A Virginia Lawyer Explains Manassas Dog Bite Law
October 22, 2017
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Large black dogIf you or someone you care about has been bitten by a dog in Manassas, it is vital to understand the law might influence the outcome of your personal injury claim. Virginia law governs dog owner liability as well as other dog-related injuries. Moreover, negligence plays a role in Manassas dog bite claims as does potential defenses dog owners can turn to if they have been sued for damages following a dog bite or attack. If you’ve suffered a dog bite or attack, the personal injury attorneys at Ashcraft & Gerel, LLP are experienced in dog bite law and prepared to help you seek compensation to which you may be entitled.

Manassas Dog Bite Law

Virginia law governs Manassas dog bites. Unlike other states across the nation, Virginia itself does not maintain a law that specifically addresses liability following a dog bite. In fact, all injuries caused by dogs are governed according to case law. Case law is the collection of rules that are developed over the years through court decisions. Generally, Manassas adheres to a type of case law called the “one bite” rule, which is a reference to the typical negligence standard that is found in all personal injury claims. Under this rule, dog owners may be held responsible for any injuries their dog causes to another if the dog owner had knowledge, or should have had knowledge, that the animal was likely to behave in an aggressive manner towards another person or animal. An example of this would be if the dog had harmed another person or animal in the past. Despite its name, the “one bite” rule does not strictly apply only to dog bites. This rule covers any other harm that a dog may cause. For example, if a dog regularly jumps on others, a person who is injured when the dog jumps on them, for example, falling and suffering a fracture injury, may pursue compensation from the owner.


Negligence and Negligence Per Se

Suffering from a dog bite? An Ashcraft & Gerel attorney can help you seek compensation.

Even if a dog has no history of harming another person or animal, an injured party harmed by the dog may still file a claim for compensation for harm suffered. In order to be able to pursue compensation when an owner had no knowledge that the dog had a prior history of aggression he or she must show:

  • The owner of the dog had a duty to exercise reasonable care to keep the dog from attacking another (i.e. by reasonably retraining the dog); and
  • The dog owner’s failure to meet this duty caused the injury.

If a victim can show the above, referred to as negligence, then liability may be found.

Sometimes an injured Manassas dog bite victim may claim the owner’s behavior was negligent per se, meaning there is no further need to prove negligence. An example of negligence per se is if a dog that was not on a leash – despite a city ordinance requiring one – bites a pedestrian who is walking along the sidewalk. Here, the victim can argue the owner’s violation of the law was negligence per seresulting in liability. In this scenario, the dog owner would be held financially liable for damages suffered by the victim.

Dog Bites & Criminal Penalties in Manassas

Not only may a dog owner be held civilly liable for harm, but those who own dangerous dogs may also face criminal penalties under Virginia code as well, if the dog causes fatal or serious injuries.

Criminal penalties can also be brought forth against dog owners who fail and refuse to follow state rules for harboring and registering dogs. If criminal charges are filed, a victim of a serious attack or bite may also file a lawsuit. Criminal charges are brought forth by the state, while civil charges are filed by the victim’s private personal injury attorney.

Statute of Limitations

Like every other state in the nation, Virginia has a statute of limitations – or the time limit during which a personal injury claim for a dog bite or attack must be filed. State law mandates that a person who has suffered an injury due to a dog bite or attack must file a personal injury claim in court within two years from the date the injury occurs.

Defenses to Dog Bite Claims

The most common defense to a dog bite or attack is contributory negligence. A dog owner who has been sued typically argues the injured party was, at least in part, to blame for his or her dog bite or attack-related injuries. An example of contributory negligence is provocation of the animal.  Virginia law considers contributory negligence a complete bar to recovery of damages. In other words, if an injured victim is found even one (1) percent responsible for the injuries suffered, he or she may not recover any damages from the dog owner.

Liability of Landlords

It is interesting to note that not only may the owner of a dog be held liable for damages that the dog causes, but in some cases, the landlord of the property where the dog-related injury occurs could be held liable for harm as well. This is because landlords are responsible for ensuring that dangerous conditions, which includes a dangerous dog, do not exist on their property. If a plaintiff can prove that the landlord knew of the dog and its dangerous nature, and did not take action to have the dog removed from the property, the landlord may be held partially liable as well.

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Manassas Dog Bite Lawyers Working for You

Dogs can be furry, friendly, and cuddly, but they are also animals with strong jaws and sometimes aggressive tendencies. If you have been bitten by a dog in Manassas or surrounding areas, our experienced dog bite attorneys at the law offices of Ashcraft & Gerel, LLP want to meet with you. Please contact us today to schedule a free consultation.