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Who is liable for dog bites in Pennsylvania?

On Behalf of | Jan 23, 2017 | Dog Bites

For many people, dogs provide joy and friendship as they go through their lives. In fact, it has been estimated that nearly half of all households in the United States own a dog. The vast majority of the domestic canine population is well behaved and never acts out in any aggressive or violent ways, but as with everything there are exceptions.

If a dog does act aggressively toward another animal or toward a human, the resulting injuries can range from being purely emotional to being physically lethal. Regardless, damage caused by dogs has to be covered by someone and the state of Pennsylvania has laws that specify where the liability falls.

Dog bite cases are treated differently based on a few different pieces of information; namely, whether or not the dog has a history of violence.

History of violence

If a dog has never given the owner reasonable cause to believe that it has any aggressive or violent tendencies, then the way the case is treated depends on the severity of the injuries.

· Severe injuries – Under Pennsylvania law, a severe injury is defined as “any physical injury that results in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations requiring multiple sutures or cosmetic surgery.”

· Non-severe injuries – Any injury that is not severe enough to meet the legal definition of severe injuries is not considered as such, but the injured party is still entitled to collect damages to cover the cost of any medical expenses.

The one bite rule

A dog’s history of violence is often defined by what is known as the “one bite rule.” According to this rule, the victim of a dog attack can hold the owner liable for damages if the dog’s owner knew or reasonably should have known that the dog had ever acted aggressively or violently before, e.g. bitten once.

Pennsylvania dangerous dog law

The state of Pennsylvania also has a law that attempts to protect both people and their pets from dangerous dogs. According to the law, if an owner keeps a dog that has been found to attack people or other dogs, law enforcement can charge the owner with the misdemeanor crime of harboring a dangerous dog.

Additionally, the law states that owners will be held legally liable for injuries caused by their dog. It also requires that,

· Such owners have at least $50,000 worth of personal injury insurance to specifically account for the potential damage caused by their dog.

· Their property must have adequate warning signs.

· The dog must be muzzled when off of their property.

While most dogs will act peacefully for the extent of their lifetimes, there are legal consequences for those who act violently. If you are involved in a situation where a dog has caused injury, it is highly recommended that you seek out the services of an experienced legal professional. They will be able to use their expertise to get you the justice you deserve.


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