3 Laws Virginia Dog Bite Victims Should Be Aware Of

Posted on: 11 January 2016


Have you been bitten by a dog in Virginia? Are you planning on suing the owner of the dog for the damages you sustained during the attack? If so, you should read about the below three laws and how they might affect your case.

Your Local Leash Law

Virginia doesn't have a statewide leash law. Instead, it is up to each municipality to decide what is appropriate for their area. In rural towns, the fact that a dog was off its leash when it bit you may not hold any bearing on whether or not you can seek compensation for your injuries. In city and beach communities, however, the leash laws are generally much more strict; some require dogs to be on leashes at all times and some prohibit domestic canines altogether during certain hours.

Don't assume that just because Virginia doesn't have a leash law necessarily means that the owner of an unleashed dog that bit you wasn't negligent. Check the laws of your specific town or city to see it has enacted its own leash laws. Some towns and cities in Virginia are also divided into administrative divisions. If you were in one of these divisions when you were bitten, check their leash laws also before determining whether or not you have a case of negligence against the dog owner.

The One-Bite Law

In most states, dog owners are responsible for the damages when their dog bites somebody, regardless of whether or not the dog has ever been aggressive before. Virginia is different, however, in that it follows the one-bite law. This law specifies that a dog owner can be exempt from lawsuit if their dog bites somebody, as long as no previous instances of aggression can be proven.

You read that right -- even if you sustained serious injuries from a dog bite, the dog owner may walk away scot-free if you can't prove that he or she knew of the chance their dog might bite somebody.

Fortunately, there are ways you can combat the one-bite law and prove that the owner of the dog that bit you was negligent. Enlist the help of a dog bite attorney and contact neighbors of the dog owner, the dog's veterinarian, the dog warden, or anybody else that may be able to testify that the dog has shown instances of aggression in the past.

In some cases, the breed of the dog that bit you could help solidify your claim. For example, you could argue that, although the municipal you were bitten in didn't have leash laws, the owner was aware that their dog was a known dangerous breed and therefore should have had the dog on a leash.

The Law Of Pure Contributory Negligence

The final law you need to be concerned with as a dog bite victim is the law of contributory negligence. Only four states and the District of Columbia practice this rule, and it can make recovering dog bite-related damages difficult.

Under pure contributory negligence, you are not entitled to any compensation for your dog bite whatsoever if the defendant can prove that you were even the slightest bit responsible for being bitten. How could you be responsible? Trespassing onto the dog owner's property, taunting the dog before being bitten, and/or ignoring clear warning signs that the dog was dangerous before approaching it are all valid claims of plaintiff negligence in a dog bite case.

There are many laws that govern the outcome of a dog bite case in Virginia. If you've been injured by a dog and you're ready to seek compensation for your damages, contact a lawyer that specializes in this particular type of personal injury claim. For more information about dog bite laws in other areas, contact a firm like Trammell & Mills Law Firm LLC.