Many people fear dogs because they’re well aware of the dangers they pose if they attack. An adult dog’s bite is far more powerful than the nibble a puppy with small and perhaps less developed teeth might give you. The older a dog is, the more significant damage it can likely do with its teeth.
If you’ve been bitten by a dog here in Charleston, WV, you might have mounting medical bills you now need to pay. You may also want to find a way to assign a monetary value to the pain and suffering you have endured. A dog bite attorney at DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC can help. Let’s explore how West Virginia dog bite laws address dangerous canine attacks and your right to recover compensation after they occur.
What To Know About West Virginia Dog Bite Statutes
West Virginia’s primary dog bite statute is §19-20-13. That section of code specifically addresses unleashed dogs and an owner’s liability for any harm incurred off their property because they allowed that to occur.
Other Dog Ownership Laws Applicable in Charleston, WV
There are various laws here in Charleston and West Virginia to make dog ownership more manageable and minimize the chances of senseless dog bites or attacks. Some of the more notable laws include:
Charleston municipal code §10-120 prohibits West Virginia residents from keeping more than two dogs ten weeks or older on their property unless the owner secures a permit to do so or a facility is licensed as a kennel.
There’s also a municipal code §505.11 in southern Charleston, which prohibits individuals from keeping dangerous dogs on a leash, rope, or chain outside of its pen or kennel unless its owner has command over the animal.
While there are no statewide breed restrictions that regulate what type of dogs an owner can keep, there are municipal codes in place that do. Some cities that place restrictions on dog breeds and the types you can have are:
Most of these ordinances ban ownership of dogs city officials deem as vicious or dangerous, such as wolf-dog hybrids, pit bulls, Canary dogs, and even American bulldogs.
Why Do Dogs Bite or Attack?
There are a variety of reasons why a dog may attack someone. They often do so because they:
- Feel as if their territory is being compromised
- Don’t feel well or are hurt
- Are being subjected to ill-treatment or pestered
- Have poor socialization skills
- Feel the need to protect their puppies or packs
Dogs often give off warning signs that they’re about to bite or attack. While dogs may certainly growl as they become increasingly aggressive, they may also:
- Become increasingly testy (start snapping)
- Stop looking you in your eyes
- Their bodies may become stiff, and fur may stand up
- The white portion of the dog’s eyes or their teeth may become more visible
If you encounter a dog showing any of these signs, it’s best to distance yourself from them. Be careful not to turn your back on them, as the dog may see this as an opportunity to attack you.
Once a bite or attack is in progress, the best approaches you can use for breaking free include:
- Striking the dog’s throat, head, or nose
- Calling attention to yourself and your need for help by screaming
- Doing your best to break free from the dog by vacating the area
While dogs will often eventually go on their way after biting you, other canines know no limits and may carry out a full-on attack. Either scenario can result in life-threatening injuries.
How Common Are Dog Bite Incidents?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that at least 4,500,000 individuals suffer dog bites each year in the United States. At least 19% of those dog bite victims require medical attention for their injuries.
An estimated 50% of those individuals requiring further medical treatment after a dog bite are children. Most of them are aged five to nine. When younger children (those under age four) seek treatment, two-thirds of the time, it’s due to them suffering head and neck injuries.
Dangers Associated With Dog Bite Attacks
Dog bites can vary in severity.
While they may only puncture the uppermost layer of skin, they often permeate into much deeper layers. That’s where nerves, bones, and muscles are found. Any damage to these is likely to require surgery to repair and, even still, can leave behind disfigurement and residual functional impairments.
Another danger individuals face after having been bitten by dogs is infection control concerns. Many dogs have Capnocytophaga bacterial growth in their mouths. Others are infected with rabies. Both potentially deadly conditions can be transmitted to humans through a mere scratch, so the transmission risk through a bite is even higher.
Capnocytophaga causes sepsis to develop unless a dog bite victim receives immediate medical attention. Patients will experience tissue decay and organ failure, often requiring amputation to save a patient’s life if caught too late.
Rabies is a neurological condition that can quickly multiply within a person’s brain cells, rendering them dead anywhere from two short days to less than two weeks after exposure. Initial rabies symptoms include anxiety, agitation, and confusion. The condition’s symptoms may progress to include insomnia, hallucinations, delirium, and a fear of water as it worsens.
Patients who receive a round of rabies vaccinations soon after exposure to the disease have a high survival rate from this condition.
What Steps To Take After a Dog Bite in Charleston, WV
A dog attack can leave you incapacitated and in shock, unable to think straight about what you need to do. If at all possible, try and identify the dog’s owner. If the dog is wandering alone without its owner, you may want to think back to where you might have seen it in the neighborhood before, as this can help you identify the owner. If you haven’t encountered the dog before, then determining when the dog first started approaching and the direction it came from may help you better pinpoint to whom it belongs.
If possible, take photos of the dog, the owner, the residence where both live, and where the attack occurred. Get any witness contact information, too, if you can, before anyone leaves the scene.
Summon police and make a report. Also, reach out to Kanawha County to file a dog bite report. You can expect county officials to review previous reports to determine if an owner or their dogs have been previously cited for violating city or state codes. Based on their findings, this may impact what happens with the dog involved in biting you.
In the meantime, you may want to get any information from the dog’s owner, including vaccination records, whether they’ve bitten anyone before, and their homeowners’ insurance policy information if they seem receptive to turning it over.
Dog bite incidents often fall into the broader category of premises liability cases since they happen on the owner’s property. Vaccination information could come in handy for doctors treating you, and the other information could help build your personal injury case necessary to recover compensation for injuries you’ve suffered.
You should, of course, also receive medical attention right away after any dog bite for treatment of your injuries. Even if you don’t have particularly serious injuries, you should still consider getting checked out to ensure the dog didn’t transmit bacteria or rabies to you.
Scheduling an initial consultation with a dog bite attorney should be next on your agenda. It’s important to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible after receiving treatment for your injuries. Doing so will ensure evidence is preserved in your case and that a negligent dog owner is held liable for their canine’s actions to the fullest extent that Charleston city code and West Virginia law allow.
The attorneys here at DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC have extensive experience helping Charleston residents like you take necessary legal action to recover compensation after a West Virginia dog bite incident. Schedule a free case evaluation to discuss your legal options.