Pennsylvania has some complex laws about dog bite injury claims. These laws define dangerous dogs and say what you need to prove to obtain compensation after a dog bite or attack.
Below, our experienced dog bite attorneys in Harrisburg break down these complex laws, explaining what you need to know when pursuing a dog attack claim. Schedule a free consultation with us today to find out if you have a viable case.
Types of Dog Bite Claims
There are a few different types of dog bite claims in Pennsylvania, including:
Severe Injury Claims
You can pursue this type of claim only if the dog has not bitten anyone before. In this type of claim, you must establish two things:
- You suffered a severe injury – Severe injuries are those that resulted in fractures, disfigurement, or the requirement for sutures or cosmetic surgeries.
- The attack occurred without provocation – This means you were not tormenting, abusing or assaulting the dog before the attack.
If the victim establishes these two things, he or she may be able to recover compensation for any damages caused by the attack, including:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
Claims for Injuries Not Considered Severe
If your injuries are not considered severe, you can still pursue compensation, but you are only allowed to obtain compensation for medical expenses.
Dangerous Dog Claims
If you were bitten or attacked by a dog that meets Pennsylvania's definition of a dangerous dog, you may be able to recover compensation for all damages by proving three things:
- The dog caused you to suffer an injury
- The owner was aware of the dog's history of injuring people or engaging in aggressive behavior
- You were not trespassing or doing something to provoke the dog
Definition of a Dangerous Dog
State law defines a dangerous dog as one that has done one or more of the following things:
- Inflicted severe injury on public or private property without provocation
- Killed or caused severe injury to a domestic animal without provocation
- Attacked a person without provocation
- Been used to commit a crime
The dog must also satisfy one or both of the following criteria:
- A history of attacking people or domestic animals without being provoked
- A propensity to engage in these attacks, which is proven by just one incident of attacking a person or domestic animal without provocation
Negligence Per Se Claims
Pennsylvania imposes additional legal responsibilities on owners of dangerous dogs, including:
- Registering the dog as a dangerous dog with the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement
- Maintaining liability insurance of at least $50,000 for any personal injuries that are caused by the dog
- Maintaining a proper enclosure for the dog, which means keeping the dog indoors or in a securely enclosed or locked pen or structure that is designed to keep the animal from escaping and prevent young children or domestic animals from entering
- Posting a sign that says the dog is dangerous
- Putting a muzzle on the dog and restraining it when it is outside its enclosure or the owner’s house
If the owner does not uphold any of these responsibilities and it results in someone being attacked, the owner could be held criminally liable.
This violation of the law could also allow the victim to pursue a claim under the theory of negligence per se. To recover compensation in this type of claim, the victim must establish that the dog's owner was negligent because he or she violated the law. This requires proving four things:
- The owner violated a regulation or statute
- The statute was designed to protect a group of people from harm
- The victim was in the group the statute was designed to protect
- The owner's actions caused the type of injury the statute was designed to protect the plaintiff from
Statute of Limitations for Dog Bite Claims
Pennsylvania's statute of limitations for all dog bite claims is two years from the date of the attack.
The statute of limitations is a period of time during which you can file a claim. Once the period for your claim expires, you will be unable to file.
Two years might sound like a long time but it can pass a lot faster than you think. It also takes time to fully investigate an attack and build a strong case. That is why it is so important to quickly seek the assistance of a dog bite lawyer. He or she can help ensure your claim is filed before the statute of limitations runs out.
Contact a Pennsylvania Dog Bite Lawyer
Schmidt Kramer has aggressively pursued compensation for personal injury victims for more than 40 years. We have extensive legal knowledge and are prepared to apply that to the specifics of your dog bite claim.
We operate under a contingency fee, so we only receive payment for our legal services if we successfully recover compensation for you. We also provide a free initial consultation so you can learn about your legal options.
Contact us to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to determine if you may be able to pursue compensation for your injuries.