If you or a loved one have been bitten or attacked by a dog, you may have legal options to recover compensation. While you might think that the owner of a dog is automatically liable for your damages if their dog bites you, this is not necessarily the case. West Virginia statue and caselaw, which is the outcome of other past cases that are used to guide the outcome of future cases, will determine whether you can collect compensation.
At Tiano & O’Dell, PLLC, our Charleston dog bite attorneys can help you understand your options, determine who is liable for your injuries, and build a strong case for compensation. Call today for a free and confidential case evaluation.
Charleston, WV Dog Bite Resources
West Virginia Statute and Case Law
Filing a Dog Bite Lawsuit
Compensation Available After a Dog Bite
Common Dog Bite Injuries
Causes of Dog Attacks
Possible Complications of a Dog Bite
Is There a Statute of Limitations on Claims?
Dog Bite Statistics
Outcomes of West Virginia Cases
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West Virginia Statute and Case Law Determines When a Dog Owner is Liable
Charleston, WV, has a leash law that requires all dogs to be restrained by a leash or other similar device when they are off their owner’s property. This law helps to ensure public safety by preventing dogs from running loose and potentially causing harm to people or other animals. Under West Virginia Code Sec. 19-20-13, named “Dog Running at Large: Liability of Owner”, it is detailed that only the owner or keeper of a dog “who permits such dog to run at large” will be liable for any of the damages inflicted upon persons or property while the dog is running at large. This would seem to say that unless a dog is allowed to run free by its owner, then the owner will not be liable for the damages. Case law clarifies that this is not always the case.
In addition, the city of Charleston has a dangerous dog ordinance that applies to dogs that have been found to be aggressive or have attacked or bitten someone. If a dog is deemed dangerous under this ordinance, the owner may be required to take certain steps to ensure public safety, such as keeping the dog muzzled or confined, obtaining additional liability insurance, and complying with other regulations.
There are no specific breed-specific laws or regulations regarding dog ownership. However, all dogs in Charleston are required to be licensed and vaccinated against rabies.
How Do I File a Dog Bite Lawsuit in Charleston?
Victims of dog bite injuries can choose to pursue legal action against the owner. To initiate a lawsuit, the first thing you need to do after a dog bite is notify the police and seek medical attention. Medical records are critical to link your injury to the dog attack. If you are not immediately transported to a hospital, ask the owner for their name and contact information if they are present at the scene. Next, take photos of your injuries, the dog, and the surrounding area. Also, be sure to keep a record of any medical expenses and daily symptoms and limitations.
Report the dog bite to the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department at (304) 344-5243 if you live in Charleston or elsewhere in Kanawha County. Lastly, contact a Charleston, WV Dog Bite Lawyer. They will help you move forward with your dog bite lawsuit and ensure you have evidence for a solid claim. Most cases settle before reaching the courtroom, but having an attorney on your side will ensure you recover the compensation you deserve.
What Compensation May be Available After a Dog Bite Injury?
You may be able to recover the following types of compensation after a dog bite:
- Medical Bills: You are entitled to compensation for current and future medical expenses needed for your dog bite injury. This includes emergency treatment, transportation, wound cleaning, stitches, tetanus and/or rabies shots, surgical procedures, prescription medications, physical therapy, etc.
- Lost Wages: Any current and future lost income if you must miss work while you recover.
- Diminished Earning Capacity: If your injury prevents you from returning to work again or affects your ability to earn the same level of income as before your injury, you can recover compensation for the difference.
- Pain and Suffering: Compensation for the pain and suffering you have endured and any emotional distress.
- Property Damage: For the repair or replacement of any personal items destroyed in the attack (e.g., your phone, clothes, etc.).
This is not an exhaustive list, and there may be other types of compensation available. Additionally, in some cases involving a dog owner who exhibited extreme recklessness, the court may award punitive damages as punishment.
Common Dog Bite Injuries
Dog bites can cause a variety of injuries, ranging from minor to severe, such as:
Dog teeth are sharp and can cause puncture wounds that may be deep and narrow.
Cuts or tears in the skin, which may require stitches.
Bruising around the area of the wound, which can be painful and may take time to heal.
In severe cases, a dog bite can cause fractures or broken bones, particularly if the victim is a child or a person with a weaker bone structure.
Common Causes of Dog Bite Injuries
There are many different factors that can contribute to a dog bite, and each incident is unique. However, here are some common causes of dog bites:
- Fear and Anxiety: If a dog is feeling anxious or fearful, it may become aggressive as a way to protect itself.
- Protective Instincts: If a dog perceives a threat to their owner or territory, it may become aggressive and bite.
- Provocation: Dogs may also bite in response to being provoked—such as by teasing, hitting, or harassing the dog in some way.
- Lack of Training and Socialization: Dogs that have not been properly trained or socialized may be more likely to bite as they may not know how to interact with people or other dogs in a safe and appropriate way.
- Medical Conditions: Some medical conditions, such as pain, injury, or illness, may cause a dog to become irritable or aggressive.
As a result, all dogs have the potential to bite, regardless of their breed or temperament.
Potential Complications from a Dog Bite
A dog bite can cause a range of potential complications, some of which can be severe, such as:
A dog’s mouth contains a lot of bacteria that can be introduced into the wound. This can lead to infection, which may require antibiotics or even hospitalization.
If the dog that bit you has not been vaccinated against rabies, there is a risk of contracting this serious viral infection. Rabies can be fatal if left untreated, so it is important to seek medical attention immediately if there is a risk of exposure.
A dog bite can cause damage to nerves and surrounding tissues, which can result in numbness, weakness, or other neurological symptoms.
Victims can be left with visible scarring, mainly if the wound is deep or requires stitches.
Being bitten by a dog can be a traumatic experience, particularly for children. It can lead to fear of dogs or animals, anxiety, and other emotional and psychological symptoms.
Due to the risk of complications, it is critical to seek medical attention as soon as possible after a dog bite, even if you think the injury is minor.
How Long Do I Have to File a Dog Bite Injury Claim in Charleston, WV?
In West Virginia, the statute of limitations for filing a dog bite injury claim is two years from the date of the incident. If you do not file a lawsuit within the two-year time frame, you may lose your right to seek compensation. Therefore, it is in your best interests to consult a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after a dog bite to discuss your legal options and ensure that your claim is filed within the appropriate time frame.
Dog Bite Statistics
Here are some general statistics on dog bites in the United States:
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States.
- Of those 4.5 million people who are bitten by dogs, around 800,000 seek medical attention for their injuries.
- Children are more likely than adults to be bitten by dogs, and they are also more likely to suffer severe injuries.
- The breeds of dogs that are most often involved in fatal dog attacks in the United States are pit bulls and rottweilers.
- According to the Insurance Information Institute, dog bites, and other dog-related injuries accounted for over one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims paid out in 2020, with an average payout of over $50,000 per claim.
It is important to note that while these statistics can be alarming, most dogs are not aggressive or dangerous, and many incidents of dog bites can be prevented through responsible dog ownership and education about how to interact with dogs safely.
The Outcome of West Virginia Cases Has Impacted Dog Bite Laws
Without a thorough understanding of how the law and precedent applies to the facts of your injury, you could be barred from recovering the compensation you deserve, leaving you and your family to cover the costs associated with your dog bite injury. Our dog bite injury lawyer in Charleston is ready to fight for your family’s right to recovery.