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Virginia dog bite lawyers

Helping those injured by dogs in Virginia

More than 4 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States. More than half of these incidents involve a dog that the victim knew somewhat. Children between the ages of 5 and 9 are most likely to be bitten. Sadly, Virginia is no exception to these startling statistics.

And in some cases, dog bites are debilitating, even leading to deep scarring, serious infections, and medically necessary amputations. Victims are traumatized by the attack and worry, “How can I trust a dog again after being seriously hurt by one?”

But who is responsible if a dog harms someone? Hint: it’s not the dog.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a dog attack in Virginia, we understand the physical and mental pain you are experiencing. We at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys treat every client with compassion and a passion for getting you the compensation you deserve. To find out how we can help you, call our Virginia dog bite attorneys at (804) 413-6777 or toll-free at (855) 781-6777.

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Dog attack injuries

While we all may affectionately refer to dogs as “man’s best friend,” the truth is that a domestic dog can act as viciously as a wild animal in certain situations. Their attacks can be serious, leaving victims with injuries that can take months or years to heal.

In our experience, some of the most common dog attack injuries include:

On top of that, a dog’s mouth can be a hotbed of bacteria. This means that if you a dog bite wound is not cleaned properly, or if the puncture wound is too deep to be cleaned, serious infection can result. Dog bite infections can quickly make a victim very sick, and in some cases, result in the loss of the infected limb. That’s why, no matter how small a dog bite wound is, seek medical assistance right away to get the wound cleaned.

Can treating dog bite injuries be expensive?

The quick answer is yes. For bad dog attacks, emergency surgery may be needed to minimize long-term damage. Lacerations often need stitches, and doctors typically prescribe antibiotics for infections, as well as painkillers to reduce the victim’s suffering. If the victim falls hard during an attack, he can even suffer a spinal cord or brain injuries requiring hospitalization. Costs of surgeries, medications, and doctor visits can quickly add up, and a dog attack can become very expensive.

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Children and dog attacks

While a dog can pose a threat to anyone, regardless of the person’s age or size, dogs often are more of a danger for children. That’s because even a dog as small as a chihuahua can easily reach and bite a child’s face and other body parts. A larger breed, like a pit bull or rottweiler, can actually crush a child’s bones. Tragically, dog attacks on children are more likely to result in lifelong disabilities or even death than attacks on adults.

Obviously, adults are much stronger than younger children. This means that aggressive dogs can sometimes be deterred by an adult who fights back. However, a five-year-old typically cannot defend himself or deter a dog attack due to lack of strength and the knowledge of how to fight back. If a dog attacks a child, the child is usually at the mercy of the animal, until an adult intervenes.

Further, dogs are typically more likely to attack children than adults in the first place. That’s because adults usually know not to touch or approach animals they don’t know. Adults are also aware of signs that an animal is aggressive. Most young children do not have this life experience or knowledge.

To children, a dog can appear to be the ideal playmate. Many children want to pat, talk to, and touch a dog they meet. A child may not be able to tell when a dog is feeling frightened, frustrated, or aggressive, leading the child to unknowingly push the animal’s boundaries. All of that considered, children are more often the victims of vicious dog attacks than adults.

All adults should keep this in mind and carefully watch children around animals, particularly unfamiliar animals.

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Origin of "dog attack" laws

The United States’ laws dealing with dogs began in England and were continued here, according to common law. Virginia still adheres to some of the original English rules today.

Since the beginning of our country, people who have owned animals have been held responsible for injuries caused by their pets if they knew (or should have known) that the animal was dangerous.

Many people think there is a universal "one-bite rule," meaning that owners are not legally responsible for the first attack of their dog. But most people think that authorities can take action if a similar incident happens again. What’s the truth in Virginia about this?

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Current rules for dog attacks

Today, dog owners, in most but not all situations, are still held responsible for harm caused by their dogs. In fact, there have been many cases in Virginia that ensure that dog owners take responsibility for their animals and their aggressive behavior. In a 1967 Virginia case, it was established that the dog owner has the common-law duty of exercising ordinary care to protect other persons from injury that might be inflicted by his dog, and the owner is subject to civil liability for breach of that duty.

Some of the most applicable laws include:

  1. The so-called "one-bite" law. Still in effect, this law states that a dog owner is responsible for injuries his dog causes if he knew the dog might cause that type of injury.
    But, it isn’t necessarily true that every dog gets a "free bite." The first bite does put the owner "on notice" that his dog may dangerous.
    However, the dog could also have growled threateningly, snapped, or jumped on someone in the past, which could also be considered warnings. And these warnings could be used in court to prove the owner knew his dog might injure someone.
  2. Unreasonable carelessness. Also known as "negligence." If a dog’s owner doesn’t take steps to control his dog, he’ll likely be held responsible if the dog causes damage. For example, if there’s a hole in the owner’s fence that needs repair, and his dog escapes and bites a child, the dog’s owner can be held liable in court.

