Many people have been nipped by a puppy without severe injury. However, bites from a full-grown dog are a serious concern. A dog’s jaws are tremendously strong, and their teeth are sharp. A dog bite can lead to punctures, gashes, infections, tissue damage, and even broken bones.
They are some of the most dangerous animal bites possible. If you’ve been bitten by a dog, an Alexandria dog bite lawyer can help you seek the compensation you deserve.
The costs of a dog bite can be significant, particularly if the injuries are severe. Generally, the younger the victim, the more extreme the injuries and the costs. The compensation for these cases will often be paid for by the owner’s homeowner’s insurance or personal liability insurance.
However, getting those companies to pay what they should can sometimes be challenging. The legitimate threat of going to court, if not actually doing so, is often necessary to get the compensation that you deserve.
At Whitlock Law, LLC, we employ our vast knowledge and extensive experience to help the victims of dog bites seek the compensation they are rightly owed.
In some states, dogs are allowed one bite before an owner can be held liable for the harm and damage their dog has caused. This concept is known as the one-bite rule. Virginia, though, is a strict liability state with regard to dog bites.
This means that any bites or attacks by a dog are the owner’s responsibility regardless of any prior history. Therefore, victims can file claims against any dog owner in Alexandria, VA, whether the dog has bitten someone before or not.
Even if there is no previous aggression or apparent danger from the dog prior to the incident in question, they will still be liable. However, prior aggression or bites could lead to increased liability in some cases if the owner failed to take further precautions to address the dog’s behavior.
Walking a dog without a leash or allowing a dog with an aggressive history to play in a dog park are actions that may warrant increased liability.
Those bitten by a dog can file a personal liability claim, and the process for proving fault will follow the same general pattern as all personal injury claims.
The plaintiff’s lawyers will need to use things like evidence, expert testimony, and eye-witness testimony to make the case that the dog owner was negligent in handling the dog, causing the injuries and costs the plaintiff suffered.
The first element of proving negligence is a duty of care, meaning a responsibility to take reasonable precautions to prevent others from being placed in increased or excess danger.
For dog owners, this is a straightforward concept. Particularly under Virginia’s strict liability laws, there is a responsibility for dog owners to take the necessary precautions to prevent them from biting or attacking others. This is true regardless of a dog’s history or prior behavior.
Once that duty of care is established, it must be shown that the duty was breached. Generally, because of strict liability, the fact that you were bitten is enough to prove that there was a breach.
The assumption is that if proper precautions were taken, then a bite or attack wouldn’t have been possible. Therefore, the mere presence of a bite could be enough to prove a breach, assuming there wasn’t any trespassing or provocation of the dog involved.
Of course, your lawyer will need to prove the bite through things like doctors’ notes, eyewitness testimony, and possibly photos and videos.
The breach must then be shown to be the cause of injuries. Since the breach was the cause of the dog bite, this will mean proving that the bite was the cause of the injuries you suffered.
It’s important that your lawyer is able to make this connection, as courts and insurance companies will see through attempts to fraudulently claim unrelated or more severe injuries as having been caused by the dog bite.
Your lawyer, likely with the help of doctors’ notes, medical bills, and other evidence, will need to be able to describe exactly how the bite caused the injuries, as well as the extent of those injuries.
The costs you are seeking compensation for in a dog bite claim will need to be directly related to the injuries you suffered. The court will scrutinize these aspects of the claim, and your lawyer will need to prove the link between your injuries and costs. These costs are paid out through damages, which, in most cases, come in two forms, although there could occasionally be a third form paid as well.
Economic damages cover costs with a clear financial element. In the case of a dog bite, economic damages largely consist of medical bills. There could be doctors’ visits, stitches, surgeries, medication to treat infections, and even physical therapy or rehabilitation if there was structural damage.
These are all costs that are addressed through economic damages. If an injury was serious enough to cause you to miss work, those lost wages are also compensated under economic damages.
Occasionally, a dog bite or attack is serious enough to cause long-term damage. This is typically the case when there is a small child involved. If there are severe injuries, it’s possible that there will be ongoing medical needs and, for adults, the loss of the ability to work or work at full capacity. In that case, the future medical costs and lost earning capacity will be covered.
In the case of dog bites, there can be significant costs that are not as tangible or financial as those covered under economic damages. These are addressed through non-economic damages. They cover the psychological or emotional costs of a dog bite. Being bitten by a dog is a frightening experience, and the costs associated with this category can be significant.
Especially for small children, this can be a traumatizing experience. Things like mental anguish, loss of enjoyment in life, and pain in suffering are all compensated through economic damages. Although money won’t solve these issues, it can be helpful in making them more manageable by reducing other burdens in life.
A third possible category of damages is punitive damages. In most cases, these damages are awarded as a punishment for egregious behavior on the part of the defendant. In particular, they are awarded for malicious behavior, but it’s unlikely that the dog was trained to attack and commanded to do so by the owner.
However, if a dog has a particularly acute history of aggressive and dangerous behavior, a severe lack of precaution by the owner may be seen as being egregiously reckless and result in punitive damages.
One element that can jeopardize any personal injury claim in Virginia is the doctrine of contributory negligence. Under this doctrine, the defendant will be allowed the chance to prove that the defendant was somehow negligent in a way that led to their injuries. If they are successful in doing so, then the plaintiff may be barred from collecting any damages for the injuries they suffered.
Because dog bite claims involve strict liability, the bar for negligence on the part of the plaintiff can be fairly high. For the most part, unless there is a clear element of trespassing or some form of antagonization of the dog, contributory negligence is unlikely.
However, since so many dog bites involve children, it should be acknowledged that children pulling tails and ears, poking eyes, or otherwise antagonizing a dog could very well be seen as a form of provocation.
A dog bite can have serious impacts on a victim, particularly if young children are involved. A dog’s sharp teeth can leave wounds that puncture and gash the skin. It’s also possible for bites to lead to serious infections from the bacteria present in a dog’s mouth.
In other situations, it’s not the teeth but the force of a dog’s bite that can break bones and compress the various tissues underneath the skin. These and other injuries come with a variety of costs, including medical bills and psychological impacts. It’s the responsibility of the dog owner to address these costs.
Ensuring that a dog owner or their insurance provider properly compensates a dog bite victim for the costs they’ve faced can be challenging.
However, a civil claim is able to help with this problem. Even the threat of going to court may be enough to lead the other party to be more willing to negotiate a fair settlement. If a settlement still can’t be reached, then going to court may help you finally get the compensation you’re owed.
You can give yourself a better opportunity for a successful claim and trial by working with an Alexandria dog bite lawyer from Whitlock Law, LLC. If you’ve been bitten, contact us today.
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