Millions of dog bites happen each year and Pennsylvania regularly ranks in the top five states for the highest number of reported dog bites. Dog bite attorneys represent dog bite victims and they know how severe the consequences can be for those who have sustained injuries and damages in a dog bite or dog attack. Dog attacks can happen to anyone, but often dogs will attack the most vulnerable people including children and the elderly.
Pennsylvania dog bite laws can be a little difficult to navigate when it comes to liability and recoverable damages and those things depend on the facts relevant to each case of a dog bite or dog attack. Important questions related to those facts of each case that affect liability and damages are listed below.
Was the victim trespassing at the time of the attack?
Dog owners will generally not be responsible for dog bite injuries if the victim was a trespasser at the time the dog bite occurred. There may be exceptions, however, especially if the victim is a trespasser child.
Was the dog bite unprovoked?
If the dog owner can prove that the victim provoked the dog, the owner will generally not be responsible for dog bite injuries and damages. Provoking a dog may involve teasing or abusing a dog.
Was the dog a dangerous dog?
In general, under Pennsylvania law, dogs that have a history of biting a person or domestic animal without provocation are considered dangerous dogs. A dog may also be considered dangerous if it has previously exhibited dangerous propensities such as acting like it may attack someone or something. If a dangerous dog bites a person, the owner may be liable for all injuries and damages sustained by the victim. There are some exceptions for police dogs, service dogs, and farm dogs in certain circumstances.
Was the owner in violation of any laws or ordinances at the time of the attack?
If the owner was not in violation of any laws or ordinances at the time of the attack, the owner may only be responsible for the victim’s medical expenses. If the owner was in violation of any Pennsylvania laws or ordinances at the time of the attack, he or she may be responsible for damages in addition to medical expenses such as pain and suffering and lost wages. For example, a violation may be an off-leash dog that is off of the owner’s property at the time that the dog bite occurred.
Were the injuries severe?
Severe injuries are defined as broken bones or injuries requiring sutures or cosmetic surgery. If the injuries are not severe, the owner’s responsibility may be limited to reimbursement for the victim’s medical expenses. If the injuries are severe, the owner may be responsible for related medical expenses and other damages.