Dog Bite Laws in Pennsylvania

July 16, 2021

While dogs are loyal companions and members of our families, they are still animals that can suddenly lash out and attack or injure someone, sometimes for reasons that we humans don’t always understand. If you were injured by a dog bite from someone else’s pet in Pennsylvania, you should take the time to learn more about Pennsylvania’s dog bite laws and how they may affect your rights and options for seeking financial compensation for your injuries. 

When Can You Hold a Dog Owner Liable for a Bite Injury?

Under Pennsylvania statutory law, the owner of a dog who bites and injures someone may be held strictly liable to compensate the injury victim for their medical expenses to treat the injury. Strict liability means that you do not need to prove any level of fault or culpability of the dog’s owner, such as proving that the owner acted negligently or recklessly. However, this strict liability only extends to compensation for medical expenses.

If you wish to seek compensation from a dog owner for other losses you suffered due to the injuries sustained from a dog bite or dog attack, you will need to prove that the dog owner acted negligently in owning and controlling their dog. Proving negligence requires showing that the owner knew their dog had vicious tendencies and failed to take reasonable actions to properly control their animal. It is not required to show that a dog had previously bitten or attacked another person or animal to establish that the dog had vicious tendencies; other behavior can serve as evidence. 

In many cases, it is also possible to establish a dog owner’s negligence by showing the owner failed to comply with state and local laws governing the keeping of dogs. 

If you can prove that the dog owner acted with negligence that led to you being bit or attacked and injured, you can recover the full extent of your losses attributable to your injuries, including lost wages or future earning potential, emotional distress, pain and suffering, and loss of quality of life.

Statute of Limitations on Dog Bite Injuries

If you must file a lawsuit against a dog’s owner to pursue compensation for injuries you sustained from a dog bite or attack, Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations on injury claims requires you to file your suit within two years of the date that you were injured. If you file a lawsuit after this two-year period has elapsed, it is very likely that the court will simply dismiss your case from the outset due to the failure to timely file your claim, and you will lose your right to obtain compensation from the dog owner for your injuries. 

Read more: Dog Bite Prevention Tips

Legal Defenses to a Dog Bite Injury Claim

When bringing a negligence claim against a dog owner for your bite injury, the owner may have possible defenses they can raise against your claim to avoid liability. First, the owner may claim that you provoked their dog, which caused the dog to bite or attack you. If you are found to have provoked the dog in some way, the specifics of your conduct may reduce the amount of compensation you are entitled to or may even bar you from pursuing a claim altogether, pursuant to Pennsylvania’s comparative negligence rules.

You may also be precluded from pursuing a dog bite injury claim if you were not lawfully present at the place where the dog bite occurred. For example, if you trespassed onto the dog owner’s property, you cannot seek compensation if you are bit by the owner’s dog while trespassing.

Contact a Pittsburgh Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your Dog Bite Case in Pennsylvania

Did you or a loved one sustain serious injuries due to a dog bite in Pennsylvania? Don’t let the medical bills pile up while you wait for the negligent party or their insurance company to do the right thing. Right now, you need an aggressive personal injury attorney on your side, fighting to get you the compensation you need, want, and deserve. The skilled attorneys at Goodrich & Geist, P.C. represent clients injured because of dog bites in Pittsburgh and the surrounding Western PA counties.  Call (412) 766-1455 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a  consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 3634 California Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.