Over $150 Million Recovered For Our Clients “Roger K. Gelb is one of the area’s most respected and sought-after legal minds” – Washingtonian Magazine
Washington DC Dog Bite Lawyer
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 4 million people suffer dog bite injuries yearly across the United States, making a DC Dog Bite Lawyer more crucial than ever. Many of those injured are children, and often, in addition to requiring medical care, dog bite victims endure lifelong disfigurement. Some animal attacks are even fatal.
A personal injury case provides a method to hold the dog owner or other responsible party accountable. The laws regarding liability for dog bites vary between states, and at Gelb & Gelb, Washington, D.C., dog bite lawyer Roger Gelb is familiar with the relevant statutes in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. Attorney Gelb fights to recover compensation for those hurt by the negligence or wrongdoing of others. Having successfully recovered over one hundred million dollars in settlements and verdicts for thousands of clients, our firm is prepared to help you assert your rights. Attorney Gelb is recognized as a top personal injury advocate and personally handles every case in the office.
Washington, D.C. Dog Bite Law
The District of Columbia requires that victims prove negligence on the part of a dog owner, except for a specific situation in which the dog that bites was “at large” due to the owner’s negligence. Dog owners must control dogs on leashes in public and keep them on personal property. A dog owner will not escape liability for harm caused by their dog under these circumstances by stating that they did not know the dog would cause injury.
Type of Claim
Most dog bite personal injury claims within the District of Columbia are for negligence. In these cases, the injured individual shows that the dog owner failed to control the dog adequately. They may have a strong compensation claim if this failure to use reasonable care caused their injury. Simply demonstrating that a dog owner lets their dog run at large may be evidence of negligent conduct, but it will not automatically prove negligence. Another example of potentially negligent conduct includes letting a stray dog wander into a daycare center, resulting in an attack on a child.
For all negligence claims, causation is essential. A dog that bites someone due to the owner’s carelessness lends itself to a relatively straightforward causation assessment. However, when someone runs from a scary dog and then trips or collides with a vehicle, it is more challenging to establish causation. Factors such as whether the dog owner violated a leash law or had a known propensity to bite must be assessed. A dog bite lawyer serving the Washington, D.C., area can help you consider the facts of your case and determine whether you have a claim.
At common law, a dog owner was not liable for personal injuries caused by his dog unless he had reason to know of the dog’s vicious propensities. This is known as the “one bite” rule. Our legal system is built on how courts rule on specific issues. There is a hierarchy of courts in each jurisdiction. If a higher court rules one way on a problem, the lower courts should follow that ruling.
Liability for Dog Bites in Washington, D.C.
Many states maintain a strict liability dog bite law, holding owners liable when their dogs bite regardless of circumstances. Other states allow dog owners to have “one free bite,” meaning a dog owner is responsible only once they know the dog’s propensity to bite. The laws governing dog bites vary between the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.
The District of Columbia and Maryland have a contributory negligence rule. This is a complete bar to collecting damages when the injured person contributed to their injuries. Contributory negligence arguments may be based on the defendant dog owner’s allegation that the injured person provoked the dog. A dog owner may allege that the victim abused the dog or taunted the dog until it bit. If the dog owner is deemed 90% responsible for the attack, and the victim is 10% responsible, the victim will be barred from recovering compensation. A DC Dog Bite Lawyer can tell you whether or not your case is barred by contributory negligence.
Trespassing is another argument that a defendant dog owner or business may set forth in order to escape liability. Trespassers may face challenges in asserting their right to recover damages. If not lawfully on the defendant’s property, the homeowner may not owe a duty of care. However, exceptions to this trespassing rule exist for mail carriers, law enforcement, and, in some cases, neighborhood children. A top attorney can help assess this type of defense. We can help you avoid the legal limitations on the dog owner’s liability in a case.
DC Dog Bite Lawyer in Virginia
Virginia does not maintain a strict liability dog bite statute. Instead, a dog owner may be liable for a bite if their negligence caused the bite to occur. An example of negligent conduct might be failing to secure a gate for a dog known to bite people. Virginia law also requires owners to understand their dog’s propensities and prevent foreseeable harm.
