Dog Bite Lawyer in Virginia Beach
Virginia Beach Dog Bite Lawyers
Dog bites and other dog attacks can be severe. Infection, scars, and disfigurement can leave victims injured for years. The trauma of a dog attack often leaves victims to cope with lasting psychological issues. Tragically, children are particularly vulnerable to dog bites and attacks. The worst cases involve serious injury or even death.
We know how difficult a dog bite injury can be. If you’ve been injured our dog bite attorneys are here to help you pursue the compensation you need to move on with your life.
Based in Virginia Beach, the law firm of Ruloff, Swain, Haddad, Morecock, Talbert & Woodward, P.C. represents victims of dog bites throughout the Tidewater region, including Norfolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, Chesapeake and beyond. We have more than 30 years of experience with serious personal injury claims.
Whether it’s negotiating with insurance companies or taking a case to court, we can help. Our experienced lawyers have handled dog bite cases like yours. Contact Ruloff, Swain, Haddad, Morecock, Talbert & Woodward, P.C. today by phone or online for a free consultation with a dog bite lawyer.
Who Is Liable for a Dog Bite Injury?
After a dog bite, the insurance companies, the owner, and others who controlled the dog may be required to compensate victims. It can be confusing, and it depends on the particular scenario.
Insurance companies are often the ones who compensate a dog bite victim. Homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies may cover injuries that happen on an owner’s property. Commercial liability policies may cover damages if they happen at a business.
Owners may be liable if their dog injures another person. The amount and nature of the damages will depend on the facts of the case. Dog owners are covered by insurance policies in many situations.
Many people are bitten by dogs that belong to friends or neighbors, but they never file a claim. They don’t want to cost their friends and neighbors money. However, it’s important to know that a dog bite claim may not cost the dog owner anything. A homeowner’s insurance policy may cover dog bite damages – but only if a claim is filed.
Companies and services may also be liable. For example, dog walkers, dog groomers, and boarding facilities may be held responsible. Their liability will depend on the facts of the case and may be covered by a commercial liability policy.
Dog Owner Negligence
A dog owner owes duties of care to guests, passersby, and other people who may come in contact with the dog. In a negligence case, an owner’s negligence may lead to injury and damages. For example, if a dog owner invites a guest to his property, the owner has a duty to take reasonable measures to keep the guest safe. If that guest is injured by the dog, the owner may have breached their duty to the guest and could be liable.
Another type of negligence in Virginia is known as “negligence per se.” Negligence per se simply means that negligence can be presumed when a statute or law is violated. For example, suppose a city has a leash ordinance that requires all dogs to be on a leash when they’re off their owner’s property. If the dog is off the property without a leash and injures someone, a victim may be able to show negligence per se.
Virginia’s ‘One-Bite’ Rule
The “one-bite” rule means that a dog owner who knew, or should have known, the dangerous propensities of their dog can be held liable when their dog causes injuries. If an owner did not know, or couldn’t have known, their dog was dangerous, it may be challenging to prove liability under this rule.
An owner has a few ways of knowing their dog is dangerous. For example, perhaps the dog has killed another animal, such as a neighborhood cat. In these circumstances, the owner would know that their dog is dangerous. In another situation, perhaps the dog has previously shown aggressiveness and hostility – charging at guests, growling and bearing teeth at guests, etc.
The “one-bite” rule extends beyond just bites and includes other behavior by the dog. For example, dogs may chase bicyclists or pedestrians, causing falls and injuries. Large dogs can easily knock people over and hurt them. These injuries can include broken bones, disfiguration, and many other serious problems.
In Virginia, when an owner knew or should have known, that their dog is dangerous, they can be held liable for injuries their dog causes.
Note that an exception to the “one bite rule” can be a violation of another safety rule, such as a “leash law” to prevent dogs running at large.
What Do You Have to Prove in a Dog Bite Claim?
