Philadelphia Dog Bite Injury Attorney
Dogs can be loveable and amiable creatures and we often consider dogs to be members of our families. For this reason, many people do not actively realize the potential risks of a dog bite. Dog bite injuries can be more serious than car accidents and thus, it is critical to understand what to do to prevent bites as well as what to do if a dog bite occurs.
The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers at The Levin Firm understand that a dog bite injury can range from simple bites requiring stitches and treatment through physical therapy to severe injuries including loss of limbs, loss of fingers, loss of toes, and even death. Our attorneys treat all dog bite injury cases as the most serious types of cases because of the psychological and physical impact dog bites have on our clients. We understand the fear of dog bites and other pet bites, and their potentially long-term effects this type of incident can have on you and your family. Please contact our office today to learn more about how we can help you after a dog bite.
Common Dog Bite Injuries
As mentioned above, there is a wide range of injuries that can result from a dog bite or attack. The following are only some examples of injuries that require medical treatment:
- Physical wounds – Dog bites can cause a variety of physical wounds at the site of the bite. This can include lacerations, bruised bones, broken bones, puncture wounds, severed or torn tendons or ligaments, torn muscle tissue, and more. While some physical wounds from dog bites will require more treatment than others, you should always seek medical attention if a dog bite appears to have broken through the skin, as that is when the risk of infection exists.
- Infections – Infections are the most common complication of dog bites and can often be more serious than the actual physical wounds. The idea that a dog’s mouth is extremely clean is a myth and many types of bacteria can be transferred during a dog bite. To make matters worse, some dog bites wounds can be very difficult to thoroughly clean on your own. For example, a puncture wound may go deeper than you think and you may not realize that you did not adequately clean to the root of the wound. As the wound heals, it may close and trap bacteria deep in the puncture wound. This can result in a serious or even life-threatening infection. Because the risk of infection is so severe after a dog bite, you should always have your wounds cleaned and treated by a medical professional. If you do suffer an infection, you may have to spend an extended period of time in the hospital and undergo ongoing treatment for months.
- Disfigurement – Another risk of a serious dog attack is permanent disfigurement. For example, if a small child experiences a serious bite on their face, they may have permanent scars for the rest of their lives. Dogs have powerful jaws that can maim a person easily if an attack is violent. In addition, some people may lose fingers, toes, or even limbs as a result of a dog bite. Such disfigurement or amputation can then lead to many additional issues – both physically and psychologically. In some cases, reconstructive surgery will be necessary to repair disfigurement as much as possible.
- Psychological injuries – One of the most serious – yet least considered – effects of a dog bite is the variety of psychological effects a victim can suffer. First, dog attacks can be sudden and extremely traumatic. Victims may be helpless in the moment of attack and are often terrified. Such an incident can easily result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD can have many symptoms of its own, independent of physical injuries.
Some of those symptoms include:
- Violent nightmares and flashbacks of the attack
- Avoidance of any triggers
- Irritability and angry outbursts
- Irrational fears
- Depression and anxiety
Many PTSD sufferers require medication and extensive psychological treatment before they can get back to normal. Victims may need to take time off work or regular activities while they recover. Some PTSD sufferers cannot even leave the house for a period of time without having debilitating panic attacks.
Dog bites can also cause an intense fear of dogs. Considering the number of dogs that are constantly out on the streets in Philadelphia, it is not uncommon for a dog bite victim to want to stay inside or avoid going to the homes of family or friends who have dogs. This can completely change the course of a person’s life.
Whether your dog bite injuries are physical, psychological, or both, you may deserve compensation from the dog’s owner for your losses. You should always discuss your legal rights and options with an attorney who fully understands dog bite laws in Pennsylvania. Call The Levin Firm today.
Liability For Dog Bites In Pennsylvania
Every state has different laws regarding the liability of a dog owner after a bite or attack. In Pennsylvania, a dog owner is held strictly liable for the medical expenses of a person bitten by their dog. This means that in order to seek compensation for your medical bills, you do not have to prove that the dog owner was negligent in any way – just that they were responsible for the dog at the time of the attack.
