Dog Bite Lawyer in Alexandria, VA
Alexandria adheres to the one bite dog bite laws as well as contributory negligence, meaning that breaking an animal control law or being negligent will make an owner liable for dog bites in Alexandria. The state of Virginia, and therefore Alexandria, does not have a strict liability dog bite statute, as many other statutes in the U.S have implemented. However, the experienced dog bite lawyer at Ashcraft & Gerel may be able to help with your case.
Negligence and Dog Bites in Alexandria
In Alexandria, legal action is permitted based on the negligence of the dog owner. It is strongly suggested that you hire an experienced dog bite lawyer to represent you in your case. As per the state’s provisions, the owner is defined as anyone who harbors the animal, has the animal in their care, has a right to property, or acts as a custodian of the animal.
Alexandria dog owners are required to know their dog’s inclinations and behavior and prevent any foreseeable harm. The duty of care in a dog bite case is based on general negligence, as set out in the Virginia Model Jury Instructions. The Instructions state that if a dog owner knows, or should know, that the animal could cause injury, he or she then has a duty to use ordinary care to prevent injury to other people. If the owner fails to perform such duty of care, he or she is negligent.
So, what is it that a dog owner needs to know? Such knowledge is set out in the Virginia Model Jury Instructions as an animal owner being required to take notice of the dog’s natural and general characteristics as well as any peculiar inclinations exhibited in the animal’s behavioaboutr. If any of the characteristics or inclinations are likely to cause harm, the owner then has a duty to use ordinary care to prevent foreseeable injuries. Should an owner fail to perform the duty of care, he or she is considered to be acting negligently.
While this may seem unclear to some dog owners in Alexandria, let us elaborate. When it comes to knowledge of a dog’s characteristics or inclinations, a reasonable person is required to have knowledge of the habits of animals as is customary in the Alexandria community. Therefore, he or she should know, for example, that certain objects might frighten dogs and cause them run away or act out, or that an otherwise gentle female dog who is nursing her puppies is likely to bite strangers if disturbed by the strangers. Therefore, the courts reason0 0that a person who owns a not abnormally dangerous dog must exercise to keep the dog under control and must know the breed’s characteristics. A person owning a dog that has known dangerous propensities is required to know the usual and typical habits commonly associated with the breed. Owners, therefore, must realize that even a dog that appears gentle is likely to be dangerous under certain circumstances. Reasonable care must, therefore, be exercised to prevent potential dog bites in Alexandria.
However, it is worth noting that negligence does not have to be based solely on viciousness, and may be based on other factors or habits that indicate that a dog poses a likelihood of harm, including the dog’s breed or type. Therefore, if the dog’s habits are such that an ordinarily sensible or reasonable person is apprehensive that the dog may injure or bite another person, the owner may be found negligent. Also, an extremely highly-strung or nervous dog may pose a risk to anyone entering its owner’s premises, and as such, that dog will be considered to have a vicious nature.
Negligence Per Se
Alexandria further adheres to the doctrine of negligence per se in instances where a dog bites a person or inflicts injury, and the owner is in violation of a leash law or any other ordinance that has been implemented to protect the public from personal injuries from dogs. Under the law, violations of an ordinance or statute constitute negligence per se.
Violation of an ordinance will result in a fine, and other possible consequences, for the canine owner if a dog attacks someone while being at large on any public street unless the dog is accompanied by a handler and restrained by a leash. In the case of Butler v. Frieden, a four-year-old child was attacked by an unleashed and unattended dog. The Supreme Court noted that the purpose of the ordinance is to protect the public against such hazards as created by dogs running at large, including dog bites. The court held, in this case, that the violation of the ordinance seemed to be a breach of duty and the jury could, therefore, find the defendant liable on the grounds of negligence.
However, there are exceptions to negligence per se. Where the ordinance requires that a dog be secured by a leash or within the owner’s property limits, and the dog escapes through the electric fence, it is held that this does not constitute negligence per se.
It has further been held that a dog can be considered “at large” even while on the owner’s property if it is permitted to roam in what is considered at large manner. In other words, if there is evidence that a dog is occasionally or customarily attracted off the owner’s property by passers=by or other animals or if the dog just wanders off, this is sufficient enough to conclude that the dog is at large.
In such cases, for a dog owner to be found in violation of an ordinance, there has to be evidence that the owner agreed to or tolerated the dog running at large. This evidence is provided by showing the owner knew the animal escaped on a certain occasion and failed to restrain them. The owner must be shown to have knowledge of the escape and not acted to restrain the animal. If you have any questions about the dog bite laws in Alexandria, VA, talk to an experienced dog bite lawyer at Ashcraft & Gerel.
