Contributory Negligence in Virginia Dog Bite Cases

Unlike in many other states where a dog bite can lead to damages no matter how it was caused, in Virginia if you are determined to have contributed to your injury in any way, you may be barred from recovery. With this in mind, the following is what you should know regarding contributory negligence and how it can impact your dog bite claim. To learn more call and schedule a consultation with a Virginia dog bite injury lawyer today.

What Contributory Negligence Means

Contributory negligence is a doctrine that says that if the injured person is at fault, in any way or responsible for their own injuries or for contributing to what caused their injuries, then it will act as a total bar to recovery. Very few states in America still have this, but Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland all do still have contributory negligence. What this means is that if a judge or jury finds that an injured person is anyway responsible for the accident or their injuries, they will be barred from recovery.  This means that a lot of cases that might normally be good cases in other jurisdictions are declined by attorneys because they feel there’s a contributory element that is too tough to overcome.

How It Applies To Dog Bite Cases

There are a variety of ways in which a dog bite case could feature an element of contributory negligence. For example, if someone was taunting a dog and the dog responds by biting them then that would be an obvious case. If somebody does something that causes the dog to bite or attack them then they will likely be barred from recovery. Often times people think that if it’s a dangerous breed of dog or a dog that seems dangerous that no matter what the person did to provoke it, the owner will be liable, this, however, is not true.

Another scenario with dog bites where contributory negligence comes into play would be trespassing. If you’re walking on land that has a sign that says beware of dog or do not trespass, and you decide to go on that land anyway, then a jury might well find you were responsible for contributing to your injuries even if you didn’t provoke the actual attack.  It’s going to depend on state law as to what obligations an owner has to take to protect trespassers on their land from animals. That’s a pretty clear situation where contributory negligence is at least implicated by those facts. That doesn’t mean that it’s an absolute bar before the defendant has to plead it. The defendant still has to say they’re relying on that as a defense, but if you’re a trespasser and you’re attacked by a dog that kind of changes the calculus.