Being bitten by a dog may not sound like a major event, but these bites and attacks can cause serious injuries. In some instances, dog bites are fatal either because the dog causes so much damage to the body or because of complications that arise from the initial injuries. These injuries are not only extremely painful, they are also very costly to treat. Often they will leave victims unable to work, and may even cause scarring and disfigurement. One dog bite or attack can change a person’s entire life.
It is important for dog bite victims to understand that there is help available, and that they do not have to deal with their injuries on their own. A dog bite lawyer in Virginia Beach can help those hurt file a lawsuit that can help provide compensation to cover the cost of their injuries.
Dog Bite Law in Virginia Beach
Virginia’s dog bite law allows for the “one bite rule.” Under this law, dog owners are only considered liable for a dog bite or attack if they knew the dog had an aggressive or violent history. This legal concept got its name due to the fact that after a dog bites someone one time, the owner should understand that the dog is aggressive and has violent tendencies.
This rule is vastly different from that of many other states. California, for example, is one of several states by governed by strict liability for dog bites. Strict liability does not require a dog to have shown aggressive tendencies in the past. Instead, it is possible for victims to hold dog owners liable after just one bite.
While this does make it more difficult to seek compensation for dog bites in Virginia Beach, it is not impossible. Those hurt by a dog bite or attack can also show other evidence that the dog owner knew, or should have known, the dog would hurt someone.
Negligence Per Se
Most personal injury cases rest on the legal concept of negligence. Negligence occurs when one person acts carelessly or recklessly and those actions hurt another person. Under Virginia’s one bite rule, if a dog bit or attacked someone and the owner knew the dog was violent in nature, that is considered negligence.
However, Virginia also adheres to the concept of negligence per se, particularly in dog bite cases. This can give injured victims a better chance of success in court because they do not need to prove the dog owner knew the dog was dangerous. They only have to prove that the owner should have known. This is negligence per se. Under Virginia law, when the dog owner should have known but the dog still injured someone, the dog bite victim can still claim compensation.
For example, a man is out walking his dog in a city park. There are many signs indicating that all dog owners must use a leash when walking their dogs, but the man does not have a leash on his dog. The dog runs up to someone and bites them even though the dog had never bitten anyone before. This is considered negligence per se. Even though the dog owner did not know the dog had the propensity to bite someone, he or she was still negligent for not following city dog leash ordinances.
Contributory Negligence in Virginia Beach
When a dog owner is facing a lawsuit due to the fact that his or her dog bit someone, the owner will almost always use the defense of contributory negligence. This is another legal concept in Virginia Beach that can make it difficult for dog bite victims to claim the compensation they deserve.
Contributory negligence refers to situations in which the accident victim was partly at fault for his or her own injuries. In many states when this is the case, the victim can still claim compensation as long as someone else was mostly at fault. If the injured person was even 49% at fault for injuries in other states, he or she can still claim compensation. Some states even go so far to allow someone to claim compensation if they were 99% at fault for the accident that caused their injuries.
This is not the case in Virginia, though. Here, if an accident victim is even 1% at fault for the accident, they are barred from recovering any damages or compensation for their injuries.
So for example, if someone entered a gate to a home even though there was a sign posted that clearly stated, “Beware of dog,” and the dog ran up and bit that person, the courts could bar that victim from receiving compensation. Due to the fact that Virginia’s laws are very clear, and very strict, on this matter, this is often one of the first defenses used in any dog bite case.
Statute of Limitations in Virginia Beach
In Virginia, like in every other state, there is a statute of limitations on personal injury cases. This is a time limit an injured person has to file a claim against the person who caused the accident. In Virginia, this statute of limitations is two years for most personal injury cases.
It is very important that dog bite victims file their lawsuit within this two-year timeframe from the date of the bite. When they fail to do so, the courts will likely throw out the lawsuit and again, the accident victim is barred from receiving compensation.
Been Bitten by a Dog? Speak to a Virginia Beach Personal Injury Lawyer
If you have been bitten by a dog in Virginia Beach, do not try to handle a lawsuit on your own. Due to Virginia’s statutes, these cases are particularly challenging once the defense builds its case. Instead, speak to an experienced Virginia dog bite lawyer who can give you the best chance of success.
If you are hurt, call Barney Injury Law at (757) 296-8377 or fill out our online form so we can get in touch. We are experienced attorneys who will hold dog owners liable if their pet caused you to sustain great injury. We know the defenses they will use, and we know how to refute their claims. Contact us today so we can start reviewing your case and asking for the compensation you deserve.