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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.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), in 2022 the average payout for a dog bite claim in Virginia was $64,555

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.    

If you or a loved one has sustained a dog bite injury in the Richmond area, a Virginia dog bite lawyer can help you recover the compensation you deserve.

Contact the team at River Run Law to get started today.

What Laws Govern Dog Bite Settlements in Virginia? 

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 Settlement?

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. 

dog bite settlement

How is Compensation Determined in a Typical Dog Bite Settlement? 

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.

Based on the data, a level 4 dog bite settlement typically ranges from $125,000 to $512,000. These figures are derived from various level 4 dog bite settlement examples. Learn more about what factors influence these settlements below.

Contact a Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer at River Run Law Today

If you suffered a dog bite due to a neglectful dog owner in the Richmond, Virginia area, 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.

The attorneys at River Run Law can 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 the team at River Run Law today to see how we can help you.   

Where You Can Find Our Richmond, VA Office Location

Frequently Asked Questions About the Average Settlement for  Dog Bite Injuries in Virginia

Most people do not anticipate suffering a dog bite injury and do not know what to do when and if it occurs.

Our dog bite injury lawyers have collected some common questions we encounter about the average settlement for dog bite injuries in Virginia. 

How Much Is a Dog Bite Settlement?

The value of a dog bite settlement varies from case to case. Even if you did not suffer serious injuries, you can recover through a personal injury claim. 

Even a minor dog bite settlement that compensates you for very minimal injuries can alleviate some of the financial stress that happens in the wake of your injury.

And the largest dog bite settlement can reach millions of dollars.

This might occur when you suffer especially severe injuries as a result of a dog bite, such as losing an extremity or dealing with permanent disfiguration. 

How Do I Negotiate a Dog Bite Settlement?

If you hire a skilled dog bite attorney, they can negotiate for a fair settlement on your behalf.

The insurance company is primarily concerned with paying you as little as possible.

We know the tricks and maneuvers these companies use to undervalue your dog bite claim.

Our dog bite lawyers will prepare a strategy that helps ensure you recover the compensation that you deserve.

How Long Does It Take for a Dog Bite Settlement?

There is no reliable way to determine how long a civil lawsuit will take to conclude.

In many cases, a civil lawsuit will settle before reaching the trial stage.

Still, settlement negotiations can take months or even years to iron out.

Remember, you only have two years to file your dog bite lawsuit or the Virginia statute of limitations will bar your claim.

How Much Money Can You Get from Getting Bit by a Dog?

The value of a dog bite settlement typically depends on where the injury falls on the dog bite severity scale.

Dog behavior specialists use a scale to assess the severity of a dog bite.

For example:

  • A level 1 dog bite settlement involves aggressive behavior without contact to the skin by the dog’s teeth—for example, growling or snapping.
  • A level 2 dog bite settlement involves skin contact by a dog’s teeth without a puncture wound.
  • A level 3 dog bite settlement includes between one and four tooth puncture wounds from a single dog bite, without a puncture that is deeper than half the length of the dog’s canine teeth.
  • A level 4 dog bite settlement includes between one and four tooth puncture wounds from a single dog bite, with a puncture wound that is deeper than half the length of the dog’s canine teeth. This can also include deep bruising around the wound.
  • A level 5 dog bite settlement includes multiple level 4 dog bites or multiple attacks.

This dog bite severity scale helps categorize dog bites into a particular level

How Is a Dog Bite Settlement Calculated?

A dog bite settlement is designed to compensate you for the damages you suffered as a result of the dog bite.

Thus, the settlement will consider things like your medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages. 

Can You Sue a Dog for Biting You?

You cannot sue a dog. You can only sue the person responsible for the dog at the time it bit you, which is usually the dog’s owner.

Is a Dog Always at Fault When It Bites a Person?

No, a dog is not always at fault when it bites someone.

Most states recognize the legal defense of provocation, which means that if someone provoked your dog into attacking them, you are not liable for the harm the dog bite caused.

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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.