DOG BITE CASES: MORE COMMON THAN MOST PEOPLE THINK
Dog bite cases are more common than most people think, but they also include a lot more than just bites; sometimes dogs chase someone and they pose a danger, even if they don’t actually bite someone. The theme of dog bite cases is really this: they’re like bad children, in that it’s really not their fault, it’s the dog’s owner who’s at fault.
They’re at fault because they have allowed their dog to run loose or to get out of the house, garage or backyard without taking the proper precautions, such as an invisible fence, which is equipped with electronic sensors that give the dog a mild shock if they try to leave the premises. These are very effective but many dog owners won’t take the time, effort and expense to install something like an invisible fence or even an actual fence; they just allow their dog run outside for a few minutes and use the neighborhood as a bathroom while they stand in the doorway in their robe because they don’t want to go walk the dog.
That means their dog is now loose and very happy, which makes it a danger; even when it’s trying to be friendly, accidents occur, which means a dog’s natural instinct to play and chase after moving objects puts people at risk, including joggers, children playing outside and people on bicycles and tricycles. All of these are potential victims of loose dogs, all because bad owners have chosen to not keep their dogs confined in a safe manner. That is the cause of most dog bites, and children are often the victims of dog bites because they’re small and moving; the perfect target for large dogs.
Sometimes, the dog is just being playful, but when dog is bigger than a child, something bad can happen, and when they chase a bicycle or a jogger, something bad can happen, whether they are scratched or bitten or attempt to get away by running into the street and perhaps being hit by a car or falling over. Some dogs are a danger because the owner has permitted it; it’s usually unintentionally but it’s often out of selfishness.
There is a saying in Virginia that every dog is entitled to a free bite, which means that a dog’s proclivity is to bite, because it is an animal. Therefore, when most dogs bite someone the first time, the burden is on the plaintiff and their attorney to prove the owner negligent in their maintenance of the dog. If an owner knows the dog has a proclivity to bite because it’s bitten before, they’ll be held liable most of the time, but if it’s the first time, it’s almost impossible to hold the owner liable for damages because every dog is entitled to one free bite.