Understanding Pennsylvania Dog Bite Laws
Whether you’re walking through your neighborhood, knocking on a neighbor’s door, or visiting a friend’s house, being attacked by a dog is one of the last things that anyone expects to happen to them.
However, while dogs can be friendly and protective, they can also be aggressive in certain situations, biting or attacking.
If you have been bitten by a dog in Pennsylvania, it’s important that you review PA dog bite law and learn more about your rights and options. At the office of PhillyLaw LLC, our lawyers are here to help you.
Pennsylvania Strict Liability Dog Bite Law
The laws in Pennsylvania are both varied and multiple and, as such, it can be difficult to understand whether or not a dog’s owner will be held liable for any injuries you’ve suffered as a result of a dog attack.
In most cases, though, both statutory law (what’s written in Pennsylvania’s code) and common law (cases that have been decided in the past) hold that a dog’s owner should be held liable for damages caused by the dog.
To be sure, Section 459-502(b) of Pennsylvania Statutes reads that, as it applies to bite victims, “Any cost to the victim for medical treatment resulting from an attacking or biting dog must be paid fully by the owner or keeper of the dog.”
This means that a dog’s owner is held strictly liable for medical expenses sustained by a dog bite victim.
Defenses to Liability
While a dog’s owner may, most of the time, be held strictly liable for medical damages resulting from a dog bite, there are some defenses that a dog owner may put forth to shield themselves from liability. These include:
- The dog bite victim was trespassing at the time of the attack; or
- The victim was teasing, harassing, or provoking the dog at the time of the attack
PA Dog Bite Law: Common Law Negligence
While a victim of a dog bite can bring a strict liability claim against a dog bite owner for medical damages, this settlement may barely scrape the bottom of the barrel if the victim has suffered serious injuries and is therefore not only in need of compensation for medical expenses, but also in need of compensation for lost wages, pain and suffering, and other economic and noneconomic harm.
If this is the case, the victim may maintain a cause of action for a common-law negligence claim against the dog owner. In a negligence-based action, the victim must prove that the defendant owed the victim a duty of care, breached the duty of care and that the breach was the proximate cause of harm.
For example, if the dog owner knew that the dog was dangerous based on a previous history of aggression yet allowed the dog to roam at large regardless, the victim may have a strong case.
A negligence per se claim may be brought if the dog bite was the result of the defendant’s violation of a statute, such as the failure to keep the dog on a leash.
What to Do After a Dog Bite to Preserve Your Right to Compensation
Regardless of the type of claim that you are bringing against the dog owner, there are a few things that you can do to improve your chances of recovery.
- Report the dog bite immediately – Do not hesitate to report the dog bite as soon as it happens. Filing an official report is necessary.
- Seek medical care- You need to seek medical care for your injuries as soon as you can. Be sure to document all care received and to follow your doctor’s orders.
- Get the dog owner’s information – While you may file a claim directly against the dog’s owner, it’s very likely that the claim will be settled by the dog owner’s homeowners’ insurance policy. Get the dog owner’s contact information and insurance information.
- Talk to a lawyer if your injuries are serious – If your injuries are serious and are going to require more than just a little TLC to heal, you should consider speaking to an experienced PA dog bite law attorney. An attorney can help you to understand the laws surrounding dog bites in our state, what you need to do, types of compensation available, and next steps to take.
Call Our PA Dog Bite Lawyers Today
At the office of PhillyLaw LLC, we love dogs. But we also realize that dogs can be dangerous and unpredictable.
Our lawyers are passionate about helping dog bite victims recover the compensation awards that they deserve and will gladly represent you in your claim for damages.
We offer free case consultations and work on a contingency fee basis. Reach out to us directly today to get started.