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Who is liable for damages after a dog bite or attack?

On Behalf of | Dec 9, 2022 | Personal Injury

Not all dogs are sweet and friendly. Sometimes, a dog will attack a person and seriously harm them. A bad enough dog bite incident can require a trip to the emergency room, surgery, physical rehabilitation, medication and more medical treatment.

Medical care can be very expensive. After a dog attack against you or your child, you might need financial compensation to help keep medical bills from dragging your family down. Obviously, you cannot sue a dog. But you might be able to sue its owner.

Virginia’s unusual dog bite law

Most states have dog bite laws that impose strict liability on owners of animals that injured someone, whether the owner acted negligently or not. However, Virginia is not one of those states. Here, to prove that a dog owner is liable for your injuries, you must show one of the following:

  • The owner knew or reasonably should have known that their dog was vicious
  • The owner negligently allowed the attack to happen (e.g., left the gate open and the dog unleashed)
  • The owner violated an animal control law and the attack happened as a result

An owner is considered negligent “per se” when the attack occurs while the owner is violating a leash law or similar ordinance. However, Virginia has one of the strictest contributory negligence laws regarding dog bites in the country. If the jury is convinced the victim was even slightly responsible for their own injuries, they cannot recover any damages.

Getting compensation for damages associated with a dog bite can be challenging in Virginia. But it can be done, with experienced and dedicated support from a personal injury attorney.