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Dog Bite Injury Attorney
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Over 90 million dogs are owned as pets in the United States. Dogs can bring great joy and companionship. However, any dog, large or small, and any breed or type can bite or otherwise cause injury.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 4.5 million Americans are bitten each year by dogs. Of this number, almost 1 million people need medical attention. A majority of dog bites involve children.
Dog bites can result in horrific injuries, permanent scars and emotional trauma.
Everything You Should Know About
Pennsylvania Dog Bite Injuries
If you have suffered injuries after a dog bite, you may be entitled to compensatory damages for:
- Pain and suffering
- Embarrassment and humiliation
- Loss of enjoyment or pleasure of life
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Property damage
- Incidental costs
- Psychological damages
- Loss of consortium
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What Are Pennsylvania's Dog Bite Laws?
Dog bite cases in Pennsylvania are governed both by state statutes and by case law. Under common law or case law, an owner is not responsible for a dog bite unless he knew or had reason to know of his dog’s vicious propensity.
However, Pennsylvania courts have not adopted a “one free bite rule.” Pennsylvania courts have found owners on notice of their dog’s dangerous propensities including prior incidents, regardless of whether anyone was injured or if a bite occurred. These prior incidents could include bites, jumping up on people, barking and growling at people, and fighting with other dogs. Dog bite cases are very fact specific, so early representation by an attorney is critical in order to obtain the appropriate evidence.
Statutory Law in Pennsylvania is set forth under the “Leash Law” and “Dangerous Dog.” Pennsylvania’s Leash Law is codified at 3 P.S. Section 459-305, provides in relevant part:
- Confinement and Control
It shall be unlawful for the owner or keeper of any dog to fail to keep at all times the dog in the following manners:
(1) confined within the premises of the owner;
(2) firmly secured by a means of collar and chain or other device so that it cannot stray beyond the premises on which it is secured; or
(3) under the reasonable control of some person, or when engaged in lawful hunting, expedition or field training.
Pennsylvania’s “Dangerous Dog” statute at 3 P.S. Section 459-502A provides:
- Summary offense of harboring a dangerous dog – any person who has been attacked by one or more dogs, or anyone on behalf of such person, a person whose domestic animal, dog or cat, has been killed or injured without provocation, the State Dog Warden or the local police officer may file a complaint before a district justice, charging the owner or keeper of such a dog with harboring a dangerous dog if the district justice finds beyond a reasonable doubt that the following elements of the offense have been proven:
(1) The dog has done one or more of the following:
(i) Inflicted severe injury on a human being without provocation on public or private property.
(ii) Killed or inflicted severe injury on a domestic animal, dog or cat, without provocation while off the owner’s property.
(iii) Attacked a human being without provocation.
(iv) Been used in the commission of a crime.
(2) The dog has either or both of the following:
(i) A history of attacking human beings and/or domestic animals, dogs or cats, without provocation
(ii) A propensity to attack human beings and/or domestic animals, without provocation. A propensity to attack may be proven by a single act of the conduct described in paragraph (1)(i), (ii), (iii) or (iv)
(3) The defendant is the owner or keeper of the dog.
Both statutes can be used to find an owner or keeper of a dog responsible for damages.
When Can I Sue for a Dog Bite?
A dog owner can be held liable for injuries caused to others by actions which violate common law or the PA statutes.
Typically these dog bites occur on public property, such as sidewalks, streets or parks, or on private property which the injured person has a lawful right to be on. An injured person may be on his own property, or the property of the dog owner.
More than 50% of dog bites occur on the dog owner’s property, and they account for one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims. According to State Farm, the company paid $132 million as a result of 3,600 dog-related injury claims in 2017.
What Happens to the Dog That Bit Me?
Pennsylvania dog bite quarantine laws mandate that any dogs who have bitten someone must be quarantined for ten days. This period of time is necessary to ensure that the animal is not carrying rabies.
The dog will usually be allowed to remain on the owner’s property during this time. Once it has been determined that the dog is healthy, it will be released back into the owner’s care.
Dogs who bite people are not typically euthanized. Euthanasia is permitted by law for dogs who have been declared a dangerous dog and whose owner’s commit subsequent violations.
Types of Dog Bite Cases
Below are the four most common situations involving dog bites:
- Dog biting a person walking or riding a bicycle in the street or sidewalk
- Dog rushing a person and knocking them over causing injury
- Dog attacking a person’s dog, causing injury to the person
- Dog attacks on children
Deadlines for Pennsylvania Dog Bite Lawsuits
Like every state in the country, Pennsylvania law includes a personal injury statute of limitations that sets a deadline on the amount of time that an injured person has to file an injury case with the state’s civil court system. In Pennsylvania, all personal injury cases for adults — including dog bite cases — must be filed within two years of the date the injury occurred.
If the case is filed after the two-year deadline has expired, the court will almost certainly refuse to hear it. So, it’s important to understand and abide by the statute of limitations.
Children, however, have 2 years from their 18th birthdate to file a lawsuit. Since dog bite cases are very fact specific, early representation by an attorney experienced in handling dog bite cases is critical to success in gathering evidence.
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If you have been injured due to a dog bite, you can count on the legal team at Scherline & Associates to fight for you every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney.