For many Americans, dogs are not only “a man’s best friend” but also an integral part of life for families. However, not every dog owner takes proper care to ensure their pets don’t harm others, and sometimes even the friendliest companions can cause serious injuries with a bite or attack.
A dog bite injury often leaves a victim with not only extensive medical bills but a lifetime of trauma. If you’ve been seriously injured by an owner’s negligence, a Philadelphia dog bite lawyer at Baratta Law, LLC can help you navigate your rights under Pennsylvania dog law and fight for the compensation you deserve.
Understanding Liability Under Pennsylvania Dog Bite Laws
Most states enforce strict liability in dog bite cases, meaning owners must pay all damages regardless of the dog’s history of biting. In Pennsylvania, a limited version of this statute makes an owner liable only for the victim’s medical expenses and not damages like loss of wages or mental distress. However, a couple of exceptions may allow you to seek full compensation.
First, if a dog bite causes serious injuries like broken bones, deep lacerations, torn ligaments or muscle tissue, or the need for plastic surgery, victims only recover medical care costs and other economic damages. If a bite results in minor bruises, for example, the owner must pay for medical treatment, but not non-economic damages like pain and suffering or lost income.
In any dog bite claim, however, victims in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania may still pursue compensation for these types of losses under certain circumstances. That includes dog bite laws regarding the owner’s duties to the public.
If a dog bite victim can prove that the owner knew their dog had “unmistakably vicious tendencies” and didn’t take the steps to control the animal, responsibility for all losses rests with the dog owner. Pennsylvania courts recognize that a propensity for aggressive behavior doesn’t require a history of bites, but also that one bite does not constitute a vicious dog.
Pennsylvania has laws defining a dangerous dog and its owner’s liability for injuries. In addition to $500 yearly registration fees, owners of dangerous dogs must carry a liability insurance policy of at least $50,000, such as homeowner’s insurance. If negligence results in injury by a dangerous dog, victims may seek compensation for all of their losses.
Dedicated dog bite attorneys can help you collect evidence to establish the defendant’s liability. Our lawyers will work tirelessly to recover every damage you’re entitled to and fight for your dog bite case with insurance companies and in court, allowing you to focus on your recovery.
The Responsibility of Being a Dog Owner
The Pennsylvania Dog Law Enforcement Office, a division of the Department of Agriculture, requires dog owners to take specific precautions regarding the safety of their homes and property. The state has requirements for not only the care of the animal but also for the owner’s duties to keep other humans from harm.
First, Pennsylvania dog law states that dogs must not be allowed to run at large and must be under control. Whether by fence, kennel, collar and leash, chain, or other confinement dependent on the circumstances, owners must maintain the safety of their dogs and other people by securing them in a proper enclosure and exhibiting adequate control of the dog.
All dogs over three months old also must be registered and licensed by the Philadelphia County Treasurer’s Office. This license must be kept current.
The Dog Law Enforcement Office also oversees the enforcement of kennel laws, and its officers investigate dog bite incidents when needed. Owning a dog comes with responsibility, and the state of Pennsylvania places requirements on owners to follow the law or pay when injuries and damages result from their negligence.
A Dog Owner’s Potential Defenses in a Dog Bite Case
The owner of a dog who has bitten someone may have a couple of defenses against a dog bite claim. Though there are limitations to how much liability owners can avoid, these factors can significantly complicate the handling of a case or the best way to settle with an insurance company.
An owner may try to say the victim of bite injuries provoked the dog into an attack. This type of incident is often subjective, and a trier of fault such as a judge may ultimately determine liability. A dog bite attorney with decades of experience can help you navigate this defense at trial.
Another way an owner may avoid liability for dog bite injuries is if they can prove the victim was “willfully trespassing” on the premises when injured. These issues, too, are typically complex and require the representation of an attorney with a reputation for fighting to win.
Regardless of the circumstances, dogs are personal property and owners have a responsibility to control them and protect others from injury. If you’re facing one of these potential defenses by a dog owner or their insurance, a consultation with a Philadelphia dog bite attorney is one of the most crucial steps you can take toward the results you want from your case.
How Long Do I Have to File a Dog Bite Claim in Philadelphia?
All states impose a time limit on filing a personal injury claim, from a trucking accident to a dog bite, called the statute of limitations. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations on these cases is two years from the date of the incident, so for dog bites, it begins on the date of the bite or attack.
Throughout your claim, there will be many other filings with time limits, in addition to possible court appearances. Your primary focus should be your recovery from physical injuries and the trauma of the bite. The services of a Philadelphia personal injury attorney with experience handling dog bites protect and maximize settlements for victims.
What Should I Do if My Child Was the Victim of a Dog Bite?
According to the Humane Society, slightly over half of dog bite victims are children, and the American Veterinary Medical Association states the instance is highest in children between five and nine years old. The fear a child experiences during an attack and the ensuing trauma are heartbreaking for parents.
