Dogs attack millions of people around the country every year. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, one out of five victims must seek medical treatment for serious dog bite injuries. When a dog attack results in severe damages, pursuing compensation from the dog owner for the losses sustained becomes essential. A dedicated West Virginia dog bite lawyer helps victims of dog attacks maneuver the complex legal process of settlement and/or litigation to recover the compensation they deserve. Furthermore, in the event that a dog attack has caused the fatality of your loved one, they will pursue a wrongful death claim on your behalf.
West Virginia Dog Bite Laws
West Virginia Codes §19-20-20 and §19-20-21 prohibit the keeping of vicious or dangerous dogs that are not specially licensed and secured. Even if an aggressive canine is properly licensed, the owner is still liable in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit related to dog bites and attacks.
On the same note, West Virginia is a limited strict liability state on dog bite rules, meaning that in most cases, you do not have to prove the dog owner’s negligence to receive compensation. Under this rule, dog owners are expected to assume responsibility for their animal’s aggression against other people.
However, there is a very critical exception to this rule. West Virginia’s “One Bite Rule” may take effect under certain circumstances. For instance, if the dog was properly leashed when it attacked you and the owner did not have prior knowledge of the dog’s aggressive behavior, you have the burden of proof to demonstrate the owner’s negligence. Otherwise, the animal and its owner are excused for its first attack.
Steps to Take Following a Dog Bite
After a dog attack, you need to prioritize your health and take the necessary steps to protect your rights. Here is what you need to do:
- Call the police. After the attack, you should call the police and report the incident. If you are seriously injured, you should call 911 and request an ambulance.
- Document everything. You should take photos of the accident scene and your injuries. If you can, take photos of the dog that attacked you. If the owner is present, ask for the dog’s name and note its gender, markings, breed, size, and any other details that might help you identify it later.
- See a doctor. Even if your injuries do not require a visit to the emergency room, ensure you clean your wounds thoroughly and visit a doctor immediately after the attack for examination and treatment. Not only is this crucial in preventing infection, but your medical records will be admissible as evidence.
- Get details of the dog owner. Talk to the dog owner or any witnesses who can provide you with the owner’s name and contact information.
- Obtain witness contact information. If people have witnessed the attack, you should ask them for their contact information. Their accident account can help strengthen your case.
- File a report with animal control. Be sure to visit your local animal control agency and file a statement of the attack. They may have records of previous incidents of aggression.
Types of Compensation Available for Dog Bite Claims
If your dog bite merits compensation, the types of payment available include:
- Medical bills. You may claim compensation for all current and future medical expenses. This includes doctor’s fees, medication, hospital bills, therapy costs, etc.
- Lost wages. If the injuries keep you away from work, you could be entitled to damages for the lost wages.
- Pain and suffering. You may also qualify for pain and suffering damages for your physical pain, emotional distress, trauma, depression, etc.
Strengthen Your Case With a West Virginia Dog Bite Lawyer
One way of strengthening your case is by gathering enough evidence to support your damages. Obtaining witness statements is also crucial as their account can add more weight to your claim. If you’ve been seriously injured, these tasks may not be possible, and you need will the assistance of a skilled West Virginia dog bite attorney.
Most importantly, you need to seek medical attention immediately and attend any follow-up appointments. While you focus on your recovery, your lawyer will get to work collecting evidence. While you are healing, keep a journal record of your pain, symptoms, and treatment.
How a West Virginia Dog Bite Lawyer Can Help
While it is possible to pursue a personal injury claim without a lawyer, doing so puts you at a disadvantage. First, the settlement process involves dealing with experienced insurance adjusters and/or defense attorneys (if the case proceeds to trial). The adjusters are skilled negotiators whose primary interest is to minimize losses for the insurance company as much as possible.
However, if you hire an experienced West Virginia dog bite lawyer, they will work to protect your interests by countering the insurance company’s lowball settlements. Moreover, your attorney can help you gather the necessary evidence to support the claim, compute damages, file the demand letter, and then negotiate a fair settlement for you. If the insurance company refuses to agree to a fair settlement, your lawyer will be prepared to file a lawsuit on your behalf.
If you got attacked by a dog in West Virginia resulting in severe injuries, we can assist you in exploring your legal options for compensation. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.