Get as much info as you can about the dog. Find out its vaccination status, license information, and biting history. It’s important to know if it is legally considered a “dangerous dog”.
File A Report
Call animal control to report the incident. This step is important in order to document the incident and to protect other citizens from future attacks.
Who Is Legally Responsible?
The dog’s owner is responsible for the dog’s behavior. If the owner was in breach of PA leash laws, he or she may be found negligent in the attack. If the dog has previously bitten someone and subsequently been labeled as a dangerous dog, they may also be found negligent. Even owners who followed PA Dog Law and have a dog with no bite history may still be held liable for medical expenses.
Should I Speak With The Owner?
Other than getting the owner’s contact information and proof of the dog’s vaccination status, it would be best to avoid speaking with the owner about the incident following the injury, at least until the matter has been settled in civil court. Instead, only speak about your injuries, medical treatment, and other damages with a personal injury lawyer.
Do I Need A Lawyer?
Yes. A personal injury lawyer can help you receive the compensation you need for medical bills and other damages. In a dog bite situation, the owner often has his home insurance company handle the issue. An experienced attorney can take on these insurance companies in a way the average person cannot. Less than 1% of dog bite victims in the US receive compensation - a good lawyer can help ensure that you’re part of this 1%.
Who Will Pay My Medical Bills?
Regardless of circumstances, the dog’s owner will be found liable for your medical bills. This is the case even for dogs who have no prior history of aggression, and even for victims whose injuries are non-severe. A bite victim will never be burdened with the high costs of their own medical treatment.
Will I Be Compensated For Other Damages?
Additional compensation depends on a few factors:
- whether the dog has a history of biting or has shown aggressive tendencies,
- the severity of your injuries,
- and the degree of negligence on the part of the owner.
If a dog has bitten at least one person in the past, they may be classified as a dangerous dog. This classification will allow you to sue for full compensation. Even if this is the first time the dog has bitten anyone, you may still seek full compensation if the dog has demonstrated violent tendencies in the past.
Dog bite injuries are classified into severe and non-severe categories. If a dog has never bitten before, has no history of violence, and the injuries are non-severe, then you may only seek compensation for medical expenses. If your injuries are severe, you will qualify for full compensation.
The dog’s history and the severity of your injuries may be irrelevant if the owner is found to be negligent in the attack. For example, if the attack occurred after the owner unleashed the dog, that owner would very likely be found negligent. Another example would be if the owner neglected to restrain the dog in a group of people while the dog was exhibiting aggressive behavior.
What Will Happen To The Dog?
Dog bite incidents are especially difficult to deal with for dog lovers. It’s especially taxing if the dog’s owner is a friend or family member. You require additional financial compensation for the litany of problems caused by the bite, but you don’t want anything bad to happen to the dog.
If this is the dog’s first incident, it will be labeled as a dangerous dog. This label only becomes relevant if the dog bites someone else again in the future, or if the owner decides to sell or give the dog away (as they must notify the new owner of this designation).
Luckily, in Pennsylvania dogs are only put down in extreme cases. If the dog has an extensive history of causing serious injuries or has generally shown itself to be a severe threat to humans, then it may be put down. But in the vast majority of cases, the owner is the only party to face real consequences for the dog's actions.
What Type Of Compensation Will I Receive?
A dog bite can inflict damage in several different ways. Victims who qualify for full compensation may receive financial reimbursement to account for multiple damages.
The dog’s owner (and likely their home insurance policy) will be responsible for your medical bills. This can apply to traditional medical treatment as well as reconstructive surgery for those victims with catastrophic facial injuries.
If your injuries were serious enough to cause you to miss work, the owner could be held liable for any wages, benefits, or bonuses you lost as a result of the attack.
Loss Of Quality Of Life
Some dog attacks may leave victims unable to enjoy life the same way they did before the attack. For example, if a victim was an avid golfer prior to the attack and suffers arm muscle or ligament damage which permanently affects his golf swing, the owner could be forced to pay damages for a loss of quality of life.
Pain And Suffering
Damages for pain and suffering help account for noneconomic damages which are more difficult to quantitatively measure. Examples include the pain of the recovery process and the emotional trauma which some victims must live with for years afterward, or even permanently.
Relevant Dog Bite Links