The majority of dogs you encounter are probably friendly, well-trained and safe. However, it only takes one poorly trained or inadequately restrained animal to put you and your family at risk for serious injury. Dogs of all sizes, ages and breeds can attack and bite humans with little provocation, leaving behind both physical and emotional injuries that require treatment and care.
If you or someone you love has suffered a dog bite injury, you're probably already wondering about your legal rights. Every case is different, but understanding Pennsylvania laws about dog ownership and liability can help you determine your best options. You do not have to quietly accept the costs associated with a dog bite. In many situations, the dog's owner is responsible for at least the associated medical costs.
Pennsylvania law creates strict liability for medical costs from bites
The law in Pennsylvania helps protect the public from losses associated with negligent animal owners. The law provides for a strict form of legal liability for the owners of dogs that attack and bite humans. Even if the animal does not have a history of aggression and has not shown indications of being vicious, an owner is liable for medical expenses related to bites inflicted by their dog.
The one exception to this rule would be a case where the dog bite victim trespassed on the dog owner's property. In almost any other scenario, including animals in parks or attacks on people visiting a dog's owner, the owner will likely incur liability for all medical expenses. In some cases, homeowners or rental insurance will cover these costs. Other times, the owner may have to pay directly.
Cases involving negligence can include additional compensation
If the dog had proven violent in the past but the owner failed to take steps to warn and protect visitors, that could be negligence. If the animal was allowed to roam freely without a leash and outside of a fenced yard, that could also be a case of negligence, especially if the dog displayed aggression in the past.
For those suffering after a dog bite, these compounding factors can help build a case for more compensation. In cases involving negligence, you can receive compensation for losses other than just medical bills. These funds could offset lost wages or cover ongoing care, including cosmetic surgery, counseling or therapy to process the trauma of the attack.
Dogs can absolutely be wonderful companion animals, provided that they receive adequate training and care. Neglected, abused and poorly trained animals can pose a serious risk to the public. When they injure someone, their owners must be held accountable for creating unnecessary risk.