Virginia Dog Bite Laws
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed May 22, 2019
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You've just been bitten by the neighbor's dog, even though you were minding your own business (on your side of the property line), and now you need emergency medical care. Is your neighbor liable for your injuries? It depends on several factors, including the question of whether the dog has bitten people in the past. The following is an overview of Virginia's dog bite laws, including liability, per se negligence claims, and more.
Virginia Dog Bites: Liability and Negligence
Virginia has a "one bite" rule with respect to dog bite injuries, which means a plaintiff may recover for injuries if the owner knew or should have known their dog was dangerous (such as proof of a previous incident). But plaintiffs also may file a negligence claim if the owner failed to use reasonable care, such as restraining their dog in accordance with local leash laws.
Virginia Dog Bite Laws at a Glance
When you're in pain and missing work -- and considering a lawsuit -- the last thing you have the patience for is deciphering the meaning of legal statutes. The following is a summary to help you understand the main points of Virginia's dog bite laws, with links to applicable statutes.
Virginia Code, Title 3.2, Section 6540, et seq.
|Virginia's "One Bite" Rule for Dog Bites||
Plaintiffs may present evidence that the owner knew or should have known that their dog was dangerous, such as testimony by someone who was previously bitten by the dog.
If this evidence is accepted as truthful, then the owner may be held liable for injuries to the plaintiff.
|"Negligence Per Se" Claims for Careless Dog Owners||
Even if the dog has never bitten or injured anyone before, a plaintiff may sue for damages if they're able to prove that the owners failed to use reasonable (or "due") care in controlling their dog(s).
For instance, someone who's bitten by a dog whose owner fails to follow an applicable leash law may sue under the legal theory of "negligence per se." In other words, the very fact that they failed to use a leash is considered negligent.
|Statutory Definition of "Dangerous" Dog||
In Virginia law, the term "dangerous dog" means:
A dog is not considered dangerous if:
|Legal Procedures for Dogs Known to be Dangerous||
If a peace officer or animal control officer has reason to believe a dog is dangerous, they may apply for issuance of a summons requiring the owner to appear in court at a specified time.
The dog shall be confiscated and confined in order to protect the public until the case is adjudicated. If the dog is found to be dangerous, the court may order any of the following:
Owners of dogs determined to be dangerous must register their dog with the local animal control office within 30 days.
|Defenses to Dog Bite Claims||
|Time Limit for Filing Claim||
2 years (Virginia Civil Statute of Limitations) for personal injury claims and 5 years for injury to personal property.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Research the Law
- Virginia Code - FindLaw's hosted version of the Code of Virginia and Constitution.
- Virginia Laws - FindLaw's summaries of select Virginia laws, including criminal, injury, employment, family, and small business laws.
Virginia Dog Bites: Related Resources
- Animal Attack and Dog Bite Claim Resources
- Does the Type of Animal Affect a Bite Injury Case?
- Dog / Animal Bites: FAQ
Need to File a Dog Bite Claim in Virginia? An Attorney Can Help
If you've been bitten by a dog that's bitten before, you may be able to file an injury claim under Virginia's "one bite" rule. But even if the dog hasn't injured anyone before, there are some instances where you could sue the owner for negligence. Get up to speed on your legal options today by contacting a Virginia animal bite injury attorney near you.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
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