According to the CDC, approximately 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year. Of those bitten, approximately half require medical attention. One of the most common injuries seen by our firm is permanent facial scarring, which can be a very traumatic injury for anyone.
Most dog bites are preventable, caused by the negligent supervision of the dog’s owner. Pennsylvania’s dog confinement statute states that “[i]t shall be unlawful for the owner or keeper of any dog to fail to keep at all times the dog in any of the following manners:
In addition to statutory law, Pennsylvania’s common law provides that in order for civil liability to attach to a dog owner for injuries sustained during a dog bite, the dog bite victim must show that the dog owner knew or should have known of the dog’s vicious propensities. This long-standing rule was articulated by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 1936 in the case of Andrews v. Smith (188 A. 146). In its opinion, the Court stated:
Animals such as horses, oxen and dogs are not beasts that are ferae natura, i.e., wild beasts, but are classed as mansuetae natura, i.e., tamed and domesticated animals, and their owners are not responsible for any vicious acts of theirs unless the owners have knowledge that they are likely to break away from their normal domestic nature and become vicious.
Be aware that an actual previous bite is not necessary; viciousness can be shown in general by the dog’s behavior. Of course, in addition to establishing liability through Pennsylvania common law, a dog bite victim can also premise liability upon the violation of one of Pennsylvania’s dog bite statutes, including the previously mentioned dog confinement statute.
Each dog bite is different, and the circumstances of each case should be reviewed by an experienced personal injury attorney.