When a dog bites you, you may be seriously injured or killed. If you have been bitten by a dog, you may be left with permanent disfigurement and scarring. When a canine attacks, those who have been bitten may be able to recover monetary damages by filing personal injury lawsuits with the help of our West Virginia dog bite lawyers.

Common Causes of Dog Bites

Dog attacks can happen for a variety of reasons, as it is unusual for dogs to bite or attack a human for no reason at all. Some dog bites occur due to the actions of the bite victim. For example, when dogs are taunted, scared, or provoked, they often lash out by biting.

In other cases, dog bites are entirely out of the control of the person who was bitten. Some dogs are overly aggressive or protective of their territory or owner. Others are easily startled or under constant stress.

Regardless, a dog owner is responsible for taking reasonable steps to prevent their animal from attacking another person. This starts with ensuring the dog is contained and not running loose. If a dog is free to roam, they are far more likely to bite someone.

Risk Factors for Dog Bites

Statistically, some people are more likely than others to be attacked by a dog. Out of every age group, children from age five to nine are the most likely to suffer a bite from a dog. This is often due to a child’s inability to understand that they are hurting or scaring an animal. Children are also less likely to recognize body language or other indications that a dog is uncomfortable or in distress.

Furthermore, men are far more likely to be bitten by a dog than women. Some speculate that this is because men are generally larger, louder, and may therefore be more threatening than women to a dog.

The Dog Bite Statute and Strict Liability

In West Virginia, canine bites that happen away from a dog owner’s property are covered by the state’s dog bite statute. West Virginia Code §19-20-13 provides that a dog’s owner will be held strictly liable if their dog is allowed to run at large and subsequently bites someone. A dog’s keeper may also be held strictly liable for resulting injuries if they allow the dog to run loose. Strict liability means that injured plaintiffs do not need to prove that the owner of the dog knew that the animal would behave in an aggressive manner. The injuries are sufficient by themselves.

The One-Bite Rule and Attacks on the Dog Owner’s Property

A different set of rules applies when a bite happens on the property of a dog’s owner. These rules come out of case law, which is also known as the common law. When a bite happens under these circumstances, the one-bite rule will apply. This means that you will be required to prove that the owner knew the dog had aggressive tendencies and was likely to cause injury to others. You may also need to proceed under principles of owner negligence.

How a Lawyer Could Help

An experienced attorney can help pursue a dog bite case in many different ways. Usually, the first step in the process involves a thorough investigation. In some cases, it may be necessary to first identify the owner of the dog. Without finding the owner, it is impossible to hold them accountable for their animal’s behavior.

An attorney can also help with:

  • Preparing the paperwork
  • Pushing the case through the legal system
  • Negotiating a settlement
  • Taking a case to trial if necessary

The Deadline to File a Dog Bite Lawsuit

Experienced legal advocates can advise you on the strength of your canine attack case and ensure that it complies with all the strict requirements that come with filing a lawsuit. Chief among these requirements is the statute of limitations.

The statute of limitations is the formal deadline that applies to all civil lawsuits in West Virginia, including those involving animal attacks. You have only two years from the date of the attack to file a dog bite lawsuit against the animal’s owner. Filing a lawsuit after the two-year window could result in the case being dismissed.

Getting Legal Help from a West Virginia Dog Bite Attorney

Dog owners will often try to defend against civil lawsuits by claiming that their dog was not at large. If the bite happened on their property, they may argue that the person who was bitten was trespassing. Certain people who are on the property in order to do their jobs, such as postal carriers, meter readers, and others are considered lawfully present.

When you are attacked by a dog, you may want to seek help from our team at Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law. At the initial consultation, we will review the facts of what occurred and give an honest assessment of the winnability of the case. If we agree to accept representation, our West Virginia dog bite lawyers will work hard to help our clients recover by securing financial compensation for their losses.

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Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law

Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law
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