In 2018, a Daily American article estimated that over 10,000 households in Somerset County are homes to dogs and the total number of dogs in the county reaches approximately 16,000. Pennsylvania dog laws require that each dog be registered with the appropriate authority and that dogs are to be under their owners’ control and not allowed to run at large. These and other dog laws such as rabies vaccination requirements are intended to keep other people safe when it comes to dog bites and dog attacks.
Most dogs are harmless and go their entire lives without biting a person, but it only takes one dog and one bite or attack to inflict serious injuries on an innocent bystander. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that one in five dog bites require medical treatment and unfortunately, as dog bite attorneys know, it is often children who are on the receiving end of a dog bite or dog attack.
Compensation for dog bite injuries
In general, under Pennsylvania law when a dog bites someone, the dog owner will be responsible for the cost of medical treatment related to the dog bite. Other injuries and damages such as pain and suffering will not be recoverable. There are of course a number of exceptions to this rule depending on the circumstances of the case.
Facts that affect liability for damages and injuries
There are a number of facts and scenarios that affect how much, if any, liability a dog owner has for someone’s dog bite injuries and damages including the following:
- Provocation – A dog owner may escape liability by proving that the person who sustained the dog bite provoked his or her dog. Provoking a dog may include intentionally taunting and agitating a dog.
- Dangerous propensities – A dog owner may be liable for more than medical bills if it can be shown that the dog had dangerous propensities such as prior bites or previously exhibited aggressive behavior towards people.
- The extent of injuries – When dog bite injuries are considered serious, the dog owner may be liable for more than medical bills. Serious injuries include broken bones, stitches required for wounds, or necessary cosmetic surgery.
- Trespass – An owner may escape liability if the dog bite victim was trespassing at the time the bite occurred, however, the trespass defense may not hold up in some circumstances, including for a child trespasser.
- Violation of animal control laws – If a dog owner violates animal control laws at the time the bite occurs, he or she may be liable for more than medical bills. For example, if a dog is running at large on public property, the owner violates the law.
- The owner was negligent – Liability may be escalated if a plaintiff can show that an owner was otherwise negligent in a dog bite incident.