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Dog attack injuries: What's the one-bite rule?

In the state of Virginia, dog owners will only be liable for the injuries caused by their animals if they had reason to believe that their dog was at risk of attacking someone. Under common law, this has grown into the "one-bite" rule, which basically states that dog owners in Virginia are essentially on notice after the first time their dog bites someone. If the dog attacks a second time, then the dog owner will surely be liable.

In Virginia, the victim of a dog attack may need to illuminate why the dog attack resulted in the owner's liability. The victim can point to the dog owner's prior knowledge of the dog's potential to harm in order to prove this.

Here are factors that could prove that the dog owner was aware of his or her dog's potential for aggression:

  • The dog has a record of biting someone in the past.
  • The animal regularly threatens strangers and snaps at people in public.
  • The dog doesn't attack people, but it regularly tries to jump at and be playful with others. If the dog is large, the owner should be on alert that its size could cause someone to fall.
  • The dog has a history of frightening people. If a dog frightens someone enough that he or she falls over or runs away into traffic, the dog owner might be liable for injuries.
  • The dog is a trained fighter. If the dog has received fight training, the owner should definitely be on alert that the animal is potentially dangerous.
  • Others have complained about the dog. If others have complained to the owner that his or her dog is threatening or has bitten someone, then the owner will be on alert.

Dog owners may try to defend themselves against lawsuits relating to an attack from their animal. One common defense is that the victim of the dog attack provoked the animal, and thus the victim knowingly risked an attack and injuries. In order to ensure you've covered all your bases in a Virginia dog attack lawsuit, you may want to employ an experienced dog attack and premises law attorney to assist you in the pursuit of your claims.

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