The Liability of Landlords
When it comes to dog bite laws, the dog bite lawyer must also discuss landowner liability. In Alexandria, it is held that landowners who are responsible for dangerous conditions which may include dangerous dogs, can be held liable. In the case of people being invited onto a landlord’s property, landlords have the distinct duty to inspect the property for any hazardous conditions and protect guests from unsafe conditions. Landowners have a duty of care with regards to pets as potentially hazardous conditions of a property.
According to the courts, landlords are chargeable with actual and constructive knowledge of the condition of their property. They are also subject to the liability for a guest’s injury as the result of an unsafe condition if the landlord knows that such a condition exists or, through reasonable care, should have discovered such a condition and therefore failed to remedy it. In the state, cases that deal specifically with domestic pets hold that an owner is required to exercise ordinary care to keep the pet from injuring other people.
As for landlords, they are considered to have constructive notice of the dangerous condition if the condition has existed for a length of time that the landlord should have discovered it and made it right. Further, property owners that take action that creates a dangerous condition can be charged with notice of the condition with the help of a dog bite lawyer.
Seeking Damages for Emotional Distress with the Help of a Dog Bite Lawyer
If a person suffers a dog bite, they are entitled to recover damages for the emotional distress incurred. As such, mental anguish can be inferred from bodily injuries and it may not be necessary to prove it with specificity. However, we must note that no compensation is awarded if the distress is a result of the injury to or death of a dog.
Once the initial shock of a dog attack wears off, victims may begin to notice changes in themselves. For instance, some attacks leave physical disfigurement and scars that harm a person’s self-esteem. Other emotional damages may include:
- A victim not being able to go outside after being attacked
- An intense fear of dogs
- A victim may relive the attack over and over, leading to extreme anxiety
- Some victims develop a case of post-traumatic stress disorder, which often leads to traumatic memories and dreams of the event and interferes with their day-to-day lives
Is It Time to Change Dog Bite Laws in Alexandria?
When it comes to the city’s civil dog bite laws, there are certain aspects of the statutes that are outdated. Other than the negligent circumstances we have discussed above, it may seem that we adhering to rather ancient courts that ruled that every dog seemingly gets a free bite. The one bite rule was implemented centuries ago, when dogs and other animals use to wander around aimlessly, as part and parcel of everyday life. In those bygone days, judges would state that the owner of a domestic pet would not be found liable unless the dog bit someone first. There was not a need for owners to be vigilant about their dogs since the law simply didn’t require owners to take any type of responsibility until such times as a tragedy occurred.
But, those days have passed. Today, our ideas about personal responsibility are a great deal different. As a country, we believe that we must all be responsible for the harm we may cause, or that may be caused by our pets. The current dog bite laws seem to give the impression that it is acceptable for dogs to bite people once, and that the owner is not responsible for it, and therefore no consequences.
It is an ancient rule of law that seems out of touch with our ideals and one that has otherwise been rejected in the majority of our states. In many other states, there are laws that either partially or wholly supplant the one bite rule, and impose strict liability on dog owners for bites, including that first bite. In the majority of America’s states, there is no more “free bite.”
Ideally, every single dog bite that occurs in Alexandria ought to have consequences. Each victim of dog bites and other injuries are likely to suffer, incur medical bills that have to be paid, along with other expenses and distresses. If dog owners are aware of the fact that there are consequences in place for every bite, they are sure to be a lot less inclined to permit their pets to roam off the property, or anywhere else, and in turn, there will be fewer instances of attacks and bites.
What seems to make matters somewhat worse for bite victims is that there is another ancient doctrine that is followed, known as the contributory negligence rule. Under this rule, a person who is even as little as one percent responsible for a dog attack has zero legal right whosesoever to attempt to recover compensation for his or her medical bills, or anything else for that matter.
It seems to be agreed that the one bite rule needs to be repealed. It ought to be replaced with a more general law that makes each and every dog owner, harborer, or keeper legally liable for any and all injuries that are caused by his or her dog, apart from injuries that are immediately caused as a result of trespassing or provocation. Such a statute, as implemented in other states, should explicitly negate contributory negligence as a form of defense in dog bite cases.
Let a Dog Bite Lawyer in Alexandria Get the Compensation You Deserve
If you have been injured by a dog bite, the knowledgeable and experienced dog bite lawyer at Ashcraft & Gerel can help to protect your rights and navigate the litigation process to help you recover the compensation that you deserve. Contact our experienced dog bite lawyer today to get started.