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Dogs are often referred to as “man’s best friend,” but it may be hard to think of a dog the same way after suffering a dog bite.

Dog attacks happen more often than you may think and can cause significant physical injuries and emotional trauma.

If you sustained injuries from a dog bite, you might be able to recover compensation from the dog owner.

While there is no “average” settlement for dog bite injuries, a personal injury attorney reviews the facts of your case to determine typical dog bite settlements amounts for your situation.    

What Laws Govern Dog Bite Settlements? 

Virginia follows the “one-bite rule” for dog bite injury settlements. Different from strict liability cases, the one-bite rule requires a victim to show the following:

  • The owner knew the dog was aggressive or dangerous; 
  • The owner acted negligently; and
  • The victim suffered injuries due to a dog bite. 

The one-bite rule does not require a victim to prove that the dog had a history of violence.

Instead, the one-bite rule requires a victim to show the dog possessed a propensity for violent behavior, which created a duty for the owner to use ordinary care to protect others from their animal.

After suffering a traumatic dog bite, obtaining favorable dog bite injury settlements requires the professional legal knowledge of a personal injury attorney. 

What Are the Legal Responsibilities of an Owner of a Dangerous Dog?

Virginia law places requirements on people who own dangerous dogs.

If the owner of a dangerous dog fails to implement these requirements and their dog attacks someone, an attorney uses this information to negotiate for larger dog bite injury settlements.

An owner of a dangerous dog in Virginia must undertake the following actions:

  • Obtain a dangerous dog certificate from their local animal control for $15; 
  • The dog must wear a dangerous dog tag and must be microchipped for identification purposes; 
  • Owners must post visible signs indicating that their dog is dangerous;
  • While on the owner’s property, the dog must be confined indoors or confined outdoors in a secure structure; 
  • While off the owner’s property, the dog must wear a muzzle and be leashed at all times; and 
  • Dangerous dog owners must maintain a liability insurance policy covering at least $100,000 for animal bites.

In Virginia, the meaning of a “dangerous dog” is a dog that has bitten, attacked, or inflicted injury upon a person or another pet. 

What Defenses May Affect Dog Bite Settlements?

Both insurance companies and the dog owner will attempt to assert a defense to your dog bite lawsuit.

While one may claim many defenses, the most common defenses asserted include provocation, assumption of risk, contributory negligence, and lack of knowledge. 


A dog owner might claim that you teased, taunted, or threw objects at the dog, thereby provoking the attack.

Whether or not evidence of provocation exists, your attorney will work to counter these defenses with proof of the dog’s dangerous disposition. 

Assumption of Risk 

The dog owner may assert that the victim knew of the dog’s violent tendencies and voluntarily chose to be around the animal. 

Contributory Negligence

Virginia law follows a contributory negligence rule for recovery in personal injury lawsuits.

Contributory negligence provides that even if a person is found to be 1% to blame for their own injuries, they are barred from recovering any damages in their personal injury lawsuit.

Therefore, if dog owners claim that the victim was partly responsible for the attack, it can substantially affect personal injury dog bite settlements.  

Dangers Not Known to Owner

A dog owner might assert this defense if a dog acted in a manner unusual for the dog. For example, let’s presume a dog owner knows that their dog is only dangerous when not at home.

However, the dog bite occurred on the dog owner’s property, an area where the dog had never been dangerous or territorial before.

In this situation, the dog owner may assert that they did not know the dog’s dangerous behavior when on their private property. 

These defenses may affect the outcome of personal injury dog bite settlements. However, a good personal injury attorney anticipates possible defenses to avoid any delays in reaching dog bite case settlements. 

How is Compensation Determined in Typical Dog Bite Settlements? 

Personal injury lawsuits, including dog bite cases, can award economic damages and non-economic damages as compensation to victims.

Economic damages represent tangible and quantifiable losses. These damages may be calculated with certainty and include the following:

  • Medical expenses, 
  • Lost wages, and
  • Future lost earnings.

Evidence supporting your claim for economic damages may be shown through receipts, invoices, pay stubs, and tax returns. 

Non-economic damages represent intangible and subjective losses. Because these damages vary significantly from one case to the next, non-economic damages may be the biggest factor affecting dog bite settlements.

Non-economic damages include things like:

  • Emotional distress, 
  • Disfigurement, and
  • Loss of companionship.

In certain situations, it may also be possible to seek punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded when a defendant’s conduct shows reckless disregard for the well-being of others.

A court may award punitive damages to deter similar behavior in the future. Virginia caps punitive damages at $350,000.  

Because circumstances vary so much from case to case, average dog bite settlement amounts don’t exist. However, a personal injury attorney evaluates the facts of each case to determine a range for dog bite injury settlements accurately.

Contact Us   

If you suffered a dog bite due to a neglectful dog owner, you deserve compensation for your injuries. At River Run Law, we aggressively pursue justice and fair financial compensation for your injuries.

It can be physically and emotionally traumatizing to experience a dog attack, and the emotional effects often last long after your physical injuries have healed.

You deserve a passionate advocate on your side. Contact the attorneys at River Run Law to discuss typical dog bite settlements and what you may be able to recover.

We are here for you when you need support. We offer free case evaluations, so you have nothing to lose by calling. Contact River Run Law today to see how we can help you.   

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Brooke Alexander

Brooke graduated from the University of Richmond School of Law after receiving her undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Brooke worked for five years in private practice with a law firm specializing in insurance defense litigation before becoming the trial litigator for Allstate Insurance Company in the metro Richmond area.

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