It’s not uncommon to see people walking their dogs around retail stores, especially on a nice day. Some stores like Petco, Petsmart, and even Tractor Supply allow you to bring leashed pets into their stores. But if a dog bites someone while on an outing, the question of who covers your injuries can become complicated.
There are two sets of laws involved: premises liability and dog bite laws. Both involve another person’s negligence in one form or another. Dog bites can be dangerous, no matter the breed and/or size. Children are especially vulnerable and can be badly injured by a dog bite.
West Virginia Dog Bite Laws
A dog’s owner is responsible for its actions, especially if it’s known to be aggressive towards people. West Virginia Code §19-20-13 states that an owner is responsible for damages inflicted by their dog if it’s running loose and unleashed. A victim won’t have to prove the owner’s negligence for a dog that’s roaming around off-leash.
West Virginia’s “one bite rule” means an owner can only be held strictly liable if they knew of the animal’s potential for biting. The burden of proof shifts to the bite victim to establish that the dog was previously known to bite, that the owner was acting in a negligent fashion, and that the dog was running unleashed in an area outside of the owner’s property.
West Virginia Premises Liability Laws
This set of laws governs the duty of care a homeowner, store owner, manager and/or employee has to keep the premises safe for lawful visitors. Dangerous conditions, such as broken or uneven steps, wet or slick floors, and vicious or dangerous animals are all conditions covered under premises liability. A dog bite that occurs at someone’s home is also considered premises liability.
However, West Virginia’s “open and obvious” doctrine indicates that if you were aware of a danger, and you chose not to observe it, you would be liable for your own injuries and you won’t collect any damages. For instance, if you were teasing or provoking a dog that you knew had a volatile nature, and were bitten as a result, you could not hold the owner liable.
So Who’s Responsible?
Generally, the owner is the primary responsible party for injuries caused by the dog.
Some retail stores have rules against bringing pets into their establishments, and post signs indicating “service animals only.” However, some individuals flout the rules and bring their pets into a store anyway.
If a dog bite happens on the store’s property, and the dog wasn’t supposed to be there, the store owner could possibly also be responsible if they didn’t ask the owner to take the dog off the property. This would come under the “duty and care” that store managers, owners, and employees are required to do to protect lawful visitors.
Some independent retailers have dogs or cats that live in the store and interact with employees and customers. If the dog that bites you is a “store dog,” cared for by the owner and employees, they become the dog’s “owner” to be held responsible for damages.
After The Injury
Take care of yourself first. Seek medical attention immediately, since dog bites may require rabies treatment.
Use your cell phone to take pictures of the area where the bite happened, the dog itself if you can, and your injuries. Take as many pictures as you can before you leave the store, and get the names of any witnesses to the incident.
Most stores now have CCTV. You’ll also need to request copies of the video of your accident before it’s erased. Your attorney can also request preservation of this important evidence.
West Virginia allows two years for you to file a claim for a dog bite injury. Don’t wait before you contact an attorney. The sooner you do, the sooner he or she can get your case settled.
West Virginia’s Dog Bite Injury Lawyer
Injured by a dog bite? It’s no laughing matter and can be a very serious medical emergency. The Love Law Firm is Charleston, West Virginia’s personal injury law firm with extensive experience handling premises liability cases. Call us today at 304-344-5683 or contact us online and schedule your free consultation. There’s no fee until we win your case, and our contingency fee arrangement means you won’t pay unless we win your case.