Coates & Davenport, P.C.

When is a dog owner liable for a bite?

No one wants to believe their dog is aggressive. Our dogs are our best friends, travel partners and family members. However, our best friends can make a mistake and bite someone. It helps for owners to know their responsibilities in case of a dog bite.


One bite law

Virginia, like many states, implements the one bite rule. It essentially states pet owners are liable for injuries if the owner knew the pet was dangerous or aggressive. It’s referred to as the one bite rule because evidence must be shown that the animal has bit at least one person before the current incident.

It’s completely different from strict liability which means owners are responsible for any injuries their pets cause – no matter their previous history.

Negligence Per Se” law

What is unique about Virginia is their “Negligence Per Se” law that requires dog owners to use reasonable care in restraining and controlling their animals, whether or not the pet is aggressive. If an owner doesn’t use “reasonable restraint,” an injured party could sue the owner for negligence.

An example of improper restraint is if an owner does not put a leash on their dog. You might feel confident that your dog will not attack anyone, but you are liable if it does.

“Contributory Negligence” law

There are situations where pets are provoked into attacks. In these situations, you could argue “Contributory Negligence” – which means the injured person was partly or totally at fault for their injuries.

Examples of provoking an animal are kicking them or trespassing on a site that has a “Beware of dog” sign. Both examples put the injured person at fault for either hurting the animal or ignoring warning signs of a dangerous animal. If the injured party is partially at fault, the owner is not liable for any damages.

Help your pet by being informed about your state’s dog bites laws.

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Coates & Davenport, P.C.
5206 Markel Road Suite 200
Richmond, VA 23230

Phone: 804-729-5537
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