In the state of Virginia, there are several conditions that must be met before a dog owner could be liable to pay for the medical expenses of a dog bite victim. Most of the time, a dog owner is not liable for the medical expenses of a dog-bite victim. Every state has different laws, but here in the Commonwealth, there is a one-free-bite rule. If a dog or other pet has never attacked another animal or person before, the pet owner is probably not liable to pay for medical expenses. However, even if you think you have been bitten by a dog that has never bitten before there are circumstances that may still allow for you to recover for your injuries. If you are bitten by a dog you should seek the advice of an attorney.
Statistics About Dog Bites
Across the United States, there are roughly 1,000 cases of people being treated for dog bites in emergency rooms every day. While most people recover from their injuries, there are times where people have suffered a permanent disability or even death as a result of a dog attack. Some breeds of dogs are more likely to attack than others, but most breeds could potentially attack a human, so proper care needs to be taken.
According to the CDC, 4.7 million people will get bitten by a dog this year. This works out to 1 out of every 69 people. Of these people, roughly 800,000 will need medical attention and could have permanent physical scarring. Almost half of the fatal dog bite victims involve children under the age of nine years old.
Many dogs today are descendants of wolves and carnivorous predators from roughly 100 years ago, so these animals do have sharp teeth and powerful jaws which could cause serious injury.
When the Owner May Be Responsible
Important facts that need to be discovered to determine if a dog owner is liable for your injuries and medical expenses include 1) was the attack unprovoked by the victim, (2) was the dog already known to be dangerous, (3) had the dog bitten before and/or (4) was the dog properly restrained?
Let’s say a person is walking through the neighborhood on the sidewalk, and a dog comes along and bites the walker. Unless the person was teasing or provoking the dog, Virginia would say this is an unprovoked attack. The attack could be considered provoked if another person was abusing the animal or assaulting the owner of the dog. Trespassing on the dog’s property could also provoke the dog to attack a stranger.
If the dog has already attacked another animal or person before, the dog may be classified as dangerous. The owner may be liable for paying for medical expenses of a dog-bite victim if the dog has a history of killing other animals or injuring humans.
If the dog or other animal is not properly restrained, the owner may be held liable for a victim’s medical bills. A fence or enclosure must be tall enough so the animal cannot escape. Warning signs on fences can reduce your liability if someone enters the backyard while the dog is outside.
There are many other scenarios where it may not be clear who is responsible for the victim’s medical expenses and that is why it is important to consult with an attorney. The law firm of Epperly & Follis, P.C., located in downtown Richmond, is here to help. Give us a call at 804-648-6480 to speak with one of our representatives.