We Represent Adults & Kids Injured in Dog Attacks
Dog attacks happen more often than most people realize. Many dog bite victims sustain serious physical injuries, scars, disfigurement, emotional trauma, and tragically wrongful death. Sadly, our most vulnerable loved ones, children and seniors, tend to be the more common attack victims.
As a dog bite victim, you have certain legal rights. You may be able to obtain compensation for the financial loss and mental anguish you’ve suffered due to someone else’s negligence or carelessness. If you’ve been injured, you have the option of hiring a personal injury lawyer to protect your rights and fight for the compensation you may be owed.
Richard Serpe, a Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer
Attorney Richard Serpe has dedicated his 34-year legal career to helping injured victims and their families. His dog bite clients include: children, mail carriers, delivery drivers, neighbors, joggers, pedestrians, and many others across Virginia. If you’d like to discuss your options, give us a call (757) 233-0009 to schedule a free consultation.
- Rated 10/10 – “Superb” by Avvo.com
- Listed in Best Lawyers (2005 – Present); Norfolk Injury Lawyer of the Year (2020)
- AV rating from the Martindale-Hubbell law directory, highest given
- “Super Lawyer” – among the top 5% of lawyers in Virginia (2006 – Present)
1. What are my legal rights after a Virginia dog attack?
Personal injury law seeks to make victims whole again. Whether through a homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance claim, victims can seek financial compensation for their injuries. No amount of money can turn back the clock and prevent the attack from happening. However, compensation can help with medical needs and provide financial assistance to get you back on your feet. A claim or lawsuit can cover your medical bills, lost wages, emotional trauma, scarring and disfigurement, plastic surgery, permanent injuries and disabilities, as well as loss of career or earning capacity.
Many people are reluctant to file a claim against a dog owner, especially if the owner is a friend, family member, or neighbor. Since dog bites are usually covered by homeowner or renter’s insurance, though, you’re unlikely to be taking cash from their wallet. When a dog causes physical, emotional, or financial losses, you shouldn’t have to bear the weight of that alone.
2. What should I do after a dog attack?
- See a doctor for your injuries. Always call 911 if you have been seriously injured. Even if your attack doesn’t warrant an ambulance ride, consider seeing a doctor to address your wounds. When bitten or scratched by any type of animal, no matter the size of the wound, you run the risk of contracting rabies or an infection. Be sure to take care of yourself first. As far as personal injury claims go, you must have suffered injury and loss to purse a claim. Medical documentation is a critical element of any personal injury case.
- Report the incident to local animal control or emergency authorities. First and foremost, an animal that has attacked a person is a potential threat to the health and safety of the public. Most cities and counties throughout Virginia require that you report the incident to local animal services, the health department, or police. An investigation into the animal will need to be conducted while the animal is placed in quarantine. The information collected through this investigation can be very useful evidence in a personal injury claim.
- Consider contacting a Virginia dog bite lawyer. Although hiring a personal injury lawyer isn’t require, hiring a professional who understands the process can take a lot of stress off of you and your family. Most injury attorneys work on a contingency fee, so you won’t owe any legal fees unless there is a settlement or verdict.
3. Should I hire a Virginia dog bite lawyer?
You are not required to hire a dog bite lawyer after an attack. However, you need to be careful not to sign away your legal rights with the insurance company for a small settlement. If you agree to a dog bite personal injury settlement and sign the release papers, you cannot come back for more money later.
When to Consider a Virginia Dog Bite Lawyer
Here are a few situations that may highly benefit from the experience and knowledge of a Virginia personal injury lawyer familiar with Virginia dog bite claims:
- You’ve never been through the claims process. Insurance companies know that most people are inexperienced with the claims process and will take any chance they get to deny or minimize a claim.
- You injuries are permanent and life-altering: If you are permanently disabled after a dog attack, this will likely affect your ability to work and earn a living. You’ll want an attorney that can help the insurance companies, and a jury, understand just how much your injury will affect the rest of your life.
- You injuries are severe and your medical bills are expensive. Even if your injuries are not permanent, when severe, you are likely to have expensive medical bills and lost income. Insurance companies are looking deny or quickly resolve claims at the lowest dollar amount possible. An attorney will ensure that you are not being rushed and that you’ve reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) before starting negotiations. This ensures that ALL of your medical expenses relating to the incident are demanded in your claim.
- Facts are uncertain and an investigation needs to be conducted. It isn’t always clear who should be held liable for the attack. The insurance company could try and point the blame at you. Sometimes it isn’t clear whether the dog owner has any insurance at all. An personal injury lawyer will protect your rights and ensure all avenues of compensation are explored.
- The attack resulted in the wrongful death of a loved one. Virginia allows certain family members to make a claim for losses they have suffered as a result of negligence. When someone is fatally injured in a dog attack, it’s important to consult an attorney familiar with Virginia wrongful death cases.
4. Virginia Dog Bite Laws
Virginia’s “One Bite” Rule
This rule aims to hold pet owners legally responsible for the violent actions of their dogs. If a dog owner knows that their pet has bitten at least one time in the past, they can be held liable for the damages caused in subsequent attacks. In other words, if Fido got into trouble for biting a neighbor last year, his owner must take necessary precautions to prevent additional attacks from occurring. Should Fido bite again, his owner will likely be held responsible for the victim’s financial losses. This is because the owner knew of the dog’s violent tendencies but did not take action to prevent additional attacks.
