Dogs are a man’s best friend, or so they say. Dogs can be very adorable and furry, even though they can tear your furniture up when you are at work. It is hard to imagine that dogs were once ferocious, undomesticated creatures who roamed free. Dogs have natural instincts to hunt for food and defend their territory. This defense of their territory can come with aggressive behaviors. Without proper training, some dogs never learn to let go of that instinct which can lead to bad biting or barking behaviors. Dogs can bite strangers or even their owners if they feel threatened.
If you find yourself in a situation where you were bit by a dog and are unsure about your rights, do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Freundlich & Littman, LLC to seek legal advice. Contact us today at 215-545-8500 or [email protected]
The Responsibilities of Dog Owners
It is the responsibility of any dog owner to keep the dog controlled and secured. In Philadelphia, the law mandates that you must keep your dog on leash that does not exceed six feet in length. You must also keep the dog confined to your property if you let them outside in the yard. This law not only ensures that your dogs does not get loose and escape, but it keeps your dog away from other people, animals, and property. If your dog is found to be roaming without control or not on a leash, an animal control officer is legally within their power to take the animal into custody and place the dog in an “appropriate area of confinement”.
If the state finds that you are harboring a “dangerous” dog, then you could be held criminally liable for a misdemeanor. In this situation, owners must pay register their dog with the state, muzzle their dog, provide adequate warning to the public about a dangerous dog, and carry at least $50,000 in liability insurance. Any injury to another person or dog may result in criminal action.
What Happens when you are Bit by a Dog
After you get bit by a dog, you should first seek medical attention. Dog bites can get infected if not treated properly. Keep it clean and let it air out. If it starts to appear infected, immediately seek medical attention. Keep a record of any medical bills you receive or insurance claims that you make. It is important to keep records of all medical transactions.
In addition to medical documents, try to take a picture of the wound in case of litigation. Make sure to take note of the time and date of the bite. If you know the owner of the dog who bit you, get their name and information if you can. Also, a description of the dog will help if the dog was a stray or without an apparent owner.
As a preliminary matter, a dog owner may be liable for biting injuries inflicted by their dog. The legal term is negligence per se. Basically, if your dog bites someone, even if it was a child who provoked the dog, you are automatically liable for the injuries inflicted upon the victim. A dog owner is therefore liable for any damages to the victim. This includes medical bills associated with the bite.
Pennsylvania, however, recognizes extenuating circumstances. If the owner can show that they exercised due care when restraining your dog, you may not be liable for all or some of the damages to a victim. For instance, if a dog owner chained the dog up in the backyard properly but the chain malfunctioned through no fault of the owner, then an owner may be able to avoid liability.
In Philadelphia specifically, dog bites are classified differently. If the dog is a repeat offender (bit a person before), then the dog may be classified as “vicious”. A vicious dog can be automatically seized by animal control officers. The Department of Health has the sole discretion when it comes to deciding the fate of the animal. After “reasonable efforts” were made to put the dog owner on notice, the Department may humanely euthanize the dog. A victim of a “vicious” dog bite may sue for full compensation of medical expenses as well as mental distress.
If the dog has never bitten someone before, then circumstances are a little different. If the wound is severe enough, then a victim of a first time biter may be entitled to full compensation. If the wound was minor, the victim may only be able to collect for medical expenses. For a first offender, the dog may be put on a dangerous dog list.
What to Do
If you were bit by a dog, you can file a lawsuit to recover medical damages, pain & suffering and possibly compensation for mental distress. Keep in mind that you must bring a lawsuit within two years from the day of injury. If not, your lawsuit may be barred by the state of limitations. If you need advice or assistance, contact the injury attorneys at Freundlich & Littman, LLC. Call us today at 215-545-8500 or email us at [email protected] to schedule a free consultation.