Who’s Responsible After a Dog Attack in Pennsylvania?

Aggressive Dog

We love dogs, but not all dogs are properly trained. As a result, some have dangerous behaviors that can lead to serious personal injuries. Pennsylvania consistently ranks among the states with the highest number of dog bite-related insurance claims year after year. In 2019, Pennsylvania ranked 6th with 807 claims totaling $28.7 million. If you’ve suffered a dog bite or your dog has bitten a passerby, you should understand Pennsylvania’s laws surrounding dog bite liability.

Dog Owners’ Responsibilities in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s Confinement of Dogs statute requires dog owners and keepers (someone who babysits your dog) to have control over their dogs at all times. Under these laws, owners and keepers should take the following precautions:

  • Confine dogs to their premises with a fence or a leash or chain that prevents the dog from wandering off of the owners’ property
  • Restrain dogs with a leash or chain while walking or transporting the dog in public areas, including sidewalks and parks

If an owner or keeper fails to comply with these laws and the dog bites someone, the individual watching over the dog may be held liable.

Proving Liability

In Pennsylvania, the owner or keeper of a dog is generally responsible for any injuries it causes. However, to make a claim against the owner or keeper, the victim must prove that the individual knew about the dog’s viciousness before the attack. Proof may include any of these incidents in the past:

  • A bite
  • Growling at a passerby
  • Chasing a person
  • Rushing a stranger
  • Other acts of aggression

If the injuries are not severe and the dog has never had a previous incident, the victim may pursue a claim for their medical expenses but not for pain, suffering, anxiety, or other related expenses.

Aggressive Dog Barking

Common Law Negligence in Pennsylvania

Holding an owner accountable under Common Law Negligence requires proving that the owner failed to take proper precautions to protect people from their dog. To prove Common Law Negligence, the incident must fulfill three criteria:

  1. The person should have restrained the dog or locked the dog in a confined space. 
  2. The person failed to take either action. 
  3. There was a connection between the failure to take action and the incident. 

If one of these factors is missing, the owner could argue they are not fully responsible for the incident under common law negligence. If the owner had their dog on a leash and the leash suddenly broke or the animal escaped, a resulting injury may not fall back completely on the owner.

Paying for Medical Treatment

The owner or keeper of an attacking dog is legally liable for paying all medical bills related to a victim’s injuries. If the injuries are severe and include broken bones or disfiguring lacerations, the owner may also be responsible for any pain, cosmetic surgery, anxiety, or loss of income the victim suffers. 

What to Do After A Dog Attack

If you or someone you love has suffered a dog bite, respond appropriately by seeking medical treatment, exchanging information with the owner, and finding witnesses. Next, contact a dog bite attorney or law firm like Dugan & Associates to defend your case. Depending on the damages suffered, you may be entitled to more than simple medical bills. An experienced attorney can walk you through your rights and help you arrive at the best outcome possible. 

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