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What does Virginia’s “One Bite” rule mean for pet owners?

On Behalf of | Aug 26, 2021 | Personal Injury

The state of Virginia has a “One Bite” rule saying that dog owners can only be held liable for injuries to another person if it can be proven that their dog has bitten someone before. If their dog hasn’t bitten someone before, then it can be reasoned that this was a one-off incident and won’t happen again. While this rule sounds straightforward, there are several other factors that are taken into consideration when judging dog bites.

When is the dog owner held liable?

Virginia’s “One Bite” rule means that the owner is only held liable if they knew that their dog might bite someone again. Once their dog bites someone, their dog has the potential to be a dangerous dog.

However, there are certain circumstances where a dog wouldn’t be classified as dangerous even if it had bitten someone before. This can be one of the following situations:

  • The injury from the bite was minor and does not constitute a serious injury.
  • The person bitten was proven to be trespassing onto the dog owner’s property.
  • The person who was bit provoked the dog in some way.

These aren’t clear-cut defenses for dog owners. However, they are taken into consideration if the dog owner is being asked to pay for injuries.

What if this was the dog’s first time biting someone?

If the dog hasn’t bitten someone before, it can be hard to prove that the dog owner should be held liable. It’s not impossible, though.

The person seeking damages could argue that the dog was being negligent or failed to use due care. An example would be failure to follow local leash laws. For this reason, it’s important that dog owners know the laws in their area.