Q: We were invited to our neighbor’s house recently for a holiday cookout. While we were there my son was bitten by their dog and required a trip to the hospital. Thankfully he is fine but we had to pay for some out-of-pocket expenses. Do we have any legal options?
A: We spoke with Plan Attorney Dave Johnson from Virginia Beach Law Group who offered some information for you regarding this matter: “If you live in Virginia, there is a complication in that it is a ‘first bite is free state.’ That means if the dog had never bitten anyone before, then the owner would probably be able to escape liability because the owner would not be on notice that the dog was likely to bite. On the other hand, if there had been a prior dog bite, that fact imputes a degree of awareness to the owner and an obligation to prevent a second dog bite, so then there is a pretty good basis for a lawsuit. In the event of a lawsuit, the injured person (or a child’s parent) would file suit against the dog’s owner. The owner would inform his insurance carrier, who would then take up the defense. An additional complication for the bitten person is that Virginia is also a ‘contributory negligence’ state. That means if the bitten person’s negligence contributed to the circumstances which ended by being bitten, the dog’s owner will have a very strong defense.”