When a child has been the victim of a dog attack, the first priority is to call for medical attention, as well as the police, if needed. Animal bite injuries are particularly prone to infection, so even minor cuts and lacerations should be evaluated by a doctor who can prescribe antibiotics to prevent future infections and treatment to help scarring.
Another step to preventing infection is collecting information on the dog’s vaccination status, when possible. Owners have a responsibility to ensure their dogs are free from rabies and should have proper documentation from their veterinarian. Local animal control, the police, and the Pennsylvania game warden may all be of assistance in the instance of a bite by a stray dog.
Any evidence from the scene of the bite may be valuable to your child’s case. While your focus will be on your child’s medical treatment and a dog bite attorney will generally obtain things like witness statements, any photographs you can capture of the yard, enclosure, and the general area may help your lawyer establish the owner’s liability promptly.
The effects of a dog bite on a child are often long-lasting, with many having nightmares and other psychological trauma. Parents may experience financial strain in addition to time lost from work, but they have rights to compensation for their child’s medical bills, as well as potential pain and suffering and lost wages. A Philadelphia dog bite lawyer can help maximize your compensation.
What Damages Can I Recover in a Dog Bite Claim?
Like other personal injury claims such as a car accident, dog bite cases involving serious injuries often result in settlements or verdicts including several types of damages:
- Medical Expenses – Dog bites typically require extensive medical treatment, especially when they result in serious injuries like broken bones. Emergency care, surgery, stitches, physical therapy, and other follow-up treatments are expensive, leaving victims with financial issues in addition to physical pain and psychological trauma.
- Lost Wages and Loss of Earning Capacity – The greater the severity of a dog bite injury, the more wages you may lose during your recovery, as well as potential future income. Victims of catastrophic injuries have the right to be compensated for work they would have done if not for the negligence of a dog owner.
- Pain and Suffering and Loss of Enjoyment of Life – Some damages don’t come in the form of a dollar amount, like the emotional distress and psychological trauma of a dog bite. In cases of severe injury, the law allows victims to quantify and recover compensation for the impact of the attack on their quality of life.
Dog bite cases are complex, with a need for evidence and firmly established liability for people hurt by dogs to recover every damage they’re entitled to under Pennsylvania law. If you’ve been the victim of severe injuries in a dog attack, a dog bite lawyer can help you navigate your rights and hold an owner or their insurance accountable for your compensation.
How a Dog Bite Attorney Can Help You With Your Case
When you’ve been injured by the bite or attack of a dog, you’re already dealing with pain, emotional trauma, and medical bills that accumulate quickly. With the representation of an experienced attorney, you can prioritize your recovery and trust that they are handling your case with your best interests in mind and a positive outcome as their goal.
Here are some of the ways the professional guidance of a dog bite attorney can start and keep your case on the path to justice.
Identifying Liability Insurance
After a dog bite, one of the first steps toward building a case is to identify what type of liability policy, such as homeowners insurance, the dog’s owner carries.
If no such coverage is in place, a claim for damages can be filed against the owner or other responsible parties as individuals. Your attorney will use the resources at their disposal to investigate liability insurance.
Establishing a Dog Owner’s Negligence
To recover damages besides the sum of your medical expenses, you may have to prove the dog’s owner exhibited some form of negligence.
Information about the owner and their property, evidence like witness statements, and documentation like police reports will be compiled by your attorney. Handling these matters in a timely manner helps to solidify an owner’s liability for your injuries.
Taking Your Dog Bite Claim to Court if Needed
Dog bite claims are often resolved through settlements with insurance companies, but they don’t always negotiate in good faith. If the insurer fails to negotiate fairly with you, or if there is no existing liability insurance, a judge or jury may have to decide your case in court.
A Philadelphia dog bite attorney will fight for your claim until you achieve the compensation you deserve, using their knowledge of Pennsylvania courts and laws.
Giving Families Peace of Mind throughout Dog Bite Cases
When handling dog bite claims, an attorney’s primary goal should always be to provide victims and their families with the knowledge that they have an advocate in their corner. When you can rest assured that our Philadelphia lawyers are fighting for your case, you can focus on recovery from your physical injuries and restoring your family’s quality of life.
Talk With a Dog Bite Lawyer in Philadelphia
A dog bite may leave you reeling with serious injuries, financial strain, and the emotional trauma of the attack. The representation of a skilled dog bite attorney will help ensure you are awarded the compensation you deserve and secure your family’s financial future. The lawyers of Baratta Law, LLC have years of experience fighting and winning for Philadelphia dog bite victims.
If you’ve been seriously injured by a dog, our office of trusted professionals is standing by to evaluate your claim at no cost to you. Schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys. You don’t pay anything unless we win for you. Reach out to your dedicated Philadelphia dog bite lawyer at Baratta Law, LLC today by calling 215-914-8132 or submitting the contact form below.