Dogs are our constant companions, and it’s hard for us to fathom that they could be anything less than friendly and loving. However, dog attacks do occur. Dogs, despite their reputation for being man’s best friend, can turn dangerous in an instant, even when unprovoked. They are merely animals, and when their animalistic instincts kick in, it can prove devastating or even deadly for anyone who crosses their path or who makes them feel threatened. If you or a loved one has been attacked by a dog and sustained a serious injury, you may be able to hold the owner of the dog liable for your medical bills, lost wages, and more. Our Morgantown dog attack attorney can help you understand the legal options available to you after your dog bite injury.
According to the American Humane Society, more than 83 million dogs are kept as pets across our country. While the vast majority never show aggression, more than 4.5 million dogs bite humans each year. Of those, about 1 million people are bitten with enough violence that they require medical help.
Under West Virginia Code Section 19-20-13, dog owners are held liable or ay injury their dogs cause while they are running at large, which is generally interpreted to mean roaming outside the homes or yards of their owners. Some courts, however, interpret the phrase “running at large” to mean that the animal is unrestrained, no matter where the dog attack occurs.
After establishing that a dog was running at large when it attacked its victim, the next question becomes the assignment of fault. How did the dog get out of the owner’s home or yard? Did it burrow beneath a fence or escape from a leash? Was it the responsibility of a groomer or kennel and not under control of its owner? Answering these questions is important to assigning liability in the attack and determining who must pay for the damages incurred during the attack. If the dog is found running at large, then the owner’s liability does not have to be proven; he/she is automatically liability under a strict liability clause.
Moreover, when assigning liability, there is also the question o whether the dog was provoked. Did the victim taunt the dog or unhook the dog from its chain? If so, then the victim may not be able to recover any expenses that occurred when the dog ultimately attached him/her.
Dog bite claims are made a bit more complicated by the so-called “one free bite” concept. In West Virginia, dogs get “one free bite” under the archaic “one bite rule,” an outdated law that has been around for hundreds of years in one form or another. Under this rule, dog bite victims must make a case that not only did the dog cause the injury, but the owner knew that the dog was dangerous, since the dog had attacked in the past. If it cannot be shown that the dog owner knew that the dog was dangerous, then he is not liable, even if the dog caused serious injuries or even if the attack proved fatal.
Because dog bite liability is so complex in one-bite states and is complicated by the unusual “dogs running at large” concept, it is important to seek out the services of an attorney who is well-versed in West Virginia dog bite law. Contact our legal team to arrange a consultation with our Morgantown dog attack attorney now.