money you need to move on with your life. Contact our firm today for a free case review from our dog bite accident attorneys in Virginia Beach.
Dog Bite Facts
Although many people consider dogs to be man’s best friend, dog bite attacks are more common than many people think. Consider these facts:
- Every year in this country, roughly 337,000 people visit emergency rooms for dog bite-related injuries.
- Dog bites are the #13 cause of nonfatal emergency room visits annually
- The average cost of a settled dog bite claim in one recent year was over $49,000
- In a recent year, 27,000 people required reconstructive surgery after a dog mauling
Virginia Dog Owner Liability in Dog Bite Attacks
The Code of Virginia § 3.2-6540 defines a dangerous dog as one that:
- Killed a companion animal (a dog or a cat)
- Inflicted serious injury on a companion animal (any injury other than a strain or sprain)
- Directly caused serious injury to a person, such as a substantial puncture of the skin with teeth, a broken bone, or a laceration.
Essentially, dangerous dogs are those which have already demonstrated that they will attack a person or their pet. These dog bite laws are colloquially referred to as “one bite rules” for owner liability in a dog bite attack. This means that a dog owner is liable for the injury their dog causes if they know that the dog has attacked a person or pet in the past.
If you are bitten by a dog and can prove that the dog has attacked a person or pet in the past, then the owner is liable to pay you restitution, per Virginia Code §§ 3.2-6540.01, 3.2-6542, and 3.2-6542.1. These statutes also permit the injured party to seek civil remedy and compensation by filing a dog bite lawsuit in Virginia civil court.
That said, you should also understand that the “one-bite rule” does not mean a dog must have bitten someone before for its owner to be liable for your injuries. This is not true. Rather, it holds a dog owner liable by default for the actions of a “dangerous dog.” A dog’s owner could also be liable if they were negligent in their handling of their dog, such as by violating a leash law.
If you were bit by a dog and suspect the owner might be to blame, it’s best to consult with a dog bite lawyer in Virginia Beach as soon as possible.
When Would a Dog Owner Not Be Liable for a Bite Injury?
There are some cases where the dog’s owner is not liable for damage the dog causes, such as:
- If the victim was unlawfully on the owner’s property or committing a crime on the owner’s property
- If the injured party was abusing, tormenting, or provoking the animal
- If the animal was protecting the owner’s property, a person, or itself
The last two stipulations are important, as these are the issues that are most often contested in a dog bite case. Expect the dog’s owner to claim that you were threatening or provoking the dog or that the dog believed you were a danger to it or its owner.
Dog Bite Injuries are Life-Changing
Even what looks like a minor dog bite injury can cause serious problems. Because the edges of the wound are jagged, suturing can be tricky, and scarring is common. If the bite penetrates deep enough, you may have permanent muscle or nerve damage. You could also suffer secondary injuries after the attack, like if you were knocked down, twisted your ankle, or broke your wrist.
Dog bites also carry a serious risk of diseases, like:
Dog attacks don’t just cause physical harm. Many people develop PTSD, anxiety, or a phobia of dogs. Children may experience even more intense trauma and have a lifelong fear of dogs.
How Can a Virginia Beach Dog Bite Attorney Help You?
The effects of a dog bite can be wide-ranging. Even after being released from the hospital, you may still need extensive (and expensive!) aftercare like reconstructive surgery or skin grafts to repair scarring, physical therapy, and therapy or counseling to heal from emotional trauma.
A Virginia Beach dog bite lawyer can help you seek compensation to cover your financial losses and reduced quality of life in several ways, including by:
- Communicating with the other party. If the dog’s owner is a friend, family member, or neighbor, you may feel awkward or guilty about pursuing litigation to recover your expenses. When an attorney represents you, they can communicate with the dog’s owner and their insurance provider, giving you a professional layer of protection.
- Gathering evidence about the attack. Expect the dog’s owner, no matter what your relationship with them, to claim that their dog is gentle and that you provoked the attack. An attorney has the resources to investigate the dog’s behavior and history of violence, as well as the circumstances of the attack.
- Negotiating with the insurance company. Dogs are considered property in Virginia, so any damage the dog does should be covered by the owner’s homeowners’, renters’, or commercial business insurance policy. That insurance company will pay your claim if your case is successful. Your lawyer negotiates with the insurer to seek maximum compensation for you.
- Representing you in court. If negotiations fail, the next step is a trial in civil court. Your lawyer can present your case before a judge and jury, arguing that you deserve compensation for the harm the dog bite caused you to suffer.
Do You Need Help from a Virginia Beach Dog Bite Lawyer?
Have you or a loved one been attacked by a dog? Then contact Invictus Law for a free case review with a dog bite injury lawyer in Virginia Beach. You deserve justice, and we want to help you demand it.