Many dog bite victims have losses that extend well beyond medical bills, however, including lost income, physical and mental pain and suffering, and permanent disfigurement. In such cases, you do have to prove one of the following to seek compensation:
- An owner was negligent in the handling of the dog, such as allowing the dog to roam off-leash
- An owner knew the dog had a propensity for violence
Dog bite cases can be handled in different ways. For example, some homeowner’s insurance policies cover dog bite accidents that took place on the dog owner’s property. If an insurance claim is inadequate to resolve the matter, you can file a personal injury lawsuit in Pennsylvania civil court.
Just because you file a lawsuit does not mean your case will go to trial, however. There are many stages of dog bite litigation including several rounds of settlement negotiations. Our attorneys are skilled negotiators with both insurance companies and parties to a lawsuit. We will always fight for the full amount you deserve for your dog bite-related losses and will handle every step of your case.
Contact A Dedicated Philadelphia Dog Bite Law Firm For Help Today
In Pennsylvania, dogs must always be on their leash if they are out of their home area. When dogs are allowed to roam freely, dog bites occur and our dog bite clients suffer from disfigurement including broken bones, deep bruises, cuts and other wounds that result in our clients requiring treatment for psychological problems, plastic surgery, physical therapy and even rabies treatment. Our personal injury lawyers regularly work with insurance companies to get the best results for our dog bite clients and to hold dog owners liable for the harm caused by their dogs.
Our team of aggressive investigators and lawyers devote their maximum effort and time to their dog bite and pet bite clients. At The Levin Firm, our Pennsylvania and New Jersey personal injury attorneys represent our dog bite clients with the same passion and vigor as all of our personal injury clients.
Philadelphia Dog Bite FAQs
Dog bites can leave victims profoundly traumatized. Even a minor bite can cause substantial pain and limited mobility during recovery, depending on the location of the bite. In addition, victims often develop a lasting fear of dogs, which, ironically, only increases their chances of being victimized by a dog again.
At The Levin Firm, Philadelphia dog bite victims (and parents of children who have been bitten) often come to us with lots of questions about their legal rights. Below, we answer some of the more common questions we get. To discuss a specific dog bite that has injured or traumatized you or a family member, contact an experienced attorney right away.
Question #1: Who has legal liability for a Philadelphia dog bite?
Under Pennsylvania law, a dog’s owner must pay the medical expenses of anyone injured by a dog bite, regardless of the dog owner’s fault for the incident. In addition, Pennsylvania law allows victims of dog bites to seek additional compensation for harm caused by the dog by proving that the dog’s owner was negligent or otherwise acted wrongfully in failing to prevent a dog attack.
Question #2: How is a dangerous dog different from a dog that hasn’t attacked anyone in the past?
Pennsylvania law defines a dangerous dog as one that has:
- Caused injury to a person without provocation in the past;
- Caused severe injury or death to an animal off the owner’s property without provocation in the past; or
- A known habit of attacking either humans or domestic animals.
The victim of any dog attack may file a complaint with a district magistrate to have the dog declared dangerous. If the magistrate agrees and deems the dog dangerous, the magistrate may order the dog owner to pay restitution to the victim.
Pennsylvania law subjects the owner of a dangerous dog to specific requirements:
- The owner must license the dog and renew that license every January, regardless of the initial date of registration.
- The owner must properly restrain the dog in an enclosure on the owner’s property, and must post signs and notifications warning about the dog. The enclosure must prevent the easy entry of children or domestic animals to help prevent them from getting hurt by the dog.
- If the owner takes the dog off the property or out of the enclosure, the dog must wear proper restraints and a muzzle.
- The owner of a dangerous dog must also spay or neuter the animal.
- The owner must microchip the dog so that authorities can identify the dog’s owner if it leaves the owner’s property and attacks someone.
- The owner must carry a minimum of $50,000 in liability insurance against the dog causing harm to someone.
