West Virginia Uses Strict Liability and Negligence Standard in Dog Attack Cases
In the majority of U.S. states, dog owners are held strictly liable for the injuries caused by their pets biting someone, regardless of what the owners knew or what actions they took to prevent the incident. In West Virginia, however, strict liability is limited to situations where the owner of a dog has allowed the animal to roam free in a public place. Otherwise, West Virginia’s negligence rule applies.
Under the negligence rule, the owner may not be held strictly liable for injuries or death caused by their dog, on their property, unless it can be proved they knew or should have known that the dog was dangerous. One way to prove negligence is to show that the dog has bitten before. If a dog bites someone, the owner might then be considered to be aware of the animal’s potentially aggressive behavior. However, this can also be proven in other ways, such as proof of the dog having growled or bared its teeth in the past.
West Virginia law can make it difficult for victims to pursue compensation for their injuries in certain circumstances. For example, the owner may have a defense if another person allowed the animal to run at large, although the owner may still be held liable if it can be proved that he or she knew of the dog’s vicious nature. In addition, victims may claim negligence by an owner, such as failure to restrain a dog in compliance with local leash laws.
If you or a loved one was harmed in a dog attack, it’s advisable to consult with a personal injury lawyer to learn which liability laws may apply to your case. Proving liability often requires investigation and research into any past history of attacks by the dog in question. Note that there is a two-year statute of limitations for bringing a lawsuit after a dog bite injury.
At Kaufman & McPherson, PLLC, we have more than three decades of experience helping West Virginians injured in dog attacks. We can help you navigate our state’s complex dog bite laws, gather evidence and prepare witness testimony to work for the best possible outcome for your case. With our legal team in your corner, you may be able to obtain compensation for medical bills, lost wages and other damages such as pain and suffering. For a free consultation, call our Bridgeport office at 304-842-4300 or contact us online.