Recently, Governor McAuliffe signed House Bill 2381 into law, which makes substantial changes to state law regarding dog bite liability. The law will go into effect in July, so if you were recently injured by someone else’s dog and have questions about how these changes will affect your case, it is important to contact an experienced Richmond personal injury lawyer who can address your concerns.
Current LawIn Virginia, dog owners have a legal duty to:
- Exercise ordinary care to prevent their animals from running at large beyond the boundaries of their own land; and
- Exercise reasonable care to prevent a dog that has dangerous propensities from attacking or injuring another person or animal.
- Known of the dog’s propensities; or
- Known that a particular breed had certain propensities towards aggression.
AmendmentsAccording to the terms of the new law, a dog will not be considered dangerous if an animal control officer finds that the injury inflicted by the dog consisted only of a single nip or bite resulting in a minor injury, scratch, or abrasion. In these cases, instead of automatically being required to summon the dog’s owner to court, an animal control officer has the discretion to decide whether the incident is serious enough to merit a court appearance. However, if the dog’s owner is required to go to court and the judge determines that the dog is dangerous, the owner must purchase a dangerous dog certificate within 30 days and take additional steps to ensure that the animal is restrained. However, even if an animal was not considered dangerous prior to an accident, the owner can still be held accountable in court for resulting injuries.
Damages and Time LimitsThose who are injured by a dog that the owner knew or should have known posed a risk to others can collect compensation for their losses, which could include:
- Medical expenses;
- Lost wages;
- Property damage;
- Disfigurement and scarring; and
- Emotional distress.