The general public often underestimates the seriousness of dog bites and animal attacks. Unfortunately, dog bite incidents are common and injuries can be very severe, costly, and sometimes permanent. Different states have varying statutes and laws that apply to dog bite incidents.
West Virginia has a specific statute that covers some dog bite cases, while others are covered by common law or court-made principles. Therefore, there are three ways to seek recovery in West Virginia if bitten by another’s dog:
- Statutory Law: Strict Liability
- Negligence Theory: Common Law
- “One-Bite Rule:” Common Law
West Virginia’s statutory law regarding dog bite incidents assigns strict liability upon the dog owner only for dogs running at large. This means that the injured person does not have to prove that the dog owner knew the dog would act aggressively or cause injuries. The fact that the dog owner allowed the dog to run at large and the dog caused injuries makes the owner responsible for paying damages.
Strict liability does not apply to certain situations, and in those cases the injured party can try to seek recovery under the common law theory of negligence, or under the “one-bite rule.” Strict liability does not apply when someone other than the dog owner allowed the dog to run at large, or if the dog causes injury on the owner’s property.
Negligence is a legal theory for proving fault in dog bite cases. It applies in situations where a dog owner’s conduct falls below the standards of behavior established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm. Negligence forms a common basis for civil litigation, with plaintiffs (or injured parties) suing for damages based on a variety of injuries caused by someone failing to exercise the care towards others that a reasonable or prudent person would use in the same circumstance. And, that failure results in unintentional harm to another.
In order to recover under a negligence claim, the injured party must prove that the dog owner had a duty to act reasonably to protect others from his or her dog, that the owner’s actions (or failure to act) breached that duty, that because his or her breach the dog had the opportunity to bite, and that injuries resulted from the bite.
The “One-Bite Rule”
Under the “one-bite rule,” the injured party must prove not only that the dog caused the injuries, but also that the dog owner knew (or had reason to know) that the dog was dangerous. If the injured party can prove both of those factors, then the dog owner will be held liable for the attack and resulting injuries. Since there are two necessary elements to recover under this theory, this is not considered strict liability. It is called the “one-bite rule” since if the dog had bitten someone before, the owner is then on notice that it may happen again, and thus the owner is legally responsible for all dog bite injuries that occur (after the first time).
Find a West Virginia dog bite lawyer now.