Dog Bite Laws in Virginia

In countless homes, dogs are simply part of the family. A life without them is difficult to imagine. They guard the house against intruders and make everyone happy with their antics. However, owning this pet comes with tremendous responsibility. Although they are meant to protect, they can also be dangerous creatures that can harm those around them. Dog bite laws in Virginia are clear about how to deal with dangerous dogs and how to penalize their errant owners. These can sometimes end up in trial so it is best for both parties to get their respective lawyers for advice and representation.

Statute of Limitations

The first thing to remember is that there is a finite time period within which a case can be filed in court. Dog bites are considered as a personal injury. In cases like this, the injured individual has up to two years to file a claim. The case can no longer be pursued once this period ends without a filing, except for rare situations. Note that the clock will start ticking from the date of the bite. Of course, attending to the medical needs should be prioritized, but the lawsuit should be given attention as soon as the patient is out of danger.

One Bite Rule

In the state, it is assumed that owners bring up their dogs in good faith. There is a presumption that the pets are not aggressive. If their dog bites a person, then they will only be held liable if it can be proven that they already knew about their pet’s violent tendencies. Complainants will usually provide evidence that the dog had already bitten another individual prior to their case to establish prior knowledge. Other forms of evidence may also be admitted by the court. In other states, owners might be held responsible outright whether their dog has a violent history or not in what is known as “strict liability”.    

Negligence Per Se

Owners are expected to use a reasonable amount of care in controlling their dogs such that they will be unlikely to harm others. It does not matter if their pets are aggressive or not. They should be able to restrain them so that they do not cause injury to people. There are local rules and regulations when it comes to using a leash and other forms of restraint, especially when the dogs are in public like streets and parks. If any of these have been violated, then the bite victim can file a negligence claim for compensation for the injury.

Relaxed Laws

The good news for owners is that the state legislature recently passed a law that relaxes police protocol in dog bite cases. Only major incidents will result in summons whereas minor injuries will no longer be covered. For the latter situation, the pet is not considered dangerous if it bites another pet that is owned by the same person, as long as the attack occurred in the pet owner’s property and the veterinarian certifies the injuries as not being serious. For dogs that bite a person, they can still be considered as not dangerous if the outcome is only a minor injury like a scratch or abrasion. If you were bitten resulting in grave injuries, then contact a dog bite lawyer in Richmond, Virginia to discuss your legal options.

 

LINKS:

  1. https://wtop.com/virginia/2017/02/va-house-passes-bill-relaxing-dangerous-dog-law/
  2. https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title3.2/chapter65/section3.2-6540/

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