West Virginia is one of the top states for dog ownership, ranking second in the US with nearly 50% of households owning a dog. From the smallest Chihuahua to the huge English Mastiff and any type of mixed-breed, dogs are a long-term responsibility that every owner should take seriously.
There are times when dogs escape their homes or confined areas and meet unfamiliar people or other animals. Some owners may allow their dogs to roam unleashed and unconfined, leading to lost animals.
Even seemingly nice dogs can become fearful and aggressive, especially in unfamiliar circumstances. There is no way to tell which dog is just scared, and which one will turn and bite. The unstable environment may cause the dog to be afraid and lead to an attack.
In West Virginia, it’s possible for a dog attack victim to recover compensation in some cases.
Running At Large
West Virginia Code Section 19-20-13 states that the owner of a dog that is “running at large” is liable for any injuries or property damage caused by their dog. The phrase “running at large” can be somewhat indistinct, leading to different interpretations.
On the one hand, the phrase can indicate an unrestrained animal, no matter whose property it’s on at the time. The phrase can also mean that the dog is simply loose and away from the owner’s home and/or yard.
In either scenario, the owner is responsible for the dog’s actions, and the victim will not have to prove liability in order to recover damages for the actions caused by said dog.
The “One Bite” Rule
For an owner whose dog has already bitten someone, they are “on notice” that the dog can and will bite. West Virginia follows “strict liability,” meaning that the owner is fully liable, and will be held responsible for the next bite. Meantime, the person who was the “first bite” now has to deal with injuries resulting from that attack, and the injured party must prove liability.
The dog may bite another person at random, or if it finds itself in conditions that cause it to become defensive. Regardless, the owner knows or should know that their dog has the potential to bite someone and must take precautions to prevent any potential for a bite.
Should the dog be found to be vicious, a judge could order the dog to be euthanized.
If you are the victim of a dog bite attack, you and your lawyer will be required to prove that:
- The defendant owned the particular dog
- That particular dog was responsible for the bite and/or attack
- The owner was negligent—that is, knowing that this dog previously bit someone, or failed to properly restrain the dog
- The dog’s bite or attack was the direct cause of the injury
Filing a dog bite claim can be a very upsetting matter, especially between friends. However, know that your claim may be paid by the owner’s homeowner’s insurance. But if your claim involves therapy or surgeries, you may need to file a lawsuit against the insurance company.
West Virginia’s Dog Bite Injury Lawyer
Injured by a dog bite? It’s no laughing matter, a delicate situation between you and the owner, as well as a serious medical emergency. The Love Law Firm in 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.