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Dog Bite Lawsuits in Pennsylvania – Compensation & Negligence
Legal Info for Dog Bite Victims in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Delaware, Chester and Bucks Counties
Victims of dog bites or dog attacks in Pennsylvania may obtain financial compensation for the injuries that result from the incident, including facial injuries and scarring. Children often sustain the most serious injuries, and in some cases, are killed in dog attacks.
Pennsylvania’s Dog Law allows the victim of a dog bite to seek reimbursement from the dog owner for any and all medical bills resulting from the bite or attack. See Pennsylvania’s Dog Law, Section 502(b) below.
However, to get compensation for pain and suffering or other losses, such as lost wages or other out of pocket expenses, the victim must prove that the dog owner was negligent.
Deadline to File a Dog Bite Lawsuit in Pennsylvania
It’s crucial to note that Pennsylvania law imposes a strict statute of limitations in dog bite or dog attack cases, which is 2 years from the date of the incident. Failure to file a lawsuit within the 2 year time period will result in dismissal of the claim.
For cases involving minors, the statute of limitations is extended to 2 years after the minor-victim turns 18.
Dog bite and dog attack cases accepted in Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, Montgomery, Delaware, Chester and Bucks counties. Call for a FREE consultation. (610) 825-0500
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Negligence Claims in Pennsylvania Dog Bite & Injury Cases
Negligence is the bedrock of all personal injury cases in Pennsylvania, including dog bite or injury cases. Decades ago, Pennsylvania courts employed a “one bite rule” in dog bite injury cases—where a dog bite owner was liable only for a second dog bite. This rule was effectively overturned due to amendments to Pennsylvania’s Dog Law in 1996.
Since 1996, dog bite and dog attack cases require proof that the owner had prior knowledge of the dog’s dangerous or vicious tendencies. In other words, was it reasonably foreseeable that the dog would cause injury? The answer depends on the specific facts of the case. What’s reasonable in one case might not be in another case. Therefore, it is key to investigate any dog bite or dog injury case immediately.
Of course, a prior dog bite or attack would be sufficient to prove prior knowledge, although not required. A victim can prove prior knowledge by showing that the dog was previously aggressive towards people without provocation, has a history of attacking other domestic animals without provocation, etc.
Dog injury cases do not always involve a bite or attack. Dogs can cause injury by jumping on someone and knocking them over. Children and the elderly are especially at risk of injuries in these situations.
Owners can be held liable if it was reasonably foreseeable that their dog would get loose or jump on others and cause injury. Again, liability depends on the facts. A 20 pound dog that jumps on people would not knock someone over, but a 120 pound dog certainly would. An owner of a large dog could be held liable when their dog knocks over a neighbor who falls and suffers a fracture. The key is whether the owner had prior knowledge of the dog jumping on people.
Other Parties May Be Liable for a Dog Bite or Dog Attack
Under Pennsylvania law, multiple individuals may be held liable for a dog bite or dog attack; owners are not the only party who may be held liable. Other parties who may be liable include dog trainers, dog breeders, dog sitters, landlords, etc.
Example: Dog Sitter Liable for Failing to Control Dog
A dog sitter who is hired to take a large dog out for daily walks fails to maintain control of the dog which jumps up on a elderly neighbor out for a walk. As a result, the neighbor falls and breaks their hip. Here, the sitter could be held liable if they had knowledge of the dog’s propensity to jump on others. Investigation reveals that the dog owner specifically instructed the sitter to use a short leash when walking the dog due to this very issue. On the day of the incident, the dog sitter forgot to use the shorter leash which resulted in the dog jumping up on the neighbor.
Example: Landlord Liable for Dog Bite
The landlord of an apartment building could be liable if the landlord had previous knowledge that a tenant’s dog was vicious or had aggressive tendencies but failed to take action to remove the dog or otherwise evict the tenant.
Pennsylvania Dog Bite Compensation & Insurance Coverage
Victims of dog bites or dog injuries can get compensation for:
- medical bills,
- lost wages,
- out of pocket expenses, and
- pain and suffering.
In severe injury cases, victims can also get compensation for future bills, losses and pain and suffering. These claims are typically reserved when significant scarring, disfigurement or serious permanent injury occur.
For example, a child who sustains a facial injury from a dog bite may obtain compensation for future pain and suffering where the injury results in serious, permanent scarring.
The Role of Insurance
Many victims of dog bites or dog attacks are unaware of how dog injury claims are paid. In many cases, an insurance policy will cover the injuries, including pain and suffering. The applicable insurance policy may belong to a dog owner, landlord or business entity, such as a dog sitting company or dog breeder business.
Depending on the type of policy, victims may be able to obtain full compensation for their injuries and damages. Homeowners, renters and landlord policies often provide coverage of $100,000, $300,000 or more. Business or commercial policies often exceed $1,000,000 in coverage.
Relevant Portions of the Dog Law
Medical Bills Recoverable from Dog Owner
Section 502. Dog bites; detention and isolation of dogs (emphasis added)
(b) Bite victims.–The following shall apply:
(1) The investigating officer shall be responsible for notifying the bite victim of the medical results of the offending dog’s confinement. 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. The Commonwealth shall not be liable for medical treatment costs to the victim.
Pennsylvania Dog Leash Law
Section 305. Confinement and housing of dogs not part of a kennel.
(a) Confinement and control.–It shall be unlawful for the owner or keeper of any dog to fail to keep at all times the dog in any of the following manners:
(1) confined within the premises of the owner;
(2) firmly secured by means of a collar and chain or other device so that it cannot stray beyond the premises on which it is secured; or
(3) under the reasonable control of some person, or when engaged in lawful hunting, exhibition, performance events or field training.
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