Can You Sue the Owner if You Get Bitten by a Dog in Philadelphia?

Dogs are often called “man’s friend,” but when vicious or improperly restrained, dogs can also be man’s worst enemy.  Some breeds have incredibly powerful jaw strength, and even a single bite can cause serious injuries like deep puncture wounds, finger amputations, and permanent facial scarring.  If you, your spouse, or your child was attacked by a dog in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia personal injury lawyer Brent Wieand may be able to help you get compensated.

When it comes to liability for dog bite injuries, states generally follow one of two systems:

  • strict liability, in which dog owners are automatically liable for bite injuries; and the more complicated
  • “one bite rule,” in which the owner may be found liable if he or she knew, or had reason to know, the dog had “vicious propensities.”

Pennsylvania borrow elements from both systems. This is described under statute 3 P.S. § 459-502-A(2) as a “propensity to attack human beings… without provocation” or a “history of attacking human beings… without provocation.”  A dog who meets this description is legally defined as a “dangerous dog.”

Keeping (“harboring”) a dangerous dog is a summary offense and, under 3 P.S. § 459-503-A(a.1)(2), the owner is required to pay restitution to the victim.  However, restitution is a mandatory, court-ordered payment to compensate the victim of a crime, separate from any civil claim or lawsuit the injury victim might bring independently with help from a Philadelphia dog bite injury lawyer.

So when can a dog attack victim sue or file a claim against the animal’s owner?

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Can I Sue for a Dog Bite in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania “dog law” or dog bite law is based on both “common law” (court opinions) and several regulatory laws known collectively as the Dangerous Dog Statute. These laws can be found at 3 P.S. § 459-501-A through § 459-507-A.

In Pennsylvania, the civil system treats dog bite victims differently depending whether the dog had previously bitten another person. A dog bite victim can recover full compensation if the dog previously bit another person without justification or indicated a tendency to do so. This commonly referred to as the “one-bite” rule.

If it is the dog’s first attack on a person, Pennsylvania’s dog bite law offers two different remedies that depend upon the degree of injury. Injuries are classified as either severe or non-severe. A “severe injury” is “any physical injury that results in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations requiring multiple sutures or cosmetic surgery.”

It should be noted that you may not be able to recover if you were abusing, tormenting, or otherwise provoking the dog, or were not lawfully on the property where the attack occurred.  You must not have been trespassing on or burglarizing the property at the time you were bitten, as a personal injury lawyer in Philadelphia, PA can explain.

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Examples of Common Dog Bite Injuries in Philadelphia

Some common examples of dog bite injuries in Pennsylvania include:

  • Bone Fractures
  • Facial Injuries
  • Finger Amputation
  • Hand Injuries
  • Lacerations
  • Nerve Damage
  • Permanent Scarring and Disfigurement
  • Puncture Wounds
  • Soft Tissue Injuries
  • Throat and Neck Injuries
  • Thumb Amputation

While large, powerful dogs such as German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and Pitbulls undoubtedly pose the greater hazard, and can potentially maul a person fatally, even tiny toy dogs such as Chihuahuas and Yorkshire Terriers are capable of inflicting serious bite wounds on infants and toddlers, who cannot escape or defend themselves as an adult might be able to in such a situation.  Small dogs can also cause injuries by getting underfoot, causing a preventable slip and fall accident.

Let a Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyer Fight for You

If you were bitten by a dog in Philadelphia or elsewhere in Pennsylvania, you could be entitled to compensation.  Philadelphia wrongful death attorney Brent Wieand is here to help answer your legal questions.  Call the Wieand Law Firm, LLC at (888) 789-3161 to arrange a free and confidential legal consultation regarding your dog bite injury claim.

*Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes and is not legal advice. If you were bitten by a dog, consult with a personal injury attorney. The Wieand Law Firm, LLC is based in Philadelphia, PA, and proud to serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.*

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