Written by attorney Taylor Burkhart Downs

Injuries in West Virginia: The Dog Bite, or when Fido doesn’t play nice

The family pet. We love and cherish it. Many families in West Virginia own pets and many own dogs. Dogs can offer love, compassion, and friendship. However, there are times when Fido doesn’t play nice. Dog owners have a responsibility in West Virginia to control their family pets and to keep dangerous pets restrained. Here is a typical scenario:

It is a pleasant, sunny afternoon and you decide to stroll through your neighborhood. While walking on the sidewalk, soaking up the sun and enjoying your day, an unrestrained dog comes running toward you. Being a dog lover, you at first try to talk to the dog. You then realize that the dog is actually coming after you and seems to be angry. You speed up your steps and try to get away from the dog, but fido is faster than you. He ends up biting you, cutting your flesh and causing you to bleed. You are now injured and depending on the severity of the bite, you could be severely injured. After the bite, you head to your local hospital’s emergency room to seek treatment for your injuries- thinking you may just need some stitches to help the wound heal and prevent scarring. After a doctor sees you and gives you the necessary treatment, he further questions you about the dog. You don’t know anything about the dog’s history, inoculations, or owners.

The next day you return to the scene, speak with the dog’s owners, and discover that the owners can’t tell you the last time the dog was given rabies shots or had been seen by a vet. You follow up with your family doctor and find out that, given the dog’s history, you need a series of painful and expensive rabies shots to protect yourself from the possibility of developing rabies. You are now faced with expenses from the hospital, your family doctor, and the cost of rabies shots. Plus, the incident has left you with physical scarring and a fear of animals. Where do you turn?

In West Virginia, state law holds the owner of a dog running at large liable for any damage the dog may cause. Specifically, W. Va. Code, § 19-20-13, states “Any owner or keeper of any dog who permits such dog to run at large shall be liable for any damages inflicted upon the person or property of another by such dog while so running at large." This means that the owner of the dog can be held responsible for all of your medical bills and any other damages you may have because of the dog bite. Owners of pets are responsible for their actions and have a responsibility to maintain and properly restrain their pets. When this doesn’t happen, and an individual is injured, the owner of the pet can be punished.

At the Manchin Injury Law Group, our attorneys handle personal injuries and have experience in helping victims of dog attacks collect for the damages inflicted upon them. If you have been a victim of a personal injury, visit our website for more information or call our office at 304-367-1862 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney.

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