Dogs can provide a constant source of unconditional love for their owners. However, an individual’s pet or the family pet can be a potential source of injury if the dog is not secured properly while outside the home or proves to be dangerous to individuals other than the owner. An attorney experienced in personal injury cases can play a crucial role in assisting a victim of a dog bite case.
Ways an Attorney Can Help You in a Dog Bite Case
- Initial Consultation/Case Evaluation and Investigation: The attorney will first gather detailed information about the dog bite incident, including the circumstances, location, and parties involved. The attorney can assist in collecting evidence, such as medical reports, witness statements, and photographs of injuries. Medical records should be obtained to ensure the victim receives proper medical treatment and that all injuries are documented. It is advisable to assess any future medical needs or long-term impacts of the injury. At this time you should also identify who the owner of the dog is, as well as any past incidents involving the dog.
- Insurance Negotiations: If you or someone close to you has been bitten by a dog and has suffered injuries, you might want to retain an attorney to handle the communications and negotiations with the homeowner’s insurance company. An attorney can also assist you in securing a fair settlement for medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.
- Help with Understanding Pennsylvania Dog Bite Laws: An attorney can provide legal advice on the rights and options available to the victim based on Pennsylvania’s dog bite laws.
- Pennsylvania’s Dog Confinement Law– This law requires owners and keepers to have reasonable control over their dogs at all times. The law also requires owners to confine their dogs on their premises and restrain their dogs with a collar, chain, or other device to prevent straying. Dog bite victims who prove that a dog owner violated Pennsylvania’s confinement statute may recover under a theory of “negligence per se.” In many states, when a defendant violates a safety statute, regulation, or municipal ordinance, and someone else is hurt as a result, an inference of negligence is raised. The doctrine that permits this inference is referred to as “negligence per se,” and the doctrine can make it easier for the victim to recover damages.
- Strict Liability vs. Negligence: Pennsylvania has a mixed approach when it comes to dog bites, with strict liability for medical and other expenses, and the possibility of proving negligence for other damages. In some cases, the victim may be able to recover compensation only for medical costs, while in other cases the full range of damages may be available (present and future medical bills, lost wages for time spent off work, pain and suffering, emotional distress, etc.). Whether full damages are available depends on whether the injuries were severe. Examples of severe damages might include injuries requiring surgery or broken bones. Also, full damages may be available if the victim can prove that the owner was negligent or knew that the animal had a dangerous propensity.
- Dangerous Dog Statute: The Dangerous Dog Statute in Pennsylvania is a set of laws designed to regulate the ownership and control of dogs that have been classified as “dangerous.” A dog may be considered dangerous in Pennsylvania if it has inflicted severe injury on a human without provocation, killed or severely injured another domestic animal while off the owner’s property, or has a history of attacking people or domestic animals without provocation. Under this statute, owners of a dangerous dog must meet specific requirements, such as registering the dog, using a proper leash and muzzle, obtaining a special license, and maintaining liability insurance. The law also imposes penalties for non-compliance and outlines the legal process for declaring a dog dangerous.
If a person has been injured by a dog classified as dangerous, an attorney can help them seek compensation for their injuries. Conversely, if a dog owner is facing a lawsuit because their dog is accused of being dangerous, an attorney can represent the owner in legal proceedings. The lawyer can present evidence and arguments to potentially prevent the dog from being classified as dangerous or to minimize the restrictions and penalties imposed. The attorney can also provide guidance to the dog owner on how to avoid further legal issues and help to ensure the safety of the community.
- Settlement Negotiations and Litigation Assistance: An attorney can negotiate on behalf of an injured party or a dog owner to reach settlements outside of court, if appropriate. If a settlement cannot be reached, a personal injury attorney can file a lawsuit on behalf of the victim and represent the victim in court by presenting evidence and arguing the case for the injured individual. The attorney will strive for a resolution that provides adequate compensation, as well as assist in the collection and disbursement of settlement funds.
Legal assistance is crucial in these situations as the laws can be complex, and the stakes are high for both the victim of a dangerous dog, as well as the dog owner. The law firm of Cooper Schall & Levy has skilled personal injury attorneys who can help you navigate the legal complexities of a dog bite case in Pennsylvania. They can ensure that the victim’s rights are protected and they receive the compensation they deserve.