Dog Bite Lawyers in Washington, D.C.

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Handling Dog Bite Injury Claims with Professionalism

If you or a loved one sustained an injury in a dog attack, you may be able to take legal action against the dog’s owner. Intentional tort, scienter, and negligence policies in the law may help you recover compensation for the injuries you sustained.

In scienter, there is no dog bite statute, but a dog bite victim does not have to prove scienter if they were bitten by a dog at large because of the owner’s negligence.

At Ashcraft & Gerel, we offer comprehensive representation to help the injured victims of dog bites and dog attacks. Our Washington, D.C. dog bite attorneys have over 65 years of experience pursuing personal injury claims on behalf of those who have been wronged by others’ negligence.


An Overview of Dog Bite Laws in Washington, D.C.

There are two statutes in the District of Columbia that eliminate the requirement of scienter in a specific set of circumstances, such as where the dog that attacked a person was at large due to owner negligence. The two statutes can be found under sections 8-1808 and 1-1812.

Aside from those sections, a victim is required to prove an intentional tort, scienter, or negligence. Washington, D.C. falls within a contributory negligence state, which means that a negligent victim is barred from attempting to recover compensation for a dog bite. The Washington, D.C. dog bite lawyers at Ashcraft & Gerel can discuss the statutes of dog bite law with you and help you determine if you have a case.

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Dog Bite Statutes

Under section 8-1801(a)(1)(a), the term “at large” is defined as any animal found off its owner’s premises that is neither leashed or under the immediate control of a capable person who can restrain it. Section 8-1808 sets out that no dog owner will allow their animal to go at large, and section 8-1812 states that if a dog injures someone while it is at large, the fact that the owner lacks knowledge of the dog’s vicious tendencies will not absolve him or her from a finding of negligence.

In D.C., it is held that if a dog bites a person while it is at large, the violation of section 8-1808 is not negligenceper se, but rather only evidence of the negligence. In the example ofChadbourne v. Kappaz, the court approved the trial court’s instruction to the jury.

The instruction was that an owner allows his or her animals to go at large if:

  • He or she intentionally allows the animal to do so
  • Fails to exercise due care in keeping the animal from going at large

In terms of determining the care required, the jury was instructed to consider the dog’s propensities that are known to the owner.

Therefore, Washington, D.C.’s statutes create one exception to the one-bite rule: A victim does not have to prove scienter if he or she is bitten by a dog at large as a result of the owner’s negligence.

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Dog Owner Negligence

When someone’s dog bites another person, the owner is considered negligent if they failed to act in the way a reasonably careful person would act. For example, allowing your dog to wander into a daycare center is considered an act of negligence. In Washington, D.C., this would make the dog owner liable for the victim’s injuries, as long as the victim was completely blameless.

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Scienter is a legal term for a person’s knowledge of wrongdoing. This doctrine renders a pet owner liable for any injuries caused by their pet. Scienter holds that a pet owner whose dog previously bit someone knows that their dog is potentially dangerous. They could be liable if their dog bites another person. Scienter could also impose liability on someone other than the dog owner.

Contributory Negligence in Dog Bite Cases

In Washington, D.C., the victim of a dog bite cannot recover compensation if they were even just 1% to blame for the incident. For example, if the victim is found to have teased or provoked the dog in any capacity, he or she could be found partially liable for the attack and therefore completely unable to recover compensation.

The One-Bite Rule

If you were bitten by a dog in Washington, D.C., you can file a lawsuit against the dog’s owner regardless of whether the dog was at large at the time of the incident. You can do so under the one-bite rule. If the dog has bitten someone before, it is expected that the owner should know about the dog’s aggressive tendencies and take extra steps to prevent another bite or attack.

A victim can prove a dog’s vicious tendencies by showing that the dog is classified as potentially dangerous. The owners of these breeds are obligated to meet a higher standard for restraining their dogs and preventing attacks. Failing to do so could lead to criminal charges.

How to Prevent a Dog Attack

A dog bite claim can be a long and arduous process, especially if you are the dog owner facing liability.

To prevent dog attacks, you should:

  • Keep your dog healthy and well-exercised to avoid behavioral problems
  • Neuter or spay your dog
  • Supervise your dog when it is outside
  • Walk your dog on a leash and prevent them from approaching others
  • Socialize your dog to ensure that it does not bite out of fear
  • Avoid leaving the dog alone with young children

If your dog does bite someone, it is important to regain control of the dog and remove it from the situation. Share your contact information with the victim. You might also have to show proof of your dog’s vaccination records.

What to Do If You Are Bitten by a Dog

If you were attacked or bitten by a dog, you should take important steps to protect yourself from further injury.

We recommend that you:

  • Obtain the owner’s contact information
  • Try to remember what the dog looked like, its size, etc.
  • Wash any wounds with soap and water
  • Report the incident to animal control
  • Seek medical attention if the injuries are substantial

If you fear a dog might attack you, refrain from shouting or making sudden movements. Remain calm and stand still. Back away slowly. If you fall, curl up into a ball and protect your neck and head with your hands.

Hire a Knowledgeable Dog Bite Lawyer in Washington, D.C.

Whether you have been bitten by a dog or you are the owner of a dog that has attacked someone else, Ashcraft & Gerel is the firm you will want on your side to defend your case. We have over 65 years of experience practicing personal injury law and are deeply familiar with the dog bite laws in Washington, D.C.