Animal Attacks Cause Serious Injury

Think dog bites aren’t a serious problem in America? According to a study by researchers from the Center for Disease Control, 4.5 million Americans a year a bitten by a dog. This means that, in any given year, each American has a one in fifty chance of being bitten by a dog.

Nearly 800,000 of those bites are serious enough to require medical attention and 368,000 of them require hospital visits. That’s more than 1,000 each and every day of the year.

What’s worse, these people aren’t just going to the hospital for a band-aid and some neosporin. The average bill from a dog bite is $18,2200, according to the US Department of Health & Human Services.

Children & Dog Bites

The victims of dog bites are most frequently children. Boys ages 5 to 9 have the highest incidence rate of any age and gender group. Children also suffer more serious injuries for the bites. Because of their short stature, children are more likely to be bitten on the head, face or neck. Dog bites are the fifth most frequent cause of visits to the emergency room among children.

Dog bites to the face or neck of a child can leave permanent scarring that might not be repairable by a plastic surgeon.

Which Dogs are Most Likely to Kill?

Under Virginia law, in the absence of a county or city leash law, you might not be able to recover a dime for your injuries or your child’s injuries after a dog bite. This is even true for what most people consider to be “dangerous dogs,” like pit bulls or Rottweilers.

Pit bulls and pit bull crossbreeds are involved in almost a third of all dog bite fatalities. Rottweilers account for the next third of dog bite deaths.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Settle a Dog Bite Claim?

It is not absolutely necessary to have a lawyer to settle a claim, but it is probably a good idea. There are many things to analyze in a dog bite case that the average individual might not think about:

  • past medical bills
  • future medical bills
  • future plastic surgery costs
  • permanent scarring
  • emotional damage in children
  • permanent disfigurement

Think about this – although dog bite losses cost individuals about $1 billion a year, only $300 million of these losses are actually paid by homeowner’s insurance. Don’t you want to make sure that you get all of the compensation that you deserve for your child’s or your own dog bite case?

Four Most Common Infections After a Dog Bite

You may have heard somewhere that dogs have very “clean mouths” and that the risk of infection after a dog bite is relatively low. This is not true, according to the School of Veterinary Medicine at Louisiana State University. In fact, they say that you might not even need to be bitten by a dog to be infected. Animal saliva is so heavily contaminated with bacteria that you can become infected simply by having your dog lick a cut or a scratch on your arm.

Typically, in Virginia dog bite cases, the largest injury is the bite itself. Whether it’s a simple puncture wound or a mauling that involves torn skin, muscle and fatty deposits, the damage from the bite usually does the most damage. This is because most victims get themselves to medical treatment at a hospital or an urgent care center fairly quickly, before and have the dog bite wound cleaned out so that it does not become infected.

If you do not seek immediate medical attention, you are putting yourself at risk for sevearl potential infections:

  • Streptococcal and Staphylococcal Infections. If you observe redness or painful swelling at the site of the dog bite that is progressing outward from the site, you should seek immediate medical attention.
  • Pasteurellosis. This is the most common dog bite-associated infection. Most dogs and cats carry the organism Pasteurella in their mouths. This bacteria can be transmitted via bite and usually manifests itself within 2-12 hours of the bite. The first signs are pain, redness and swelling, but the infection can quickly spread outward from the bitten area. This can be particularly dangerous in the hand where the bacteria infects tendons or bones and can cause permanent damage if not treated properly.
  • Capnocytophaga. This is a rarer infection, but is incredibly dangerous. This type of infectoin can cause septicemia (blood poisoning), particularly in people whose immune systems are compromised by some underlying condition. Up to 30 percent of those who developed septicemia from this infection die.

If you are bitten by a dog, you should immediately and thoroughly wash the wound with soap and warm water to remove as much dirt and saliva as possible. Next, you should apply antibiotic ointment and cover the wound wiht gauze or a bandage. If the wound is severe, you should seek professional medical attention.

Virginia Dangerous Dog Registry

Virginia has a relatively new registry that will help you determine whether there are any dangerous dogs in your neighborhood. This can be helpful for any bikers or runners or parents of small children who want to know what parts of their county to avoid.

Just like the Sex Offender Registry, the Dangerous Dog Registry allows you to type in your county and zip code and determine whether there are any dogs nearby who have been deemed dangerous or vicious. A “Dangerous dog” is one who “has bitten, attacked or inflicted injury on a person” and a “vicious dog” is one who “has killed a person, inflicted serious injury, or continued to exhibit behavior that resulted in a previous finding that the dog was dangerous.”

The registry was created after dogs killed a toddler and an 82 year old woman (in separate incidents) over the two years before it was passed.

