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Yesterday we looked at dogs attacking dogs. Virginia law provides only "property damage" compensation for a pet owner's losses, whether vet bills or euthanasia. However, in cases where an innocent owner has been attacked while walking their dog, the victim of the vicious dog attack CAN bring a case for both the harms to their pet as well as their own personal injuries and losses. Virginia negligence law treats physical injury and mental suffering differently when the human owner has also been injured.

Where only the pet has been mauled, yesterday's post looked at the Virginia laws limiting compensation to the "value" of the dog, like other property damage claims. However, where the dog or other pet owner has been bitten or knocked down and injured by an attacking dog, the human victim has a viable claim for the full panoply of personal injury damages. Whether the person walking the dog that was attacked is an adult or child, the elements of damages for their own personal injuries include: physical injuries, scars, lost earnings, medical bills, mental suffering, physical pain, inconvenience, embarrassment, medications, scar revision/plastic surgery to reduce the unsightly dog bite scarring and future losses.

The damages for the emotional distress caused by a dog attack can be extensive. Dogs occupy an unusual place in our society. At my last trial on Friday, a dog was present, at the judge's feet. This guide dog assisted the Virginia trial judge in getting around, and his honor was training the canine for this valuable service. The military, police and other state, local and federal agencies make use of dog's intelligence and trainning ability. More than "man's best friend," many dog's perform daily service (i.e., seeing eye dogs), crime deterrence and life saving missions.

Two close friends just lost their canine pets after many years. Both of their families are grieving the loss of the member of their families. To deny any loss but the retail cost of the dog to a pet owner whose dog was mauled by a vicious animal seems manifestly unjust. I believe that the better rule would be to allow evidence of the losses beyond the burial, euthanasia and medical bills caused by the dangerous dog's attack so that the innocent victims can be properly compensated. It seems unfair that the dog walker, owner or caretaker can only bring claims for additional damages where they themselves have been scratched, bitten and/or knocked down and injured. If you or someone you know or care for has been injured as the result of a dog bite or other animal attack and there are questions about what laws apply, e-mail or call us at ABRAMS LANDAU, Ltd. (703-796-9555). Virginia law severely limits the rights of injured victims, but we may be able to help.


  1. Gravatar for Debra Vey Voda-Hamilton
    Debra Vey Voda-Hamilton

    Doug is quite right about the status of the law regarding dog bites dog nationwide. A possible remedy for this limitation may be applying alternative dispute resolutions to the conflict. If they are beginning to work in divorce, another venue where emotion rules the day but which has laws and statutes to provide more in a court of law, it will work in an animal conflict.

    The parties may be more amenable to seeking an alternative resolution if they know they will not be sued, and their dog taken away. It is a solution that more easily address the emotional and physical issues, which a court cannot if the animal is the only injured party. Food for thought. An alternative resolution can be tailored and meet the needs of the parties in a way a court action cannot. And for that matter you can always litigate, so why not try mediating first, you may be pleasantly surprised at the results and the compliance by the parties to mutually agreed to resolutions.

  2. Gravatar for Howard Citron

    Florida law is similar to Virginia's in that compensation for dog on dog bites is limited to property damage. I am a big believer that this should be changed. As Florida dog bite lawyers, our firm handles dog bite and animal attack cases throughout Florida. Often times, along with the human bite victim there is a dog that has too be injured or killed. Dogs are treated by most as members of the family. States like Virginia and Florida should permit dog owners to collect pain and suffering damages for the loss of an animal.

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