Similarly, many states require dogs to be kept on a leash when outside and also to be registered. In Virginia, there is no statewide leash law, but localities can enact leash laws at their discretion.

Today, dog owners in extreme cases of harm may even face criminal charges.

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How does Virginia define a "dangerous dog"?

The Code of Virginia defines a dangerous dog as a canine that has bitten, attacked, inflicted a serious injury on, or killed a companion animal that is a dog or cat, or the canine has bitten, attacked or inflicted injury on a person. If a canine bites another cat or dog on the canine’s owner’s property, the canine is not considered a dangerous dog.

Notably, Virginia law does NOT classify a dog as dangerous based solely on its breed.

Once a court declares a dog to be dangerous, its owner has 30 days to register the dog and pay a $150 fee and an $85 annual renewal fee. After that, the dog must wear a tag identifying it as dangerous. The dog must remain indoors or be securely enclosed to prevent escape or direct contact with people and other animals. When the dog is not indoors, not in a secure enclosure, or off the owner’s property, the dangerous dog must be secured with a leash and muzzle.

But a dog bite case can still be pursued even if the dog wasn’t previously classified as dangerous, as explained above. The owner could also have been warned in other ways that his dog was dangerous.

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What do you need to know about dog attacks?

  1. Most bites happen close to home. Statistically, you or your family are likely to be attacked near your house or in your neighborhood. Most victims are somewhat familiar with the dog that attacked them.
  2. Most injuries are covered by homeowner’s insurance. Serious dog-related injuries can cause big medical bills. The good news? The dog owner’s insurance policy typically covers these costs.

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Filing a Virginia dog bite claim

When it comes to filing a claim against the owner of the dog who attacked you, your child, or your loved one, you are most likely to be successful if you understand a few key factors and gather some pieces of evidence.

  1. Exchange information: with the dog owner if possible, similarly to how you would after a car accident. Try to get the owner’s name and a way to contact them, at minimum. If you are too injured, contact your local law enforcement, and they can file a report and get the information.
  2. Speak with witnesses: Exchange information with any witnesses who saw what happened. Having people verify your version of events can help shut down arguments later that you are exaggerating, or even that you were the one at fault for the attack.
  3. File a report: Report the attack to local law enforcement, as well as the local Animal Control. They may already have a file on the dog that attacked you, detailing past aggressive behavior. They may also help you identify the owner of the dog if you could not exchange information, or if the owner fled or wasn’t present at the scene.
    Even if there is no current file on the dog, Animal Control should still be informed about a dangerous in the area, so they can watch the situation and take the dog if it becomes dangerous anyone else.
  4. Take pictures: Before you let medical professionals clean your injuries, try to take pictures of your wounds and torn clothing. These pictures can demonstrate how bad the injuries were later. If you can’t take photos because you’re too injured, you can take pictures later while you recover, and you can ask the medical professionals who treated you to give statements about what the wounds looked like.
  5. Keep paperwork: Keep any bills or receipts associated with the dog attack. These can help prove you had serious injuries, as well as helping determine the amount of compensation you are owed.
  6. Speak with an attorney: Finally, the best way to make sure you have a successful claim is to speak with an attorney. A good personal injury attorney will investigate your case, and seek proper compensation from the dog owner’s insurance company. Insurance adjusters are unlikely to immediately give you a fair settlement, because they would prefer to pay out as little as possible. An attorney can advocate for your right to fair payment.

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Contact us after a Virginia dog attack

Dogs aren’t to blame: they’re just animals, acting the way animals do because of instinct, training, or previous treatment. But the dangers from some dogs are real. So be aware and keep your family, yourself, and your pets as safe as possible.

If you or a loved one is hurt by a dog, you may be entitled to costs for your medical expenses, missed work, pain, and more. At GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys, we help people who have been injured through no fault of their own. For a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer in Virginia, contact us today at (804) 413-6777 or toll-free at (855) 781-6777.

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Recent Dog Bite Case Results

DISCLAIMER. Each case is handled based on the individual facts and circumstances of the case. These results are NOT indicative of the outcome of any potential case. All case results depend upon a variety of factors unique to each case, and these case results do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case undertaken by our firm.

  • $275,000 Compensation - Woman was the victim of a dog attack that caused substantial injuries to her face.
  • $180,000 Compensation - Woman was attacked by a pit bull mixed breed dog at the dog owner’s home.
  • $75,000 Compensation - Woman was attacked by a large dog that was not properly secured.

See more case results here.

Additional Information

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Prevention, empathy, and diligence are hallmarks of everything we do at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys. Our community can see these ideals lived out in our work to prevent personal injuries from happening.

  • Safety Education
    GibsonSingleton launches “Texts=Wrecks” campaign to reduce the number of people injured or killed by distracted drivers.
  • Annual Coat Drive
    During the fall, our team works to distribute coats to people in need in our community.
  • Hands-on Service
    John and Ken join the Gloucester Point Rotary Club in cleaning up the community.
  • Supporting Local Schools
    The Gibson family participates in Gloucester’s Botetourt Elementary Shuffle fundraiser.