Negligence Per Se
Even if a dog doesn’t have a violent past, negligent owners can still be held responsible for the damages their dogs cause. Victims may sue for compensation so long as they have evidence that the owner failed to control their pet and follow the law. For instance, if you’re at the park and are attacked by a dog whose owner has let it roam off the leash, you may have a viable claim. The decision to allow the dog off the leash in a place with strict leash requirements demonstrates the owner’s negligence.
5. Virginia Personal Injury Claim Compensation
Claims made by a dog attack victim are almost always paid out by the dog owner’s homeowners or renters insurance. Without the protection of a dog bite lawyer, insurance companies will try and offer you the lowest settlement possible.
Fact: Insurers paid out $797 million in liability claims related to dog bites and other dog-related injuries in 2019, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and State Farm®. The average pay-out for a dog-related injury claim nationwide in 2019 was $44,760.
Compensatory Damages Available to Victims
Typical damages for which dog bite victims can receive compensation include:
- Pain and suffering: This is the right to compensation for physical pain and suffering and mental anguish you have suffered and could endure in the future.
- Loss of Earnings: You are entitled to recover for the loss of earnings which you suffered from your injuries. This includes wages, commissions, bonuses, and all other earnings and fringe beneﬁts. If you are not able to work because you are recovering from your injuries, the loss of income will be made up.
- Disﬁgurement, Scarring, Plastic Surgery: If the injury causes scarring or other unsightly marks, the victim is entitled to recovery for the disﬁgurement. Children are frequently bitten in the facial region and require plastic surgery.
- Medical Expenses: The cost of basic medical treatment, going to the emergency room, and any sort of surgical treatment or care needed to repair the damaged area of the body.
- A Wrongful Death: Virginia allows certain family members to make a claim for losses that have occurred due to the wrongful death of a loved one. These types of claims can be complicated and should be handled by an attorney who is familiar with these types of cases.
6. Child Dog Bite Cases
Many of our dog bite clients are, sadly, children. Kids love animals, but animals don’t always love kids. When dogs feel threatened, afraid or angry, they can lash out at even the tiniest of children.
Dog bite injuries range from minor to deadly. Lacerations and punctures are common among child dog bite victims, as are sprains, fractures, and tissue loss. Many times, scarring on the face and neck leave a permanent reminder of the attack. Some victims require surgery to repair the damage done and plastic surgery down the line to fix the cosmetic damage.
Dog Bite Client Testimonial
“My 7-year-old daughter was outside playing with friends in front of our home when she was viciously attacked by our neighbor’s Rottweiler. The Rottweiler dug a hole under the fence, escaped, and ran straight towards the children.
The dog ended up attacking my daughter by the calf, pulling her to the ground and dragging her several feet before letting go. When she arrived at the hospital, she was treated for two large lacerations and numerous small bites and puncture wounds before being transferred to CHKD where she had to have surgery.
My lawyer, Richard Serpe, and his staff did a thorough investigation into the dog owner, and were able to secure a settlement for my daughter. The settlement allowed us to pay her medical bills, as well as set aside funds for her future education.” – Ms. Jones
7. Delivery Driver & Postal Worker Dog Attacks
To perform their duties, these workers must enter the territory of countless dogs each day. Many dogs believe they are protecting their home and owners when attacking. Groups of dogs and dogs behind invisible fences are often to blame for more serious attacks. Workers filling in for colleagues or walking through a new route are the most susceptible to dog bites.
While some choose to carry treats to distract dogs on their route, others choose to bring pepper spray along, just in case. Even with these strategies in place, dog bites can still happen.
- Workers’ Compensation Claims – In many cases, the worker’s employer may extend workers’ compensation benefits to injured employees. This can cover lost wages and medical expenses related to the attack.
- Claims Against the Dog Owner – If you pursue a claim against the dog owner and win, they will be responsible for repaying any workers compensation benefits that were paid out. In addition, you can attempt to recover for things such as pain and suffering, plastic surgery for unsightly scars and other damages.
8. Statute of Limitations (Legal Deadlines)
In Virginia, there are strict deadlines for filing a lawsuit. In many cases, Virginia provides a two-year deadline also known as the Statute of Limitations. However, sometimes special circumstances apply and can alter that deadline. While two years seems like a long time, it takes time for you to heal and it takes time to build a strong case. In the event of permanent injury or a wrongful death, the complex nature of these cases can deem time consuming.
Most personal injury lawyers offer free consultations. At the least, consider contacting someone to discuss your options as early as possible to protect your right to compensation. If you’d like to speak with our team, give us a call or shoot us a text message 757-233-0009.
9. How much does a dog bite injury lawyer charge?
Insurance companies have tremendous resources. Our law firm understands that the costs associated with a lawsuit can be a barrier to justice. This is why we offer a no-fee promise. This means you don’t owe us any legal fees unless we settle or win your case. If our Virginia dog bite lawyers accept your case, we will work on your behalf to get a fair settlement. We will only charge legal fees if you receive a settlement or verdict.