Generally, dogs are considered part of the family, providing happiness and companionship to their owners. However, there are times when dogs can become aggressive and bite, causing serious injuries to those in their paths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur each year in the United States -- and approximately 1 in every 5 become infected. If you are the victim of someone else’s dog, that person can be held liable for any damages that resulted from the incident. In order to receive compensation for your injuries, a lawsuit can be filed against the dog’s owner.
Dog Bite Injury Liability
Each state has it’s own laws in regard to dog ownership and liability. In Pennsylvania, those of important note are as follows:
Confinement of Dogs Statute
Pennsylvania’s Dog Law requires owners and keepers to have full control over their dogs at all times. This law also requires that owners confine their dogs on their premises and restrain them by collar, chain, or other devices to keep them from straying. Dog bite victims who can prove that an owner violated Pennsylvania’s Confinement Statute, may recover damages.
Common Law Liability
When a person is severely attacked or when the animal has previously been considered dangerous, the law in Pennsylvania states that the dog’s owner is liable for all damages. If the dog owner was negligent or failed to comply with state dog laws, victims can recover full compensation.
If the dog has not bitten before, the victim can make a claim against the owner for damages depending upon the situation and severity of the injury.
Dangerous Dog Statute
“Dangerous Dog” is defined as:
1. a dog that has done one or more of the following:
- a dog that has inflicted severe injury on a person without provocation.
- "Severe injury" is any physical injury that results in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations requiring multiple sutures
or cosmetic surgery.
- a dog that has killed or inflicted severe injury on a domestic animal, without provocation, while off the owner's property.
- a dog that has attacked a person without provocation;
- a dog that has been used in the commission of a crime.
2. A dog that has either or both of the following:
- a history of attacking people and/or domestic animals without provocation;
- a propensity to attack people and/or domestic animals without provocation. A propensity to attack can be proven
by a single incident of the conduct described in (1), above.
Legal Responsibilities of Owners with Dangerous Dogs
- Dog owners must register their dogs as dangerous
- Dangerous dog owners must maintain liability insurance coverage of at least $50,000; insuring the owner for any personal injuries inflicted by the dog
- A dangerous dog owner must maintain a proper enclosure to confine the dog. The owner must also post the premises with a clearly visible warning sign that there is a dangerous dog on the property, and conspicuously display a sign with a warning symbol that informs children of the presence of a dangerous dog
- When the dangerous dog is outside of its owner's house or outside of its enclosure, the dog must be muzzled and restrained by a substantial chain or leash and under the physical restraint of a responsible person.
- Dangerous dog owners must notify the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, the State Dog Warden, and the local police department if the dangerous dog is on the loose, is unconfined, has attacked another animal, has attacked a person, has died, or has been sold or given away. If the dangerous dog was sold or given away, the owner must provide the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement and the State Dog Warden with the name, address, and telephone number of the new owner.
Liability of Owners with Dangerous Dogs
- If a dangerous dog, through the intentional, reckless, or negligent conduct of its owner, attacks a person or domestic animal, the owner is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree and faces up to two years in prison.
- If a dangerous dog, through the intentional, reckless, or negligent conduct of its owner, aggressively attacks and causes severe injury or death of a person, the owner is guilty of a misdemeanor in the first degree and faces up to five years in prison.
- If a dangerous dog is owned by a minor, the minor's parent or guardian will be liable for injuries and property damage caused by an unprovoked attack.
Establishing Damages related to Your Injuries
The injuries you are looking to claim damages for must be directly related to the dog bite.
After establishing a liable party, be sure to keep a list of all current and future expenditures resulting from the injury. Costs include, but are not limited to the following:
- Medical Bills
Expected Future Medical Costs
Along with the physical injuries sustained in a dog bite incident, you may also be entitled to compensation for any emotional damages that were endured.
It is important to compile evidence to prove that the bite occurred, otherwise your claim may be denied. Examples of vital evidence to support your claim, are:
- Photographs of the Scene
Photographs of your Injuries
After you have gathered evidence and established your damages, you will need to hire an experienced dog bite injury attorney to help you file your claim.
There is a chance that the dog’s owner is covered by insurance, and if that is the case your attorney will work to negotiate a settlement with the insurance provider. If they are not covered, your attorney will file a claim against the owner in court, resulting in a dog bite injury lawsuit.
How Kwartler Manus can help You
It is important to find a dog bite injury lawyer who is experienced and dedicated to helping you with your case. The fierce legal team at Kwartler Manus has over 40 years of combined experience in personal injury and will fight to get you the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Our firm works on contingency, meaning you will not have to pay until we win your case. If you or a loved one has suffered a dog bite injury, contact our office online or by phone at(267) 214-8608 for a complimentary case consultation.