Philadelphia Dog Bite Injury Lawyer
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 today to learn more about how we can help you and what steps to take 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. Our Philadelphia personal injury lawyers have listed below the following 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 after a dog bite, 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. These injuries after a dog bite can cause serious complications that can affect the rest of someones 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 FAQ
In an ongoing effort to prevent mail carriers from being attacked by dogs as they make their deliveries, the U.S. Postal Service recently announced that it was partnering with the PAWS Program to place dog paw stickers on Philadelphia mailboxes if there is a dog known to live nearby. The stickers aim to remind mail carriers to use caution when delivering mail in that area. Other methods that the Postal Service has deployed to reduce the number of dog attacks on its carriers include handheld scanners that indicate when a dog is nearby, and delivery alerts that allow a homeowner to secure a dog before the mail carrier arrives at the door.
Even with these measures in place, dog bites still injure around 5,800 mail carriers per year in the U.S. What’s more, mail carriers aren’t the only ones who face risks of dog bites in Philadelphia. About 4.5 million dog bites occur in the U.S. each year, many of them right here in the City of Brotherly Love. Nearly 20 percent of those bites become infected and require medical intervention, and around 27,000 people annually undergo reconstructive surgery to repair trauma caused by a dog bite.
Below we answer some common questions about Philadelphia dog bites and the legal rights of dog bite victims. For answers to specific questions about your Philadelphia dog bite injury, contact the experienced dog bite attorneys at the Levin Firm today.
Who is legally responsible when a dog bites someone in Philadelphia?
In most cases in Pennsylvania, the dog’s owner is legally responsible for dog bite injuries, even if the owner had no prior knowledge that the dog had vicious tendencies. This rule does not usually apply to military and police dogs acting in the line of duty, but even that rule may have exceptions, so always talk to a Philadelphia dog bite lawyer after any dog attack injures you or a loved one.
How do I recover compensation for the Philadelphia dog bite I sustained?
You may have a variety of options for seeking compensation for a Philadelphia dog bite injury. Speak with a Philadelphia dog bite lawyer to learn the specifics for your case.
Generally speaking, dog bite victims in Pennsylvania often have the legal right to:
- Obtain compensation from their own insurance policies; and
- Obtain compensation by taking legal action against the dog owner or any other party legally responsible for the dog’s actions, which may lead to payment from the owner’s liability insurance policy.
I was attacked by a dog in Philadelphia. What damages can I recover?
If you suffered injuries in a Philadelphia dog attack, then you may have the legal right to receive money damages to pay for:
- Medical expenses, including treatment in the emergency department, hospitalization, diagnostic testing, prescription medication, physician services, surgical services, physical therapy, and rehabilitation.
- Non-medical expenses related to living with a dog bite injury;
- Lost current and future income due to missing work because of a dog bite injury or because of a dog bite-related disability that prevents you from returning to work.
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Diminished quality of life.
Every Philadelphia dog bite matter has its own unique facts and circumstances, so there is no guarantee of recovering the types of compensation listed above. Speak with an experienced Philadelphia dog bite injury attorney to learn more.
What is strict liability in a dog bite case?
Strict liability means that, when a dog bites someone, the victim does not need to prove that the dog owner acted carelessly or recklessly in allowing it to happen. Strict liability means the owner is responsible regardless of negligence, and regardless of whether he or she knew the dog would bite.
This strict liability rule applies only to dog bites, not other injuries sustained in a dog attack. For other injuries caused by a dog, the victim usually must show some wrongful action or inaction on the part of the owner.
Are there any defenses to a dog bite claim in Philadelphia?
Because Pennsylvania follows a strict liability rule for dog bites, many of the common defenses to a dog bite lawsuit—such as that the dog had never bitten anyone before, or that the owner tried to stop the dog attack—are largely moot.
Still, a dog owner may avoid liability if:
- The injured person was tormenting or teasing the dog, which caused it to bite;
- No one can figure out who the owner is; or
- The dog bit an adult trespasser or someone in the act of committing a crime.
Experienced Philadelphia dog bite injury lawyers prepare their cases to anticipate that an owner might try to escape liability for a victim’s injuries.
How does a dog become designated as dangerous in Philadelphia?
In Philadelphia, a dog can be designated as dangerous if it has attacked, inflicted serious injury to, or killed a human being or domestic animal without provocation while off of its own property. In Philadelphia, this designation is made when a police officer files a complaint with a district judge that charges the owner with keeping or harboring a dangerous dog.
