What Happens If I Don't Report a Dog Bite?
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Not reporting a dog bite to the authorities and insurance company could have negative ramifications for you and others. Even if you suspect your injuries are minor, you may suffer consequences after the fact and then face pushback when seeking damages in a dog bite liability suit.
Moreover, the same dog may injure someone in the future, and that victim may face challenges in pursuing compensation.
Not Reporting Leads to Less Evidence
Over 80% of dog bites occur at home, according to a 2019 study in the journal Heliyon. As a result, you may be persuaded to not report a dog attack because of some of the following factors:
- You know the dog owner.
- The owner doesn’t want to involve the authorities.
- The injury seems minor.
While reporting a friend or family member’s dog may seem unnecessary, doing so immediately establishes a paper trail that may prove useful in the future. Even the most minor bites can become infected with staphylococcus, capnocytophaga, or other bacterial infections.
The Report Can Help You Recover Damages
After a dog bite accident, you may face unexpected medical bills, loss of work, and even permanent changes to your life. A dog bite insurance claim or lawsuit may be a way to recoup those losses. However, by failing to report a dog bite, you are left without a crucial piece of documentation that:
- Proves the bite happened
- Creates an official record
- Cites your version of events
- Preserves evidence
While you can file a dog bite lawsuit even if you didn’t report the bite initially, you may find the process more challenging.
The Negligent Party May Belittle Your Claim
Not notifying the authorities creates more than a lack of evidence for you and creates more evidence for the other party. The dog owner’s insurance company may cite your decision not to report the bite as evidence that your injury is not as severe as you claim, which might lead to disputes regarding:
- Validity of the bite
- Timeline of events
- Value of your case
- Treatment you deserve
If you are facing these challenges, we can help. Nonetheless, having an official record of the dog biting you is difficult for the other party to contradict.
Doctors Might Report It Anyway
If you sought medical treatment for your bite, whether immediately or upon experiencing complications, the doctor may have reported it to animal control or the health department on their own.
Some cities in Virginia even require the report, as it helps ensure that rabies cases are controlled, as well as notifies authorities of dangerous animals.
Not Reporting Leads to Risks for Others
When a dog bite is reported to animal control, the health department, or the police department, they can investigate if the dog is dangerous. This incident may even lead to a court ruling on the dog’s status. If the dog is determined to be dangerous, the owner may be required to obtain:
- Dangerous dog registration
- Proper restraints
- Warning signs
- Liability insurance
All of these steps are put into place to prevent the dog from injuring anyone again. Although you may be worried about reporting a dog you know for fear of punishing the owner or the animal, the process is focused more on protecting others from risk.
Furthermore, these steps can protect the dog owner, as well as establish several safeguards from liability. Restraints, warning signs, and liability insurance can help prevent future incidents and show that the owner took the proper steps to avoid causing harm, preventing claims of negligence.
Virginia’s One Bite Law
One-bite laws are found in states that hold dog owners liable only after a dog has already proven aggressive or dangerous. In other words, the dog could bite someone once, and the owner may not be held liable. It is only after the dog has shown aggressive behavior that the owner can likely be held liable (VA Code §3.2-6540).
Not reporting a dog bite essentially creates a two-bite or three-bite situation before the dog’s dangerous behavior is properly addressed. If the dog that bit you bites someone else and you did not report the first bite, that victim will face an uphill battle in receiving damages, as the incident will be seen as a first offense. They will then have to prove that the dog owner was somehow negligent.
If you don’t report a dog bite, you jeopardize your rights to a lawsuit and others’ rights.
Get Help with Reporting Your Dog Bite Case
At the Parrish Law Firm, PLLC, we want to provide you with any information you need following a dog bite.
If you have questions about if and how to report your dog bite case, call our office today at (571) 229-1800. We can help you understand the steps to follow to preserve evidence, protect your claim, and pursue damages.