Virginia’s “One Bite” Rule Makes Recovering After an Animal Attack Difficult, But Not Impossible

After decades of dog owners vying for designer breeds, animal rescues across the country have become full of the “less desirable” breeds or animals that are of unknown descent. While scientists have for the most part rejected the idea that certain breeds or mixes of breeds are inherently dangerous, an animal’s upbringing is believed to have a significant impact on its personality. Thus, dogs that have been raised without a steady home or shelter, or have been subject to abuse, are more likely to lash out randomly.

Recently, the trend across the country has been to focus more on adopting those animals that need a home, rather than shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars for a designer breed. And while this certainly is a welcome change, some pet owners are unaware of an animal’s propensity to attack until they bring them home.

In the event of a dog attack, the owner of the dog may be liable for the injuries caused by their animal. However, Virginia dog bite law employs the “one bite rule,” which makes it difficult for the those bringing a case against an animal’s owner to succeed.

Strict Liability Versus the One-Bite Rule

When it comes to determining owner liability in a dog bite case, most states apply one of two methods. The first method is strict liability. Under a strict liability analysis, an animal’s owner is liable for the actions of their pet regardless of the breed of dog, the owner’s knowledge of the animal’s propensity to attack, or prior instances of dangerous or aggressive behavior.

Virginia, however, applies the one bite rule, which requires that a dog meet the definition of a “dangerous dog” before an owner can be liable under the theory of negligence. To be considered a dangerous dog, an animal must attack and cause injury to either another animal or a person. Thus, under Virginia law, if an owner does not know of their animal’s dangerous propensity to attack or its history of prior attacks, the owner cannot be liable for their animal’s actions.

An exception to this general rule is if the owner violated an animal control ordinance. For example, a law requiring the animal be kept on a leash. However, Virginia’s contributory negligence law bars a plaintiff from recovering for their injuries if the plaintiff is determined to be at all at fault for the dog’s attack. Given the complex nature of Virginia’s dog bite laws, anyone who has been attacked by a dangerous animal should consult with a dedicated personal injury attorney.

Have You Been Attacked by a Dog?

If a dog or other dangerous animal has recently attacked you or a loved one, you may be entitled to recover for your injuries through a Virginia dog bite lawsuit. Attorney Charles B. Roberts is a dedicated Virginia personal injury lawyer with decades of experience handling all types of injury claims. To learn more about how Attorney Roberts can help you with your case, call 703-491-7070 to schedule a free consultation. Calling is free, and you will not be billed for our services unless we can help you obtain compensation for your injuries.

See More Blog Posts:

Virginia Accident Victims and the Importance of Reading All Settlement Agreements Closely, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, October 10, 2018.

Court Discusses Employer Liability in Recent Distracted Driving Case, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, October 18, 2018.