Can You Sue a Dog’s Owner for Gross Negligence?

Categories: Dog Attacks

dog attack sign

Pennsylvania’s Knowledgeable Dog Attack Attorney

A dog attack can be traumatic, even for an adult. Not only can it leave you with permanent scars or disfigurement, but the emotional trauma could make it so that you fear all animals or cannot even leave your house.

When a dog’s owner is negligent, you may wonder if you can seek punitive damages due to the dog owner’s  gross negligence. Punitive damages are a particular type of damage assigned in addition to compensatory damages. While some dog attack cases do receive punitive damages, most cases will not.

It is best to speak with an attorney about your potential damages in a dog attack case. An attorney can evaluate the circumstances of the attack and help determine if the owner was grossly negligent and what that means for your case.

Compensation for Philadelphia Dog Attack Cases

To determine if you might be eligible for punitive damages in addition to your compensatory damages, you need to know how compensation works in a dog attack case.

Dog Attack Lawsuits Are Won by Proving  Negligence

When you file a lawsuit for a dog attack, you are doing so based on the legal theory of negligence. That means the dog’s owner was negligent and their action/inaction or recklessness led to the dog attack and your injuries.

For example, an owner might be negligent if they take their dog for a walk without a leash. If that dog were to attack someone on the street during the walk, the owner could be sued in court for the injuries.

A dog’s owner is equally liable when their dog escapes from the yard and is therefore roaming the neighborhood without a leash.  

Any time an owner is negligent, and there is enough evidence to prove it, a victim can sue the dog’s owner in court for their injuries and receive compensation (damages).

In a lawsuit that is based on negligence, a victim can recover the following damages:

  • Medical Expenses – All past and present medical expenses associated with the injury can be compensated in a lawsuit. This includes your hospitalizations, emergency room visits, prescription and over-the-counter medications, medical equipment, doctor’s appointments, follow-up visits, and even therapy.
  • Future Medical Expenses-such as plastic surgery/scar revision treatments.
  • Wages – Wages lost to recover from your injuries or to take care of a child who is recovering from a dog attack can be compensated. If you are unable to work because of the attack, you can also seek compensation for the loss of earning capacity.
  • Pain and Suffering – The physical pain and the emotional anguish associated with a dog attack is compensable under the law.

When Do Punitive Damages Apply?

Punitive damages are not medical expenses and lost wages. Instead, it is an additional type of compensation awarded in rare instances. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant, and the amount of money assigned is there to serve as a reminder to the public that they will face similar consequences if they too act negligently like the defendant.

Sometimes punitive damages are called “exemplary damages” because they are used to make an example out of the defendant.

These damages are quite rare, because the amount of money assigned is not to compensate the victim, and only under specific circumstances will the court allow for a defendant to pay punitive damages – especially in a dog attack case.

When Punitive Damages Might Apply to a Dog Attack Case

Special grounds must be present to request punitive damages in a dog attack case.

Some of these include:

  • The Attack Was Intentional – Malicious acts, such as having a dog intentionally attack another person, could qualify for punitive damages. If you can prove through clear and convincing evidence that the defendant purposely caused the attack or used the attack intentionally, then the court may assign punitive damages.
  • Previous Attacks – If the dog has had previous attacks, and the owner has failed to restrain the animals or prevent them from harming someone else, then the courts will consider them to be grossly negligent, and you may win punitive damages. For example, the dog attacks a mail carrier in the past. However, the owner does not restrain the dog when he or she is away. A few weeks later, another mail carrier is attacked by the same dog. Because of the animal’s propensities for violence, and the owner’s failure to protect the public, the courts might consider that owner grossly negligent and due to pay punitive damages.
  • Dog’s Training – If the owner purposely trains their dog to be vicious, such as training fighting dogs, then they may pay punitive damages. In these cases, the owner might also face criminal penalties.

Speak with a Dog Attack Attorney Regarding Your Injury Compensation

Determining which cases qualify for punitive damages is complicated, and it requires an attorney with experience handling dog attack claims. If you or a loved one was injured in a vicious dog attack, and you feel that the owner was grossly negligent, you may be entitled to compensation (including punitive damages).

To explore those options, make an appointment for your free consultation with Jeffrey H. Penneys, Esq. Contact Jeffrey today at 215-771-0430 on his cell, toll-free at the office at 800-465-8795, or the office directly at 215-987-3550. You can also request more information by completing the online contact form.