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November 25, 2014

Recovering after a Dog Bite

dog bite wound dressingGetting bitten by a dog can be a frightening experience that can also cause severe injuries. Statistics published [1] by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that an estimated 4.5 million Americans suffer dog bites on an annual basis and approximately 885,000 people require medical attention for their bite-related injuries. To make matters worse, about half of dog bite victims are small children.

Dog bites can cause emotional trauma as well as serious physical injuries and disfigurement. The CDC reports that over 27,000 dog bite victims required reconstructive surgeries to correct disfigurements. Fortunately, Pennsylvania statutes allow certain dog bite victims to recover for their injury-related losses from dog bite owners by filing a personal injury claim.

When is a dog owner liable?

First of all, dog owners in Pennsylvania are required to have their dogs confined and under reasonable control at all times. This means that when they are outside with their dog, an owner must use a leash, fence, chain, or other device to keep the dog on the premises. This is intended to prevent dogs from straying and biting others while unsupervised. If a dog owner violates the confinement statute and the dog bites another person, the bite victim can hold the owner liable for their losses under the legal doctrine of negligence per se [2].

In addition, a dog owner may be held liable under the state’s Dangerous Dog statutes [3]. Under these laws, a dog is considered to be dangerous if one of the following applies:

  • Previously attacked a person or inflicted severe injury on someone without being provoked
  • Previously caused severe injury to another animal outside the owner’s premises without being provoked

If the dog is known to have a history of or propensity for attacking other people or animals, the dog will be considered dangerous. Owners of dangerous dogs must take the following actions:

  • Register the dangerous dog with the state
  • Have a proper enclosure for the confinement of the dog
  • Have warning signs on the property regarding the dangerous dog
  • While off their property, have the dog muzzled or adequately restrained to prevent bites or attacks
  • If the dog runs away, the owner must report it to the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement

If the owner of a dangerous dog acts in a negligent, reckless, or intentional manner and the dog bites another person or animal, the owner can be held both criminally responsible and liable for all losses suffered by victims in civil court.

[1] http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/dog-bites/

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negligence_per_se

[3] http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/007/chapter27/chap27toc.html

 

 

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