Depending on the type of claim, a victim may need to prove the following:
- Ownership and Control of the Dog. Ownership of a dog can be proven many ways. These include dog licenses, veterinarian records, microchip information, photos, and statements by witnesses. In some cases, ownership is easy to prove. In others, it may be unclear who the dog belonged to at the time of the accident. You may also need to show who was in control of the dog at the time of the accident. Besides the owner, wany other people could be in control of a dog at the time of the accident, including dog walkers, dog groomers, or kennels, for example.
- Knowledge of the Dog’s Dangerous Tendencies. If the owner knew or should have known of a dog’s dangerous tendencies, they may be liable for the injuries caused by their dog. Our dog bite attorneys investigate a history of aggression by obtaining veterinary records and locating witnesses.
- Leash Laws. Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and other local cities have leash laws. Allowing a dog to roam “at large” can be negligence in and of itself, and our dog bite attorneys can tell you whether those municipal codes apply to your case.
- Negligence. If the owner was negligent in handling, securing, or otherwise allowing the dog near others, they may be liable for injuries that the dog causes.
- Causation. A victim will need to prove that the owner’s dog was the one that caused the injury. If you’re bitten by a dog, it’s important to note the time, date, witnesses, details about the dog, and details of the surroundings. In addition to the victim’s account of the accident, photographs, video recordings, and witness testimony can help build a claim.
- Injuries and Damages. Photographs, medical treatment records, and witness testimony will help document a victim’s injury and its costs.
Compensation in a Dog Bite Claim
- Medical bills can add up when a dog bites you. Stitches, reconstructive surgeries, infections, and many other medical problems can arise from a dog attack. Treatment can drain a victim’s finances. Treatment and rehabilitation can last days, months, or even a lifetime. A dog bite claim can include medical damages from the accident and for treatment that will be needed in the future.
- Disfigurement from a dog attack can transform a victim’s appearance. Scarring, skin grafts, and reconstructive surgery can leave a victim’s appearance permanently altered. Children, in particular, are often disfigured by dog bites. Their appearance may be altered for the rest of their lives, leading to complex surgeries and treatment down the line. Disfigurement can also cause long-lasting psychological damage, including lack of self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.
- Dog bite victims can also lose income while recovering from an injury. It’s difficult to work when you’re recovering. A minor bite may leave you out of work for a few days. A more serious dog attack may make it impossible to work in the future. It’s important to understand how a dog bite has affected you and your finances so that you can build your claim correctly.
- Property damage may arise from a dog attack. Bicycles, clothing, jewelry and other personal property may be damaged or destroyed when a dog bites. Be sure document lost and damaged property.
- Dog attack victims can be left with long-term physical pain from their injuries and disfigurement that can cause them pain that may last the rest of their lives. Physical pain doesn’t just happen immediately after an accident. It can linger long after an attack.
- Pain and suffering may also be psychological. The stress of injury can have severe and long-lasting consequences. Anxiety, depression, and many other problems can arise.
- A court may also award punitive damages in exceptional cases where a defendant’s conduct is especially bad. These damages are intended to punish the defendant and to send a message to others.
How Long Do You Have to File a Dog Bite Claim in Virginia?
In Virginia, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a claim for personal injuries. If you’ve been injured, act on your claim as quickly as possible to avoid being barred by the statute of limitations. There are some narrow exceptions that could extend the two-year period. Be sure to discuss your case with an attorney even if you think you may have waited too long.
You Focus on Healing, We Can Handle Your Claim
Dog bites can happen without warning, and their consequences can be severe. Disfigurement, scarring, and pain can last a lifetime. If you or a loved one has been attacked by a dog, it’s important to have someone on your side who will fight for your rights.
Contact Ruloff, Swain, Haddad, Morecock, Talbert & Woodward, P.C. today by phone or online for a free consultation with a dog bite lawyer. We have successfully recovered compensation for dog bite and other personal injury victims in the Virginia Beach area for over 30 years. We’re ready to fight for you and pursue the compensation you deserve.