Cooper, Schall & Levy discusses who is liable for dog bites in Pennsylvania.

Who Is Liable for Dog Bites?

Being attacked by a dog and sustaining a dog bite injury is a scary experience. Pennsylvania law requires that owners and keepers of dogs maintain reasonable control over their dogs at all times. This includes confining their dogs on their premises and using restraint devices such as collars, chains, and leashes when necessary. Unfortunately, dog bites still happen and can sometimes lead to very serious injuries.

The Liability of Dog Bites

In Pennsylvania, if you are attacked by a dog, the owner will be liable for paying your medical costs. Most states have a strict liability statute that automatically holds a dog owner responsible for the majority of dog bite injuries, even if the animal had no history of aggressive behavior and even if the owner was in no way negligent in maintaining the animal. Pennsylvania’s strict liability statute pertaining to dog bites makes the dog owner liable for paying for all of the victim’s related medical expenses. The owner is not, however, responsible for other damages. This means that the owner will not be strictly liable for paying for things like lost income or pain and suffering.

If the victim of a dog attack can prove that the owner was negligent or knew that the animal had a tendency to exhibit aggressive behavior, then he or she may be able to recover full damages, not just medical expenses. The victim can sue the dog owner for negligence, but he or she must be able to prove that the dog had “unmistakably vicious tendencies” and the owner failed to properly control the animal. A dog does not necessarily have to have a record of biting others to be considered vicious. On the other side of this, a single bite on a dog’s record will not necessarily merit labeling the dog as vicious.

To be found negligent, evidence of the owner’s failure to keep the dog restrained at all times or failure of an owner to meet the legal requirements of those who have dangerous dogs will usually be presented. In addition to being held liable for negligence, the owner may also be charged with harboring a dangerous dog if the dog has a history of vicious behavior or unprovoked attacks. This is a summary offense, but it carries a fine of up to $500 and the owner will have to register the dog as dangerous and have the dog implanted with a special microchip. The dog must be properly confined, muzzled, and/or restrained. Additionally, there must be conspicuous signs posted on the owner’s property warning children to stay away as there is a dangerous animal present. The owner may also have to pay court-ordered restitution to the victim of the dog attack.

Dog Bite Attorneys

If you have been injured in a dog attack, you may be able to recover damages beyond your medical expenses. There are many more costs that are associated with such an attack. You may be compensated for your pain and suffering. You may be compensated for any lost income or loss of earning capacity. You may be compensated if you have sustained any permanent disfigurement. The dog bite attorneys at Cooper, Schall & Levy will be in your corner the entire time. We advocate for dog bite victims. Contact us today.