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Should I Hire an Attorney After Being Bitten by a Dog in PA?

  • Dogs make wonderful pets, but they can also be unpredictable; when they attack and bite someone, the result can be devastating injuries, mutilation, and even death.  Dog owners are responsible for their pets, so when dogs attack, the owners may be held liable for injuries in a personal injury lawsuit.


    How dog bite cases are treated in Pennsylvania courts depends on facts such as whether or not the dog has a history of violence and also on the severity of the injuries involved. If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, you may be entitled to compensation through a lawsuit. However, the law is complicated, so it makes sense to consult with a personal injury attorney experienced in dog bite cases to make sure your case is handled properly, and you receive the settlement you deserve.


    What are Pennsylvania Dog Bite Laws?


    Pennsylvania holds dog owners liable for damages if they fail to keep their dog ...


    • in the house or yard,
    • on a leash, or
    • under the reasonable control of some person.


    This rule applies whether or not the dog been labeled a "dangerous dog." However, Pennsylvania views dog bite cases differently depending on whether the dog has been labeled as dangerous due to past behaviors and also on the severity of the injuries the dog caused.


    Pennsylvania's Dangerous Dog Laws say a dog is a "dangerous dog" if the dog ...


    • has previously injured a person,
    • has killed or injured a domestic animal without provocation, off the owner's property,
    • has attacked a human being without provocation, or
    • was used to commit a crime.


    If an attack is reported, the dog’s history of attacking either humans or domestic animals will be examined. There is a "one bite rule," which states that the victim of a dog attack can hold the owner liable for damages if the dog's owner knew or reasonably should have known that the dog had acted aggressively or violently before, even if it has bitten only once. If the dog has never bitten before, the remedies depend on the severity of injuries.


    The "Dog Law" defines severe injuries as, "any physical injury that results in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations requiring multiple sutures or cosmetic surgery.” If injuries are severe and the dog was not provoked, a claim can be made for medical expenses and all other losses and legal damages. An injured party whose injuries do not meet the definition of “severe” is still entitled to collect damages to cover the cost of any medical expenses.


    In addition, if an owner keeps a dog that has been found to attack people or other dogs, the owner may be charged with the misdemeanor crime of harboring a dangerous dog. These owners are legally liable for injuries caused by their dog and are required to:


    • have at least $50,000 worth of personal injury insurance for potential damage caused by their dog,
    • have adequate warning signs on their property, and
    • keep the dog muzzled when off their property.


    Pennsylvania is a "strict liability" jurisdiction when it comes to dog bite cases. This means a dog's owner is responsible for injuries the dog causes, even if the dog has never bitten or acted aggressively before, and even if the owner had no idea the dog would bite or act aggressively. However, if the dog owner can show that the injured person provoked the dog or if the injured person was trespassing on the owner's property when bitten, the owner may not be held liable. 


    The Pennsylvania personal injury statute of limitations applies to dog bite cases. All cases must be filed with the court within two years of the date the injury occurred.