If you were the victim of a dog bite, it’s important to be aware of the state laws that could affect your case. Unlike most other states, Virginia has no specific dog bite statute. However, dog-related injury cases are handled according to rules laid down in previous Virginia court cases.
Virginia dog bite claims follow a one bite rule. This rule ensures a dog’s owner is held liable for injuries caused by their dog if they knew (or should have known) their dog could act aggressively against a person or pet.
How Negligence Affects Dog Bite Claims
If a dog has never injured a person before but then harms you in an attack, you can still attempt to seek damages from the owner. However, in order to seek damages, you must prove the owner had a reasonable responsibility to restrain the dog and their failure to meet this responsibility resulted in injury. If you can successfully establish owner negligence, liability can be established.
Some cases don’t go beyond further proof than claiming negligence “per se.: For example, this type of negligence can be proven if the owner let the dog off leash in a public area and it attacked you. Most city ordinances have leash laws in place to prevent this, which means owners in violation can be sued.
Penalties for Dog Bite Injuries
Virginia Code Section 3.2-6540 imposes penalties of various degrees on the owner of an animal that causes injury or death to another person.
These penalties include:
- Class 2 misdemeanor: if the dog attacks, injures, and/or kills another person’s dog or cat
- Class 1 misdemeanor: if the dog attacks or bites a human, causing injury
- Class 6 felony: if the owner (or handler) of the dog is proven to show a reckless disregard for human life that causes the animal to injure another person
A person who fails to follow Virginia’s rules for registering and keeping dangerous animals may also face criminal penalties. If criminal charges are filed, you may still be able to file a civil lawsuit. An attorney with knowledge of cases involving dog bites can help you file your claim.