Each and every year, 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the United States. With a U.S population of about 327 million, that means a dog bites 1 out of every sixty-nine people. When dogs bite, often times the injuries are life-changing. One of the most commonly performed procedures after a dog bite is reconstructive surgery, with 28,000 people in need of this procedure last year alone. Due to the extent of the injuries, the typical cost of a dog bite-related hospital stay is more than $18,000.
Because of the rising medical costs and higher dog bite settlements, the average cost per claim has risen 103 percent between 2003 and 2019. In fact, injuries caused by canines accounted for more than a third of all homeowners’ liability dollars paid out last year at about $700 million dollars. We’ve thrown a lot of numbers out there…all of which are startling. At Georgelis, Larsen & Sabatino Injury Law Firm, P.C., we see a lot of dog bite cases. They are more common and more severe than most people think. To better understand all the complexities with a personal injury claim in a dog bite case, let’s take a closer look at:
- Who is Liable When a Dog Bites
- Pennsylvania Dog Laws
- Legal Responsibilities of Owners With Dangerous Dogs
- Dog Bite Statistics
- What to do When a Dog Bites
Who is Liable When a Dog Bites
In the state of Pennsylvania, liability falls on the owner of the dog that attacked. Such an owner is responsible to compensate the injured person for losses and damages suffered—including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, scarring and disfigurement—if the dog showed signs of aggression or attacked someone in the past. In other words, if it can be demonstrated that the dog had a propensity or inclination to be vicious, i.e., the dog owner knew or should have known the dog was a risk of danger to others, then the owner can be deemed negligent and the injured party can seek rightful compensation. To recover money for emotional trauma, lost earnings or any additional damages, a victim may have to establish one or more of the following:
- The dog previously bit another person, without cause.
- The dog showed a tendency to bite or attack, without cause.
- The dog owner was in violation of leash laws or other ordinances related to the dog’s confinement or care.
Pennsylvania Dog Laws
In Pennsylvania, we have a strict animal confinement law. This means dogs must be on their owners’ property or under control of some person. The owners’ property includes inside the home, out in the yard and secured by a collar, or confined within the property by a reliable fence. If a dog owner has a dog tied off in the front yard, but the yard leash extends beyond the property, the owner is responsible for harm caused to another person. When leaving their property, dogs must be secured by a person who can control them at all times and not left to roam freely.
Legal Responsibilities of Owners with Dangerous Dogs
Pennsylvania’s dangerous dog statute defines a dangerous dog as a dog that, without cause, severely injured or killed a person or a domesticated animal while not in the confines of the owner’s property.
If a dog is deemed dangerous, the owner must register their dog as dangerous and maintain liability insurance coverage of at least $50,000. They must also maintain a proper enclosure to confine the dog and post visible warning signs that indicate a dangerous dog lives on the property. Further, when outside the house or its enclosure, the dog must be muzzled and restrained by a substantial chain or leash. Finally, owners are required to notify the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, the State Dog Warden, and the local police department if their dog is on the loose, has attacked another animal or person, or has been sold or given away.
Dog Bite Statistics
Dog bites happen every day, and that’s why there are many groups trying educate the public about the common types and causes of dog attacks. The non-profit organization, DogsBite.org, dedicates its time to conducting research on the underreported, public safety issue of severe and fatal dog attacks. It has compiled reported incidents and news reports for the past fourteen years and here are some of its findings:
- There were 36 U.S. dog bite-related fatalities in 2018.
- During the fourteen-year period, canines killed 471 Americans.
- Two dog breeds, Pit Bulls (311) and Rottweilers (47), contributed to 76% of the deaths.
- In 2018, 42% of the fatality victims were children, ages 6-years and younger.
- Victims 50-years and older accounted for 71% of the adults killed in 2018.
- In 2018, the number of female victims (78%), was drastically higher than that of male victims (22%).
- 83% of the attacks resulting in death happened on the dog owner’s property in 2018.
- Family dogs inflicted 72% of dog bite fatalities in 2018. Pit bulls were responsible for 69% of these deaths. Of the 26 deaths, eight victims were non-family members.
There are many factors that come into play when a dog bites. The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association published what is considered to be one of the most comprehensive multifactorial studies related to dog bite fatalities. The study backed dog bite prevention recommendations from organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Veterinary Medical Association. Based on the analysis of data compiled from 2000-2015, there were many controllable factors present that could have prevented the fatal attacks.
- In nearly 87% of all fatal dog attacks, no able-bodied person was nearby to intervene.
- The victims had no familiar relationship with the dog in about 84% of the cases.
- Nearly 78% of the owners failed to spay or neuter their dog.
- The victim had a compromised ability (either age or physical condition) to manage the dog in 69% of the cases.
- The owners kept the dogs as resident dogs rather than family pets in 70% of the cases.
- Nearly 40% of the dog owners mismanaged the dog prior to the attack.
- Nearly 21% of the dogs who attacked where either abused or neglected by their owners.
In 75.5% of the cases examined over this fifteen-year period, four or more of these factors were present.
What to do When a Dog Bites
When a dog attacks, Call Georgelis First! Our experienced, aggressive and successful attorneys have helped countless dog bite victims to get all of the monetary compensation they deserve. In fact, we have won more than 99% of our cases and recovered more than $85,000,000.00 for our clients.
Georgelis, Larsen & Sabatino Injury Law Firm, P.C. has been voted Lancaster’s #1 law firm, by Lancaster County Magazine’s “Best Of” survey, 7 years running. Attorneys Tony Georgelis, TJ Sabatino and Chris Larsen have a wealth of trial and courtroom hearing experience and a long and successful history of protecting their clients, making insurance companies accountable to victims of accidents and injuries and recovering every penny their clients’ claims are worth.
If you want the maximum compensation for your dog bite injuries, we can help build your claim the way it should be. Our top, seasoned trial lawyers will aggressively fight to defend your rights! If you’re hurt, call 1-800-HURT-NOW. And remember, we never charge a fee unless and until we get compensation for you!