When someone is attacked by a dog and suffers injury, he or she may be eligible to bring a claim against the owner and pursue compensation for associated damages, from medical bills to emotional injuries. Victims or those representing the victims still will need to be able to satisfy several requirements to hold the owner legally responsible.
Because each dog bite case is different and because ordinances may vary from city to city, it’s important to seek out a local attorney’s advice for questions specific to your case.
Pennsylvania Dog Bite Laws
Pennsylvania dog bite laws have been revised several times over the past several decades. At one time, the state only allowed dog bite victims to pursue a claim against the dog owners if the dog had a history of biting or being vicious. That’s not always the case anymore.
Dog attack victims may pursue compensation from the dog owner if the attack indicated a vicious propensity, even if the attack was the dog’s first. A previous attack also can indicate vicious propensity, and victims may pursue compensation from the dog owner.
Meanwhile, severe dog bite injuries may qualify victims to seek damages from the owner if the dog had never attacked before, while non-serious dog bite injuries may qualify victims to seek medical damages.
If the dog owner is in violation of leash laws requiring confinement of the dog or that the dog be under the owner’s or another’s control, the owner may be negligent per se and responsible for the victim’s damages.
Your attorney can evaluate your case specifically to determine which laws may apply under your circumstances.
Compensable Damages on a Dog Bite Claim
Victims can pursue a dog bite claim to recover damages that pertain to the attack. This can include both tangible expenses, such as treatment bills, as well as intangible damages, such as the effects of a victim developing post-traumatic stress disorder after the attack. Your compensable damages may include:
- lost wages;
- current and future medical expenses;
- treatments and surgeries;
- emotional damages;
- scarring and disability;
- counseling and mental health therapies; and
The Importance of Hiring a Local Attorney
Dog bite laws vary not only from state to state, but also from borough to borough. Ensure the attorney you select is familiar with the local laws so that he or she can use that knowledge to your benefit.
Local dog bite ordinances may impact a victim’s claim or the manner in which a dog owner is punished. For instance, if a dog owner is in violation of local dog ordinances, punishments might vary according to the area where the incident occurred:
- Borough of Palmerton – owners may be fined up to $600 plus legal costs, and up to 30 days in jail;
- Borough of East Stroudsburg – owners can get fined up to $1,000 and/or 30 days in jail; and
- City of Bethlehem – penalties depend upon the history of past violations, with maximum penalties of up to $1,000 or more in fines.
Your claim might point to such violations as evidence of the owner’s liability for your damages.