In a recent Virginia personal injury case where a 67-year-old cyclist was knocked off his bike by a big dog, a settlement of nearly half a million dollars was reached at mediation with a retired judge after the lawsuit was filed and pre-trial discovery undertaken. The cyclist injured both shoulders and sustained a torn rotator cuff requiring two surgeries.
In the case, the plaintiff was riding his bicycle on the street in his neighborhood when, without any warning, a 60-pound dog bounded from its owners’ property, through an electric fence, and struck the plaintiff’s bicycle, throwing him over the handlebars and injuring his right shoulder. The plaintiff underwent two rotator cuff repairs, had over $66,000 in medical bills and lost wages, and continues to have strength deficits when lifting overhead. There were questions as to whether: the electric fence was working properly, the dog was wearing his electric collar, and whether the dog was properly trained to observe the fence. There was no allegation of contributory negligence, meaning that the defense lawyers did not allege that the plaintiff acted unsafely in any way.
The evidence revealed that the dog had gotten out of the yard a number of times even with the electric fence on. This provided evidence of “Notice,” which is required to win a dog attack case in Virginia. A settlement was reached with the defendants’ homeowners’ insurance carrier.
“Where there does not have to be a bite, there does have to be ‘Notice’ to the dog owner that their canine has or is likely to cause harm to someone, without provocation,” notes Virginia dog bite lawyer Doug Landau. “This legal ‘Notice’ can be satisfied by prior bites, attacks or even chasing people off the owner’s property. We here at Abrams Landau have won cases where the dog knocked people down and where the pet attacked a child while still chained to a post. Large-sized dogs can cause permanent injury just by their momentum, which is the combination of their weight and speed. It is critical to undertake prompt investigation in these dog attack cases to determine if there were prior bites, attacks or events off of the owner’s property.”