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Who is Liable for Dog Bites?

July 16, 2020

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

Pennsylvania’s laws on dog bites are a little more confusing than they are in other states. Although victims of dog bites can hold owners of the animal strictly liable for paying medical expenses, damages for other losses including pain and suffering are only available if injured individuals can prove that the dog owner was negligent in controlling the dog.

Like in most personal injury cases, it is important to determine who was at fault for the accident and in regards to dog bites, this can become quite complicated. Most people consider that dog owners alone are liable for the actions of their animal, but this is not always true. Other people may also face liability, including dog sitters, parents of a minor child, and even property owners.

Dog Sitters

There are many instances in which a dog owner asks someone else to care for their dog. This can involve leaving the animal at a doggy daycare while they are at work for the day, or leaving a dog with someone else for an extended period of time while the owner goes on vacation. If the dog bites someone in these instances, the dog sitter may be held liable because they had control over the animal.

Parents of Minor Children

When the owner of the dog is a minor that is under the age of 18, that minor’s parents may be held liable any time the animal bites or attacks a person. In Pennsylvania, parents of minor children are generally considered to have a ‘keeper’ role, so they are responsible for their child. The theory behind this law is that minor children do not have the capacity to be held liable and may not even be able to control a dog and make sure they do not bite others adequately. Even if the child is the technical owner of the dog, when an animal bites and injures someone else, victims generally seek damages from the parents.

Property Owners

There are two main ways property owners can be held liable for dog bites. The first is when a dog resides with their owner in an apartment building or other multi-unit dwelling. Landlords that are aware that a certain dog is dangerous and that does not take the appropriate steps to move the dog off the property can be held liable for their failure to act. Additionally, if another property owner, such as the owner of a store, sees a dog on their property and does not ask the owner to remove the animal, or does not call the appropriate officials to have the dog removed, the store owner may also be held liable if the dog injures someone on the property.

Our Pennsylvania Dog Bite Lawyers can Hold the Right Party Accountable

Dog bite injuries are extremely serious and recovery time can be long. If you have been bitten by a dog, our Allentown dog bite lawyers at van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim are here to help. Our experienced attorneys understand the law on dog bites in Pennsylvania, and we also know how to determine who was liable for the attack. When you are injured, call us at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys.


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