Remember that the legal standard for establishing negligence in a dog bite case in Virginia is that (in the absence of a leash law) you must show that the owner had some prior knowledge of the dog’s propensity to be dangerous and that the owner did not take the proper steps to control his dog. Obviously, if the dog can be found on the Dangerous Dog registry, there should not be much issue establishing the knowledge component.

Much of the cost of maintaining the registry is borne by the dog owners. If the dog has been deemed dangerous, the owner has to pay a $100 initial registreation fee and then $35 renewal fees annually. In addition, if the dog is moved to a different location or the contact information of the owner changes, he is obligated to notify the state within 10 days of the move or change.

Virginia Dog Bite Cases: What You Must Prove

Virginia, as a state, has very tough law when it comes to individuals getting compensation for their injuries. Dog bite law is no exception. Virginia is one of the few states in the country that allows a dog “one free bite.” This means that the first time a dog bites someone in Virginia – no matter what the dog’s owner has done (or has failed to do) in order to prevent the bite – the injured person gets zero recovery.

Why is this? Because under Virginia law, an owner is not judged to know their dog’s violent propensities until he has actually bitten someone. A dog bite case, at its roots, is a negligence case. The basic elements of a negligence case are:

  1. There was a duty owed by one person to another person;
  2. There was a breach of that duty;
  3. As a result of that breach, an injury occurred.

So, in a Virginia dog bite case, the duty owed by the owner is to keep other people safe from his dog. However, the owner does not have a duty to prevent dog bites until he knows that the dog is a violent dog. It is not until after the first bite that any “duty” is created. This is unfair, but it is the rule in Virginia…

… With One Big Exception
The exception to the one bite rule is when the city or county that you live in has enacted a “leash law.” If your locality has a law that says that owners must keep their dogs on the leash, then that law creates the duty from #1 above. In one of those localities, if the dog is off the leash and bites someone, liability exists. Luckily, in most areas in northern Virginia, cities have enacted leash laws. However, as you get out into more rural and less densely populated areas, these laws do not exist and injured victims are left without any recourse for their medical bills, lost wages or pain and suffering.

A Virginia dog bite lawyer can help you determine whether you were attacked by a dog in an area that has a leash law or whether more investigation into the dog’s prior bite history will be necessary in order for you to bring an action against the dog’s owner. You will want to speak with an attorney sooner than later, because there is a time limit for filing a dog bite case in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Virginia Law on Wild Animal Attacks

Did you know that it is legal in Virginia for a private citizen to own lions, tigers, bears and wolves? Did you know that a citizen can own a monkey, gorilla or chimpanzee without even having to file for a permit? Following the release of dozens of wild animals in Ohio, many of whom had to be tranquilized, Virginia may be re-addressing the need for stricter regulation on the ownership of wild animals.

What if I’m Attacked by a Wild Animal?

Wild animal attacks are rare. Rarer still is the animal that is owned by someone and attacks a person after an escape. But we do hear stories about wild animals getting out of their enclosures and attacking neighbors every now and then.

Maybe as a result of how rare these attacks are, Virginia has a limited amount of law on the topic. The owner of a wild animal is “charged” with the knowledge of that animals natural inclinations and characteristics. This is a “buyer beware” type of law. It means that if you own a lion, the law assumes that you know that it can be a violent animal.

Virginia law imposes on owners of wild animals a “high degree of care” to keep it confined and restrained so as not to cause injury. The term “high degree of care” is not defined by law and it would be up to a jury or a judge at trial to determine whether the owner exercised the required amount of care.

Wild Animals Do Not Get One Free Bite

Unlike dog owners, owners of wild animals do not get the benefit of Virginia’s archaic “one free bite” rule. Because the law presumes that wild animals are dangerous, owner liability attaches the first time that a wild animal attacks someone. By contrast, Virginia law does not assume that dogs are vicious until after they have attacked someone (except for certain breeds).

Victims Can Still Lose Their Case via Contributory Negligence

Even with wild animals, Virginia’s contributory negligence rule applies. Contributory negligence means that if the victim’s own negligence contributes at all (even one percent) to the causation of their injuries, then they will receive nothing from a judge or jury. Virginia law with regard to wild animals says that a person who knows that he is in the vicinity of a wild animal is charged with knowledge of its natural inclinations and has a duty to use ordinary care for his own safety. In other words, if you know that your neighbors tiger is on the lose and do not take the appropriate steps to look out for your own safety, you cannot recover any money if the tiger attacks you.


We only take on cases we believe in and think we can win. Let us win for you.

No matter what you are going through, we are here to help. Timing is critical, so contact us as soon as possible to tell us what happened.


Law Offices of David L. Marks
10513 Judicial Drive, Suite 204
Fairfax, VA 22030
703-385-1983 fax

Injured? Find out if you have a case.
Arrested? Learn how you can protect yourself.