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Your Guide to Dog Bites and Attacks

April 17, 2023

Dogs can be great members of the family. However, they are still animals and can bite or attack humans or other animals. In many cases, these attacks can lead to severe injuries and pain and suffering. If you would like to know more about dog bites and attacks, keep reading.

What Constitutes a Dog Attack or Bite?

Typically, a dog bite refers to any bruising or broken skin from contact with the dog’s mouth. A dog attack often involves multiple bites. Larger dogs may also jump on you or hit you with their front paws. If the attack was unprovoked and due to the dog owner’s negligence, you can usually sue for any medical bills, lost wages, or pain and suffering.

In Pennsylvania, dog owners need to contain their dogs in their own yard or home or on a collar or leash. Therefore, if the dog was not on a leash and it bit you, the owner will probably be negligent.

Is Pennsylvania a One-Bite Rule State?

Pennsylvania is not a one-bite state. It is a strict liability state. This means the dog owner is responsible for all medical bills due to dog bites, and you don’t have to prove they were negligent. However, if you can prove the owner was negligent, the court may also award other damages.

Similarly, in Pennsylvania, the courts separate dog bites into severe and non-severe. Severe injuries include those with broken bones or disfigurement. In this case, you can typically sue for medical expenses, lost wages, or pain and suffering. However, in the case of non-severe injuries, you can only sue for medical bills.

When Can’t You File a Lawsuit?

Even if you get a severe injury, you may not be allowed at times to file a lawsuit or seek a settlement. If the owner took all appropriate steps to protect people from the dog, they may not be negligent, which means you likely have no case. If the dog jumped over a high secured fence and bit you, you may not be able to sue. If the owner left the gate open, however, that could constitute negligence.

You may also not be able to sue if the dog owner owed you no care of duty. Any time a dog owner takes their dog in public, they have a duty of care to protect others from their dog. They also have a duty of care to protect visitors and guests. However, if you trespass and get attacked, you may be responsible for your own injuries because the dog owner has no duty of care to trespassers.

What About Bites Involving Children?

Naturally, you can still sue if a dog injures a child, but some special circumstances exist. First, a child may be more likely to inadvertently provoke a dog, such as poking it with a stick or petting it too hard. Typically, if the child (or a child of equal age) should have known they were provoking the dog, you won’t be able to sue.

If the child trespasses, however, laws may be more lenient. Because of attractive nuisance laws, homeowners are often responsible for children who trespass and get injured. If the child doesn’t understand trespassing, and they see a dog (an attractive nuisance), they may be inclined to approach the dog. If the dog bites, the owner may responsible.

Dog bites can be incredibly severe and lead to long-term phobias and scars. In most cases, the dog owner is responsible for bites and attacks, but an attorney can help you determine if you have a case. For more information, contact us at Nerenberg Law Associates, P.C., today.