If the dog has been designated dangerous, it will be returned to its owner. However, the owner must then register the dog with the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement and re-register each year. The registration fee for owning a dangerous dog is $500 a year plus any additional funds that are established to cover the administrative cost of the registration.
Once deemed dangerous, owners must confine the dog in an enclosed kennel, and must properly muzzle and leash the dog outside of the enclosure. Owners must place signs prominently on the enclosure to warn others of a dangerous dog. The owner must also purchase liability insurance of at least $5,000 and have the animal spayed or neutered and microchipped. The dog owner must inform local officials if the dog is loose, attacks another human, dies, or is sold.
If I file a lawsuit in my dog bite case, do I have to go to court?
Not necessarily. In fact, the vast majority of Philadelphia dog bite cases settle before they reach the courtroom. However, the attorney you choose to assist you with your case should be comfortable and confident with the notion of taking the case to court if negotiation alone does not produce a fair and reasonable settlement.
The dog’s owner is my friend. Do I have to sue my friend to obtain compensation?
Not necessarily. If your friend carries a homeowner’s insurance policy, then your attorney may have the ability to achieve a settlement on your behalf without taking the step of filing a lawsuit. Speak with an experienced dog bite attorney in Philadelphia about any personal concerns you have about taking legal action.
I am a mail carrier who suffered a Philadelphia dog bite injury. Is this a workers’ compensation case or a personal injury case?
It depends on the circumstances. If you suffered the bite in the course of delivering mail, then you likely have a workers’ compensation claim under the federal law that covers Postal Service carriers. In some instances, however, you may also have the right to take legal action against the dog’s owner or a third party. Speak with an experienced Philadelphia dog bite injury lawyer today to learn more.
What is the average settlement in a dog bite case?
Insurance companies that issue homeowner’s coverage pay-out around $797 million in dog bite claims each year, including cases that are settled outside of court as well as damages awarded by a jury after a trial. Because Philadelphia dog bite damages are unique to the specific facts of the case—including the amount of medical expenses, missed work, and impacts on your life—there is no average settlement.
These factors can increase or decrease the value of your case:
- The severity of your injury. More severe injuries will often result in increased medical expenses, more lost wages, and additional impacts on your life.
- Your age, health, and income before the injury. As a general rule, damages tend to rise when the victim is younger, healthier, or has a higher income. This rule, however, has lots of exceptions.
- The financial resources available to pay a claim. Legally liable parties with higher-value insurance policies, or greater amounts of personal or business assets, can pay larger claims.
- Your patience. It can take time to achieve a successful outcome in a Philadelphia dog bite case. Oftentimes, parties who have the staying power to hold out for the best possible settlement offer or jury award will have a better chance to succeed in a claim.
Talk to an experienced Philadelphia dog attack injury lawyer today to learn about the potential value of your claim.
The injuries I suffered from a dog bite were minor. However, the wounds got infected. Is treatment for the infection a damage I can claim?
Yes. Infections are a common complication of Philadelphia dog bites, occurring in about one out of every five bites. In addition to any treatment you received for the initial bite, you can typically also include compensation for medical expenses resulting from the infection in a claim for damages. Speak with an experienced Philadelphia dog bite lawyer to discuss the full range of complications and difficulties you suffered. It may surprise you to learn the types of damages you have the right to recover.
Do I need a Philadelphia dog bite attorney to pursue compensation?
In our experience, yes. If you have suffered an injury due to a dog bite in Philadelphia, then the services of an experienced dog bite attorney can make the difference between recovering the maximum compensation you deserve under Pennsylvania law, and recovering no compensation at all.
Do not believe anyone who tells you that you can handle a claim on your own just as well as any lawyer could. Attempting to represent yourself in a claim for damages, in our experience, virtually always results in losing valuable legal and financial rights.
The services an experienced Philadelphia dog bite injury attorney provides to an injured client will vary based on the circumstances of a case, but typically include:
- Evaluating your options for seeking compensation and developing a strategy that serves your interests;
- Investigating the facts of your dog bite to identify all parties who may have a legal liability to you for damages;
- Assembling evidence to prove your claim.
- Negotiating with insurance companies and defense lawyers in pursuit of a fair and reasonable settlement of your claim; and
- Taking your claim to a Philadelphia court to seek justice before a judge and jury, when negotiation alone does not yield the outcome you deserve.
If you or a loved one suffered an injury resulting from a Philadelphia dog bite, then you may have the right to obtain substantial financial compensation. Contact the experienced Philadelphia premises liability lawyers at the Levin Firm today for a free case evaluation.