In some cases, claiming negligence per se may be appropriate. This doctrine holds that violating a statute or ordinance intended to protect a particular population sector, thereby harming a group member, creates liability for the defendant. An example is a dog owner violating a leash law designed to protect the public from injuries related to dog bites. If a young child is attacked and bitten by an unleashed dog, the owner, by violating the leash law, may be deemed liable on the grounds of negligence per se.
DC Dog Bite Lawyer in Maryland
Maryland applies a strict liability rule if the attacking dog is at large and the owner cannot prove he did not know his dog was dangerous. This means there can be an affirmative burden on the defendant in court. Like plaintiffs in D.C. and Virginia, negligence is the legal principle that Maryland victims can rely on to recover compensation after a dog bite injury. Again, negligence requires a showing that the dog owner did not meet the necessary level of care. As a result, the victim was injured.
An injury claim is typically against the dog owner following a dog bite. Often, a homeowner’s insurance or a renter’s policy, if a private person owns the dog, will cover a judgment or settlement. In some cases, business insurance may cover the loss if a dog bite occurs on the premises of a business. Insurance policies must be carefully analyzed, as specific dog breeds are expressly excluded from coverage. A seasoned Washington, DC, dog bite lawyer can help assess whether a particular loss requires litigation and determining liability.
Common Dog Bite Injuries
Victims will set forth their damages after establishing liability for a dog bite. In a negligence claim, the plaintiff may recover for the physical and emotional harm resulting from the attack. Medical care, hospital bills, prescriptions, and physical therapy are costs that may be included. Due to the nature of a dog bite injury, scarring is common. It is necessary to allow the wounds to heal to assess the extent of harm. Permanent scarring may entitle the victim to seek a more significant damages award.
Wages missed from work due to injuries should also be calculated and set forth. Additionally, injured victims may recover emotional distress damages, and mental anguish can be inferred when bodily injury is severe. This may be the case when the victim suffers disfigurement, permanent facial or body scars, nerve damage, or lasting infection. Psychological harm may result after a dog bite, as victims can suffer post-traumatic stress from the animal attack. Costs for psychological therapy may be included in a damages claim.
What to Do if You Are Bitten by a Dog in Washington, D.C.
If a dog bites you, you have to be weary about scarring. Depending on the bite’s depth, you may need stitches at the hospital. In some of our cases, where a dog bites an arm or a leg, there can be severe nerve damage and blood. In almost all circumstances, it is best to be seen by a medical professional so that you can determine the next steps. Unlike a car accident, you likely will not need physical therapy. Although, it is possible if your nerve damage is severe enough.
This is a critical step. Please make sure to collect information from the owner of the dog and any witnesses. This means, ideally, name, address, and phone number. Your attorney needs to be able to contact and interview a witness. They may be helpful in court or even a deposition for settlement purposes. And, of course, we need the owner of the dog’s information because we need a person to sue. Even if we do not eventually file suit on the claim, we need to be able to get in contact with their insurance provider. We may use the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance, so identifying that person is essential.
Understand Your Options
Your options following a dog bite are simple. Of course, the simplest option is to do nothing, which we do not recommend. This entails paying for your injuries or using your insurance. You will not receive compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages for your potential inability to work, or your pain and suffering related to your injury. On the other hand, if you retain counsel, you will have many additional options. First, we can initiate the legal process against the defendant. This does not necessarily mean we will be filing suit. Instead, we send a demand letter to the defendant’s insurance company. Then, we begin settlement negotiations.
Going to trial is inconvenient for everyone. First, it takes a lot of time. Getting to court can take several months. D.C. takes even longer and is more arduous than neighboring jurisdictions like Maryland or Virginia. Accordingly, alternative dispute resolutions incentivize both sides to resolve the case. The most common one, of course, is settlement. Your third option is taking the defendant to trial. This may be the only option if there is a dispute over liability and who is at fault. Fortunately, this is something we handle all the time.
Discuss Your Claim with a Skilled DC Dog Bite Lawyer
The aftermath of a dog bite can leave victims feeling overwhelmed and angry. Pursuing compensation from a negligent pet owner is one way to recover compensation and a sense of justice. Attorney Roger Gelb is available to help people throughout MD, VA, and Washington D.C. as they set forth their legal rights following an animal attack. If you would like to learn more about the specifics of your case, you can contact one of our DC Dog Bite Lawyers today.
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