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Understanding Dog Bite Cases in Pennsylvania

A large percentage of households throughout the U.S. own dogs, and injuries resulting from dog bites pose a serious threat of harm.  Dog bites often take place on the victim’s property, and in many cases, the victims know the dog. In addition to permanent scarring and a significant risk of infection from the bites, there is usually a psychological harm that extends well past the physical injury.

Pennsylvania common law holds dog owners or keepers responsible for injuries caused by a dog if they negligently handled the dog, or if they knew (or should have known) the animal had a propensity to bite.  In some cases, a landlord might be responsible for a tenant’s dog that bites and injures someone.

Pennsylvania has also passed a set of laws regarding “dangerous dogs.”  These laws define a dangerous dog and state that if a dog is deemed “dangerous,” the owner or keeper may be guilty of the offense of harboring a dangerous dog.  There are many cases involving dangerous dogs and dog attacks that provide insight into how the dangerous dog laws apply.

Dog owners and keepers do have legal defenses to a dog bite claim under Pennsylvania law.  If the victim of a dog bite was trespassing at the time of the injury, that victim may not be able to recover damages under Pennsylvania law.  

If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, consider the following:

  1. Dog bite lawsuits are similar to other personal injury claims.  The owner or the keeper of the dog is responsible for the damages that you are pursuing.  It is important that the victim seek medical treatment immediately and maintain records of both economic and noneconomic losses.
  2. Dog owners no longer receive “One Free Bite.”  Formerly, Pennsylvania provided for dog owners to be excused from liability if their dog had not bitten anyone before.  The rationale was that the dog owner did not know if their dog was likely to bite.  Amendments to the state dog bite law have now made owners potentially liable regardless of the dog’s history.  If this was the dog’s first bite or attack, the owner can potentially be held liable.
  3. Dog owners do have a responsibility to ensure the safety of others by maintaining their dog under their reasonable control.  If harm results from their dog’s actions, they may be responsible for the damages suffered by the victim.  For example, dog owners or keepers of dogs must keep their animal firmly secured by a collar or chain so that it cannot escape from their property.

To reduce the number of dog bites and learn the importance of pet owner responsibility, never approach a dog that you do not know or that is alone without an owner.  Ask for permission before petting a dog. Do not approach an injured animal. Never poke, pinch, or tease a dog.

At Needle Law, our dog bite injury attorneys can help victims and their families seek compensation for their injuries.  Since each dog bite case is unique, a skilled attorney can best review your case to determine how it should be handled.  Contact us for a free consultation about your case by calling 570-344-1266.

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