A "Beware of Dog" sign on a metal fence

Dog Bites in Pennsylvania

What should you do if you have been bitten by a dog or other animal in Pennsylvania? What legal rights and recourse do you have? Dog bites are painful, obviously. Depending on the extent of your injuries and the type of treatment you need, they can also be expensive. As a victim of a dog bite, you have the right to be compensated for your injuries under the law.

Legal Options Available to Dog Bite Victims

As a victim of a dog bite, you are entitled to seek compensation for your injuries. You may file a lawsuit against the dog’s owner. Under Pennsylvania law, dog owners are held responsible for injury or damage caused by their dog.

A Standard of Reasonable Care

Unlike some states which provide for strict liability for the owners of dogs, Pennsylvania asks whether the dog owner was negligent in how they handled their dog—that is, whether the dog owner exercised “reasonable care” in preventing dog bites or attacks against strangers. This typically means restraining the dog, keeping it within a fence or on a leash, or otherwise ensuring the dog does not roam freely and is not able to attack others. In addition, the court will ask if the owner knew or should have known of the dog’s “vicious propensities.” Has the dog attacked someone before? Or is this the first time? Answers to these types of questions can help determine how your case will proceed.

Are you partially responsible for the dog bite?

In addition, it is important to consider where you were when the dog bit you. Did the attack occur on the owner’s property? Did the dog bite occur on a sidewalk? Did the dog break free from some sort of restraint? All of these questions will be helpful in determining whether a defendant may be liable to you for damages caused by the injuries.

Because Pennsylvania does not enforce strict liability, certain circumstances may lead the court to determine you bear partial responsibility for your injuries. If you are found to have acted aggressively toward, provoked, teased, or abused the dog, or if you are trespassing on the dog owner’s property, these can all lead the court to deciding you are partially responsible. While partial responsibility may lower the amount of compensation you can receive, it’s still important to work with a dog bite attorney to recover what you can.

Types of Damages

If the owners of the dog are liable for your injuries, you are entitled to compensation for the value of your medical bills, for the out-of-pocket costs of treatment and medicine, and for compensation for the pain and suffering you’ve endured. You may also be entitled to compensation for your lost wages during time you missed work. You may also be entitled to damages for the disfigurement that you experience, if any. Finally, in some unusual circumstances you may even be entitled to punitive damages where it can be shown that the owner had malice or reckless indifference to the rights of others in the way that they kept their dog.

The total amount you receive will vary depending on the details of your case. There’s no one-size-fits-all standard for dog bite cases. An experienced personal injury attorney, like the ones at Cornerstone Law Firm, can help you assess your case and aim for the best compensation for your unique situation.

Information to Collect After a Dog Bite

The first thing you should do after sustaining a dog bite or other injury related to a dog attack is seek medical attention. Even minor dog bites have the risk of infection or other complications. It’s important to get treatment as soon as possible.

You should collect the following after sustaining a dog bite injury:

  • Contact information for the dog owner
  • Contact information from any witnesses to the attack
  • Photos of the injury prior to treatment
  • Photos of the dog responsible for the injury
  • The dog owner’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance information
  • Rabies information

Documenting what happened before, during, and after the attack, any medical treatment you received, and any time you lost at work can all help you bolster your case for compensation. An attorney can help you collect this information.