Question #3: What compensation do I deserve after a dog attack?
In all cases, you are entitled to have the dog owner pay your medical expenses resulting from a dog attack. In addition, if the dog’s owner acted wrongfully in failing to prevent the attack, then you may also have the ability to recover other types of damages allowed in a personal injury action under Pennsylvania law, which can include other expenses inflicted by the attack, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Question #4: What are the health complications associated with a dog bite?
Even a single dog bite can cause significant injuries, including:
- Broken bones;
- Nerve damage;
- Damage to muscles and tissue; and
- Disfiguring scars.
Big dogs may pose a more substantial risk than smaller dogs, but even small dog bites can cause substantial pain and health complications for the victim, such as:
- Infection. A dog’s mouth is filled with bacteria. A bite that breaks the skin can immediately place those foreign bacteria into the victim’s bloodstream, creating a risk of dangerous, even life-threatening, infection.
- Rabies. A bite victim should receive medical treatment and evaluation for rabies after any dog or animal attack (and the dog should immediately be quarantined to test for the disease). Rabies is fatal to humans if left untreated. Ideally, victims should receive treatment before symptoms begin. Rabies starts with flu-like symptoms but often progresses to extreme anxiety, delirium, hydrophobia, insomnia, and hallucinations. The onset of symptoms can mean that the disease has already progressed too far to treat, however. That is why all victims of a dog (or any other animal) bite should seek immediate medical attention and make sure the dog is tested.
- Tetanus. Tetanus can cause serious health complications for the victim, including seizures, changes in blood pressure and heart rhythm, and muscle spasms. In some cases, tetanus can lead to pulmonary embolism or pneumonia. Dog bite victims should always receive a tetanus shot immediately after the attack unless they have a current vaccine.
The dog’s owner bears liability for all medical complications associated with a dog attack and must, under Pennsylvania law, make restitution for all medical expenses associated with the attack. Medical expenses may include emergency transport from the scene of the accident if needed, a visit to the hospital emergency room, and hospitalization or treatment for any injuries sustained during the attack or complications from those injuries.
Question #5: Can I still receive compensation for a dog bite if the dog isn’t vicious?
Yes. Pennsylvania law requires owners to pay for medical expenses of a dog bite victim, no matter the dog’s status or the owner’s fault. Victims may also recover damages if the owner was negligent in failing to prevent the attack. A dog’s status as dangerous may help prove that an owner acted negligently in failing to prevent an attack—such as by failing to follow the laws applicable to dangerous dogs.
The dog’s status as dangerous should also mean that the owner carries at least $50,000 in liability insurance to cover against the damage done to you by the attack. However, your rights as a victim of a dog attack are the same regardless of whether or not the dog that attacked you had been deemed dangerous before the attack happened.
Question #6: Is there any way a dog’s owner can fight a dog bite claim?
Yes and no.
Dog owners do not have a defense to their strict legal liability for the medical costs inflicted by their dog biting someone, in most circumstances.
As for other damages, however, dog owners can assert several defenses. First of all, Pennsylvania law exempts dog owners from having their dog deemed dangerous or being subject to criminal or civil penalties under the dangerous dog statutes when:
injury or damage was sustained by a person who, at the time, was committing a willful trespass or other tort upon the premises occupied by the owner of the dog, or was tormenting, abusing or assaulting the dog or has, in the past, been observed or reported to have tormented, abused or assaulted the dog, or was committing or attempting to commit a crime.
Provoking a dog, or willfully trespassing on the dog owner’s property, can also serve as a defense to any claim that the dog owner acted negligently in failing to prevent a dog attack. Speak with an experienced Philadelphia dog bite attorney to explore whether the owner of the dog that bit you or a loved one has potential defenses to your claim.
Question #7: What evidence will I need for a dog bite claim?
Talk with an attorney to get an idea of what evidence your lawyer may need to prepare a strong Philadelphia dog bite claim. At a bare minimum, your attorney will need to identify the dog that caused your injuries, and its owner. In some cases, you may need no further evidence to aid in your claim, especially if the dog owner admits liability (which the owner must, at least in the case of your medical expenses).
