Dog Bite Lawyer in Manassas VA
The idea of being attacked and bitten by a dog is a chilling thought. Sadly, for many people living in Virginia, this is more than a fear; it is a reality that they have personally experienced. At the law offices of Olmstead & Olmstead, P.C., our Virginia dog bite lawyers have seen the devastation that a dog attack can have, and believe that dog bite victims deserve to be compensated for their losses. Because Virginia does not maintain a dog bite statute that holds dog owners strictly liable for the harm that their dogs cause, however, pursuing compensation requires a negligence-based case approach. If you are bitten by a dog, here’s what you need to know about seeking damages, and how our law firm can help.
Virginia’s Dog Bite Laws and the “One Bite” Rule
As stated above, Virginia is unique when compared to many states in the nation in that it does not have a specific statute or code that addresses dog owner liability for harm caused by canines. Instead, liability for dog bites has been determined by case law and precedent, and Virginia has adopted the “one bite” rule. The “one bite” rule refers to the negligence-based system of recovery, in which a plaintiff (dog bite victim) must prove that the owner knew or should have known of the dog’s propensity for aggression, and therefore should have prevented the dog bite from occurring. Typically, the owner’s knowledge of a dog’s viciousness comes from the dog having previously bitten another person or animal, hence the “one bite” term.
The one bite law does not necessarily mean that the dog has to have bitten before; it merely means that if the dog has shown aggressive or vicious tendencies in the past to the point that the owner should have reasonably assumed that the dog may bite/attack, the owner had a duty to prevent the bite or attack from happening. If the owner failed to prevent the attack, then they acted in a negligent manner, defined as the failure to take the proper degree of care in doing something. Our attorneys are able to investigate particular circumstances of your injury. We have covered from insurance companies in situations where the dog has not had a prior bite incident or shown any aggressive tendencies.
How is Virginia’s Law Different From Other States?
Most other states have something called “strict liability” which means that the owner of a dog can potentially be held responsible for a dog’s aggressive behavior, even if that dog has not shown tendencies of that aggressive behavior in the past. This is substantially different from the “one bite rule” in Virginia, stipulating that the owner must have had prior evidence of the dog’s aggressive behavior before being held liable for any damages that might be pursued under personal injury law.
Negligence Per Se and Dog Bite Claims
The state of Virginia also recognizes negligence per se, which is the failure to abide by a code or statute. For example, if a city in Virginia has a leash law that requires dogs to be leashed at all times in public, and a dog owner fails to keep their dog on a leash and the dog bites someone as a result, the dog owner is guilty of negligence per se even if they did not know that the dog had aggressive tendencies.
Keep in mind that both negligence and negligence per se laws do not just apply to dog bites, but any type of harm that is caused by a dog. For example, if a dog jumps on a person and knocks them down, causing the person’s arm to break, and the injured party can prove negligence or negligence per se, the dog owner will be liable for damages.
Because dog bite claims must be pursued under a negligence based theory of liability, a dog bite victim may seek compensation for the full extent of their injuries, not just their medical bills or economic losses. This means that if you are bitten by a dog and can prove that the owner should be held liable for your injuries, you may seek compensation for:
- Lost wages
- The value of psychological harm, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, you have suffered
- Pain and suffering
- Disfigurement and scarring
- Medical expenses
- All other economic and noneconomic losses
When a Dog Owner Is NOT Liable for a Dog Bite Injury
There are a number of defenses that a dog owner can use to escape liability. In fact, because Virginia is a pure contributory negligence state, if a dog bite owner can prove that you caused or in any way contributed to the dog bite, you may be barred from recovering any compensation for your injuries. Some defenses to liability that may prevent you from seeking damages include claims that you were:
- Trespassing at the time of dog attack
- Taunting or teasing the dog
- Were warned to refrain from approaching, but continued towards the dog regardless
- That you otherwise failed to exercise a reasonable degree of care, such as trying to pet a dog that was clearly scared or did not want to be approached
Time Limits for Bringing Forth a Dog Bite Claim
It is always a smart idea to begin the claims process as soon as possible after a dog bite while evidence is intact, and the details of the attack are still fresh in your mind. That being said, you must bring forth your dog bite claim within two years from the date of dog bite or attack; if you wait longer than two years, you are in violation of Virginia’s statute of limitations, and will not be able to seek damages at all. This can be devastating for a person who has suffered hundreds or thousands of dollars’ worth of losses. Don’t risk it – contact a Virginia dog bite attorney as soon as you are able to after being attacked.
We Are the Legal Team You Are Looking For
We know that recovering compensation for your losses after being bitten or otherwise injured by a dog in Virginia is important to your future and well-being. Even if the dog owner disputes liability, we have the tools, connections, and resources necessary to perform an investigation into your case and determine whether or not the owner of the dog acted with negligence. If so, we will prove negligence, file your claim, valuate your damages, and negotiate a settlement award that offers you the amount of compensation that you truly deserve.
Remember, the clock on the statute of limitations is ticking, so it is important to call Olmstead & Olmstead today to schedule your consultation with our compassionate Virginia dog bite attorneys. We will not charge you a cent for our services unless you receive a settlement; if we don’t recover for you, there is no fee.
Call us today at (703) 361-1555 or contact us online to schedule your consultation. We serve the areas of Prince William, Fauquier, Fairfax, Loudon, Stafford, Arlington Counties, as well as the cities of Manassas, Alexandria and Arlington.