Dogs are man’s best friend until they are not. Even the family friendly pooch can feel possessive while they are eating or threatened if they encounter a stranger. These stressors can cause even a mild-mannered dog to bite.
But can dog bite victims sue the dog’s owner for the injuries they suffered?
The one-bite rule
Virginia follows the “one bite” rule. This means that a dog owner will not be liable for a dog bite if they had no reason to believe their dog was a danger to others.
The breed of dog at issue is not considered when determining whether a dog is dangerous. However, once the dog bites someone the owner now knows their dog presents a danger to others and will be liable for future attacks.
Exceptions and defenses
There are a few exceptions to the one-bite rule, mainly that the dog owner cannot be negligent. For example, if they let their dog run around off a leash in public this may be considered a lack of due care that negates the one-bite rule.
This is referred to as negligence “per se” meaning that it is presumed that the dog owner failed to exercise due care and thus is negligent.
If we are looking at due care in a lawsuit, the dog owner does have some defenses. For example, they may not be negligent if the dog was provoked by the victim into biting, if the bite victim was trespassing or if the bite was not serious and only resulted in minor injuries.
Virginia dog bite laws are rather lax compared to dog bite laws in other parts of the country. Still, people seriously injured by a dog bite can suffer significant injuries.
These injuries can be costly and long-lasting, and the dog bite victim may feel like they need to pursue appropriate damages to fully recover from the incident.