Still, other evidence may well prove helpful. Your attorney may work with you to collect other evidence, such as:
- Witness statements about the attack, if available. A witness can help establish that you did not taunt the dog or provoke it in any way. A witness can also help identify the specific dog that attacked you.
- Your medical records. To show the compensation you deserve for a dog bite, you will likely need to present your medical records. Copies of your medical bills can help show how much compensation you deserve for your injuries, while your medical records will help show the full extent of your injuries and your likelihood of making a full recovery.
- Proof that you had the right to visit the private property where the attack occurred. An invitation from the owner or a long-standing relationship can help show your right to visit a private property. You may also need to show that you had the right to visit the area with the dog and that the dog owner failed to properly warn you about a dangerous dog, if applicable.
Question #8: Do I have to have an attorney to file a dog bite claim?
Technically no, but practically speaking, yes. As a general proposition, it is never a good idea to act as your own lawyer. The advice and counsel of an experienced Philadelphia dog bite attorney virtually always more-than pays for itself. Going it along merely risks making avoidable, but costly, mistakes. With an attorney by your side, you claim will receive the respect and attention it deserves, and you give yourself the best possible chance of recovering maximum compensation.
Question #9: When should I contact an attorney after a dog bite?
In general, contact us as soon as possible after the attack. In some cases, you may choose to contact an attorney as soon as you leave the hospital. You may even choose to contact an attorney while still in the hospital if you suffer severe injuries or complications that lead to long-term medical needs. The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner that attorney can collect vital evidence on your behalf. Contacting the Levin Firm soon after the attack can also get things moving on your claim faster, which means you may receive compensation for your medical bills faster.
If you did not contact an attorney immediately, however, do not let more time go by. The Pennsylvania statute of limitations could impact how long you have to file a claim against the dog’s owner. The longer you wait, the harder you may find it to collect evidence, including accurate witness statements about the attack.
Question #10: Will I always have to file a claim directly against the dog owner to receive compensation after a dog attack?
Yes, although in practical terms an attorney will usually deal mostly with the dog owner’s property or liability insurance carrier. If the owner does not carry insurance or the insurance does not provide coverage for a dog attack, then your attorney may deal with the property owner directly.
You do not have to interact with the dog’s owner in pursuing your dog bite claim, however. In many cases, your attorney can handle all of these interactions and negotiations for you. Letting your attorney handle the claim can help reduce trauma, especially if you fear the dog’s owner or the dog after an attack.
Question #11: Will the dog’s owner face additional penalties after an attack?
The owner of a dog that has not been deemed dangerous will typically not face legal penalties after an initial attack. A known dangerous dog that attacks someone, however, will put its owner at risk for criminal liability, fines, and penalties. After the first unprovoked attack, the dog owner must take care to control the dog. It must remain in a safe enclosure on the owner’s property that prevents easy access to children or domestic animals.
The dog owner must exercise extreme caution when taking the dog out in public, including keeping it on a leash or under the tight control of a person capable of handling the animal. Failure to follow these regulations could result in severe penalties for the dog’s owner. The dog’s owner may face misdemeanor charges if he fails to comply with these regulations, especially if that failure to comply results in another dog attack.
When you need a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania or New Jersey personal injury lawyer to represent you, a family member or friend who has suffered serious physical and psychological trauma from a dog bite or pet bite, you can feel confident when you contact The Levin Firm, where our personal injury lawyers work to obtain the best result for each possible case. To arrange a free consultation, please give us a call at 215-825-5183 or send us an email via the form above.
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“The Levin Firm treated me like family. They took my injury case with a high level of professionalism. They were very helpful and answered all my questions. I was being informed of every step that was happening in my case. They understood my pain and suffering and took the case like their own. I am happy with the ending result in my case.The Levin Firm was able to fight for the justice I deserved. I would recommend Levin Firm to anyone.” -Louis S.