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Recovery for Pennsylvania Dog Bite Victims

Recovering After a Dog Bite in Pennsylvania

According to State Farm and the Insurance Information Institute, there were 18,522 dog bite claims made against homeowners' insurance policies in 2017, which totaled nearly $700 million in insurance payouts. When a dog bites a person in Pennsylvania, the owner of the dog is liable to the victim for damages. In most cases, the dog owner will be responsible for the victim's medical expenses, and in some circumstances, the victim can recover other damages, like lost wages or pain and suffering. If you have a dog bite injury, contact a personal injury lawyer for assistance with your case.

Pennsylvania Dog Bite Law

Pennsylvania dog bite law establishes strict liability to the dog owner for injuries caused by the dog. A person who has suffered injury as the result of a dog bite in Pennsylvania may be able to file a claim for negligence against the dog owner. Previous cases have established that the victim can recover for negligence if he or she demonstrates that the dog owner knew the animal was vicious or had unmistakably vicious tendencies and the owner failed to properly control his or her dog.

If the dog has previously bitten people, that is an indication of viciousness, though this may not necessarily be cause for a negligence case. Indeed, the owner might be found to have known the dog had unmistakably vicious tendencies even if it has never bitten anyone, and a single bite in the past doesn't necessarily put the owner on notice that the dog is vicious. People who have questions about the strength of their cases might want to speak with an Allentown accident lawyer.

Dog Owner Criminal Liability

dog biteA dog owner in Pennsylvania could be held criminally liable for having a dangerous dog if the animal has vicious tendencies or a history of attacking people or other animals unprovoked and thereafter attacks a person without provocation. A dog owner could also be found guilty of having a vicious animal if his or her dog severely injures a domestic animal like a dog or cat without provocation while not on the owner's property or is used during the commission of a crime.

 

Following conviction on a summary offense for having a dangerous dog, the dog owner will be required to register the animal. He or she will also have to keep the dog confined in an enclosure or keep it restrained and muzzled, post a sign warning of the presence of the dog on the property, pay restitution to victims of a dog attack and have the dog neutered or spayed.

In a civil case for dog bite injuries, a conviction under the Pennsylvania criminal statutes might be introduced as evidence. This may not necessarily tip the case in the dog bite victim's favor, but it will be good evidence in many civil cases.

Dog Owner Defenses

The owner of the dog or his or her lawyer might attempt to put forward a legal defense to the injury claim. The dog owner might be able to reduce or eliminate his or her liability by arguing that the victim was trespassing on his or her property at the time the injury occurred, hurt only after the dog escaped from an area where it was properly confined or partially responsible for the injury. The victim might also have assumed the risk of injury as is sometimes relevant in cases involving veterinarians.

Pennsylvania is a comparative negligence state, meaning that the level of responsibility attributable to the victim may reduce the victim's award for damages. If the victim was more than 50 percent at fault for the dog bite, he or she will not be entitled to recover at all. If the victim was partially at fault but less than 50 percent, then any award for damages will be reduced to reflect his or her level of fault.

Legal Help for Dog Bite Victims

People who are bitten by dogs might want to seek legal advice regarding their options for recovery. An Allentown accident lawyer with experience in personal injury law might be able to help in such a case by examining the facts and gathering medical records or other evidence to build a case for trial. A lawyer might be able to negotiate a settlement with the dog owner and his or her insurance provider or draft and file a complaint for damages in civil court.

If you have been injured as the result of a dog bite or other animal attack, reach out to Metzger & Kleiner in Allentown for a free consultation. Please send us a message online or call us at (610) 435-7400 in the Lehigh Valley. We have experienced personal injury lawyers on staff ready to answer your questions and handle your case.

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