Having a family dog is a wonderful thing. They provide comfort, companionship, and unconditional love whenever we need it. Even though dogs have a lot of great qualities, they are still animals that can catch us off guard with their wild behavior. Domesticated animals are usually fairly docile, but that doesn’t mean they can’t lash out. When a dog is frightened, startled, or angry, they can bite someone without warning. If you have been injured, you may need to hire a dog bite lawyer.

Dog bites are more common than you might think. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that around 4.5 million dog bites occur every year in the U.S.. Of these, 1 in 5 will become infected and require the victim to seek medical treatment.

It’s up to you to make sure that your dog doesn’t bite you or anyone in your family, but other people’s dogs are not your responsibility. If someone else’s dog has bitten you or a loved one, you may be able to seek compensation from that person for your physical injuries and emotional trauma.

To find out if you have a case after a dog bite accident, it’s best to contact a Morgantown dog bite injury lawyer who can assess the situation and help you determine if you have a right to fight for compensation.

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West Virginia Dog Bite Law

West Virginia uses a strict liability rule when it comes to dogs who are allowed to “run at large” and subsequently bite someone. Strict liability in this context means that the injured victim doesn’t have to prove that the owner knew the dog was dangerous. As long as the dog was at large, the owner will be responsible for any injuries they may cause.

Someone who is bitten by a dog in West Virginia has two years in which to file a claim under the statute of limitations. Because dog bite injuries cases can be complicated and are time-sensitive, it’s best to work with a Morgantown dog bite attorney who has the experience needed to handle this kind of case appropriately.

Why Do Dogs Bite?

It’s very unusual for a dog to bite someone for no reason. Herding dogs have been known to nip now and again, but most of them won’t sink their teeth into you without cause.

While many people believe that some breeds are more aggressive and likely to bite than others, there’s no substantial evidence to indicate that this is true. It’s generally accepted that a dog’s willingness to bite or become aggressive depends more on their training and the environment they’re living in than it does on their breed. The truth is that any dog has the potential to become aggressive, whether they’re big or small, male or female.

Some situations that can cause a dog bite injury include if they:

  • Are stressed
  • Feel threatened
  • Are playing a little too hard
  • Are sick
  • Are in pain after a surgery or injury
  • Are defending their territory, toys, bones, or food
  • Are caring for their young/puppies
  • Get startled by loud noises, sudden movements, or being accidentally hurt or stepped on

Who is Most at Risk for Dog Bites?

The top two reasons dogs bite are that they are scared or hurt. With this in mind, you can see why some people are more likely to suffer a dog bite injury than others.

Children, for instance, may hurt or scare a dog without meaning to. In fact, the CDC states that children between five years old and nine years old are more likely to be bitten by a dog than any other age group.

Men are also more likely to be bitten by dogs than women. This could be because men are generally larger, louder, and more intimidating than women. This, combined with a deeper, more commanding voice, may make men scarier to dogs than women.

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How To Avoid Dog Bites

It’s easy to feel like your family dog owes you good behavior because you feed them, care for them, and buy them toys. Even though you do “own” your dog, that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the same respect that you would give any other animal who could hurt you.

Dogs, like people, need personal space and, when that space is invaded, they’re likely not going to be happy about it. You may know what your own dog’s boundaries are, but you probably wouldn’t know how much space someone else’s dog needs to feel safe.

With that said, following the below tips can help you avoid a dog bite injury when approaching an unfamiliar dog:

  • Never approach a stray under any circumstances.
  • Don’t get too close to someone else’s dog without asking their permission.
  • If you do have the owner’s permission, spend a little time simply standing next to the dog until they get to know you better
  • Avoid reaching down over a dog’s head to pet them when you are meeting them for the first time. Instead, avoid making eye contact as you stand several feet away and crouch down to the dog’s level so that you seem less scary.
  • Don’t sneak up on a dog, or make sudden movements or loud noises, if they are sleeping, eating, or caring for their young.
  • Keep an eye on the dog’s body language. A stiff body, laid-back ears, furrowed brows, yawning, staring, and lip licking can all be signs that a dog is feeling afraid and may become aggressive.
  • Never, ever leave a child alone with a dog.
  • If you are in a situation where you believe a dog may be about to bite, stay calm. Don’t make eye contact, run, or scream. Stand still with your arms at your side and wait until the dog begins to relax or lose interest before slowly backing away.

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What To Do After Being Bitten By A Dog

Regardless of how severe the dog bite was, it’s always best to seek medical attention for your injuries.

Once your injuries have been treated, write down the details of your case. Your notes should include when and where you were at the time of the attack, a description of the dog, the owner’s contact information, and anything else you remember about what happened. You may also want to see if you can find anyone who witnessed the attack and ask them for their contact information as well.

Next, report the attack to animal control and the police. They will file a report and take any steps necessary for preventing this from happening to someone else. Finally, contact a Morgantown dog bite lawyer who can help you determine your legal options.

Why Should I Hire a Morgantown Dog Bite Lawyer?

As you can see from West Virginia law, whether you are entitled to compensation depends on the circumstances leading up to the dog bite. In many cases, you may be able to sue the owner and receive compensation from their homeowners insurance. Unfortunately, without experience in handling these kinds of cases, you may not get the money you deserve if you try to handle your dog bite claim on your own.

On top of that, if you’ve been bitten by a dog, you may not only be suffering physically but emotionally as well. Dog bites can leave real scars and emotional scars that can last for life or require years of therapy to cope with. This is all the more reason that if you are bitten by a dog, you owe it to yourself to work with a Morgantown personal injury attorney who can help you get money to cover your damages.

Plus, at Colombo Law, we work on a contingency fee basis. That means that you won’t pay anything for our help unless we are able to reach a successful settlement or verdict on your case. Getting started is easy, all you have to do is call us at 304-906-2815 to schedule a FREE consultation and speak to a dog bite injury lawyer near you.