How Liable Is An Owner For A Dog Bite?

How Liable Is The Owner For A Dog Bite

Dog owners in Pittsburgh can face significant liability in the event that their pet bites a human being, particularly if the animal inflicts injury on the person. However, dog bite lawsuits aren’t always cut-and-dried cases. Under Pennsylvania state law, the owner’s civil liability is determined by the extent of the injury inflicted by the dog during the course of the attack. For instance, if you have experienced broken bones or lacerations that require stitches or cosmetic surgery to repair, the owner of the dog may be charged with a misdemeanor under Pennsylvania state law. If convicted of the charges, the owner of the dog is automatically negligent, and you have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit.

As a statutory strict liability state, Pennsylvania holds dog owners legally liable for bites inflicted by their pets. However, Pennsylvania law also restrict this liability to cases where the animal has inflicted significant injury.

Determining Liability

However, liability is not quite as easily determined if you have not sustained significant physical injury. For instance, if the owner of the dog can prove that he or she exercised reasonable care in confining the animal, it may be difficult to prove negligence, particularly if the dog has never bitten anyone before.

Other factors apply as well, such as whether you provoked the dog or whether you willingly entered a situation which a reasonable person would consider to be unsafe. Pennsylvania law also allows for something called contributory negligence to be a factor in determining liability as well as taking into consideration an assumption of risk. For instance, if you take food or a favorite toy away from a dog and it bites or snaps at you, you may not have grounds for a personal injury case in Pittsburgh. If you knowingly enter a back yard containing a dog without first obtaining consent from the owner, your dog bite claim may be denied based on the fact that you accepted an assumption of risk when you accessed the property. Here’s what you must do if you have been attacked by a dog and are hoping to seek damages:

Step 1

Your first priority after being bitten by a dog is to receive appropriate medical treatment for the injury. After that, you need to file a report with the State Dog Warden specific to the county in which the attack occurred. In Pittsburgh as well as the rest of Allegheny County, the number that you need to call to report the bite is (412) 418-2163.

Step 2

After you have made a report to the appropriate State Dog Warden office, you may file a compliant with the District Court requesting that the dog be legally designated as a dangerous dog. If the court upholds your complaint, the owner of the animal will probably be required to pay restitution to you, especially if there were medical costs involved. The court may also designate a dog to be dangerous if it attacks other animals while off the owner’s property, and you may be able to recover damages for any veterinarian bills incurred because of the attack or the market value of the animal if it was killed.

Step 3

Every dog bite situation is unique, which is why it’s best to use the services of an experienced attorney when pursuing damages. Pennsylvania dog bite laws are complex, and you’ll have a much better chance of successfully navigating them if you’ve got experience and expertise on your side.

About Mary Beier

Mary Beier graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and then co-founded the law firm of Beier, Beier & Beier with her husband Bart Beier. She is an experienced litigator with particular emphasis on personal injury and equine litigation. Mrs. Beier also works in the firm’s family law practice. She focuses on client communication and understanding throughout the course of a client’s legal problem. She is adept at working out creative and cost-effective solutions that clients can be happy with.