For many Americans, pets are part of the family. Unfortunately, even the most trusted dogs can bite given the right circumstances, causing serious physical injuries and emotional scarring. A serious dog attack can rob victims of their lives.

Dog bite laws vary widely from state to state. In West Virginia, statute 19-20-13 addresses dog bites. According to the statute, any dog running at large is the dog owner’s responsibility. If a dog is not on a leash, fenced in, or otherwise restrained, the owner is fully liable for any property or physical harm inflicted. Under the law, a victim does not have to prove any further negligence for dog bites that occur while a dog is running loose. Dogs running loose on an owner’s property only are generally not considered “running at large,” although some courts may interpret the law differently.

For bites that occur when a dog is not running at large, the state operates under the one bite rule. An owner may not know that his or her dog is capable of aggressive behavior until the dog bites. After one bite, the owner is fully liable for any damage inflicted by the dog.

Liability Exceptions

If a dog escapes restraints and runs free without the owner’s knowledge, proving liability is more difficult. In these cases, the plaintiff must prove that the owner knew or should have reasonably known the dog was aggressive. Trespassing, provocation, or letting a dog run loose may also complicate liability matters. Dog owners who post signs warning individuals about a dog or who clearly, verbally warn individuals about the dog’s nature may also avoid liability if the owner took reasonable steps to prevent the bite or attack from occurring (e.g., the dog was restrained).

Proving Dog Bite Liability

To obtain compensation in a dog bite case, the plaintiff needs to prove that:

  1. The defendant owned the dog.
  2. The dog in question committed the bite/attack.
  3. The owner was negligent (failed to restrain the dog or knew that the dog had bitten someone in the past).
  4. The bite or attack caused injury.

Your West Virginia dog bite lawyer will explore every aspect of the case to uncover the truth behind a dog bite. Small details surrounding the attack may play a significant role in proving liability and securing fair compensation for you or your loved one’s injuries.

Pursuing a Dog Bite Case

Many animal-loving individuals are afraid to pursue a case because they fear for the dog’s well-being. In most cases, responsible dog ownership can prevent dangerous dog bites, even in dogs who are more likely to show aggressive behaviors. Dog owners who fail to act responsibly must be held accountable for their actions. Both humans and dogs suffer when owners act negligently. Filing a claim against the responsible party will help you recover from your injuries and could prevent someone else from suffering a dog bite in the future.

Some people are afraid of pursuing legal action because they do not want to place undue financial hardship on a dog owner. However, some homeowner’s insurance policies cover the costs associated with a dog bite. The insurance company will pay your settlement, not the defendant him- or herself.

At Tiano O’Dell, PLLC we understand that dog bite cases are delicate matters. We work within the framework of the law to obtain justice for our clients while hopefully reducing the likelihood of dog bites in the future. The pain from a serious dog bite will go away over time, but the physical and emotional scars often remain long into the future. In cases involving minors, a child may never regain confidence around animals. Allow our compassionate West Virginia personal injury attorneys help you find closure after a serious dog bite. Contact our office in Charleston today for a free case evaluation.