After a dog attack, a victim may wonder what options are available to recover medical expenses and other damages. In most cases, a dog attack victim can sue the dog’s owner for their losses. But, what if the owner had clearly placed “Beware of Dog” signs around their property and the victim entered that property only to be attacked?
Signage does not automatically give owners a free pass to keep their vicious animals; however, victims of a dog attack must understand liability laws regarding dog bites to determine if they have a valid claim. It is best if a victim seeks counsel from a dog bite attorney to have their case assessed properly.
Pennsylvania’s Dog Bite Law
All dog bite cases are governed by state statutes. Under Pennsylvania’s Dangerous Dog Laws (3 P.S. 459) a dog can be considered dangerous if:
- The dog has injured a person
- The dog has killed a person
- The dog has attacked without provocation
- The dog was used to commit a crime
In Pennsylvania, if the dog or it’s owner is in violation of a dog bite statute, getting compensation from the homeowner’s insurance company is much easier. This is especially so if the dog owner is charged by the local Animal Control or Dog Warden for violating the Dog Bite Laws. Even if the dog has never been aggressive, or the owner had no idea that the dog was aggressive, they are still liable for the actions of their dog if they are in violation of the law.
Placement of a “Beware of Dog” Sign
Some owners place “Beware of Dog” signs on their property in hopes it will thwart future lawsuit attempts. However, a sign does not protect a dog owner from liability. A plaintiff’s attorney can make the case that placement of that sign meant that the owner knew their dog was likely to attack. The signage was simply a warning to the public – not a safeguard from responsibility.
What About an Assumption of Risk?
Assumption of risk means that a victim knew there was a potential risk by entering the property with a “Beware of Dog” sign, but voluntarily entered the property anyway. The assumption of risk may be used as a defense by the defendant, but it is usually a weak argument that is easily defeated with other evidence. That said, the court will take into account the actions of the plaintiff. If the plaintiff entered the property without invite/permission (trespassing) and there was a “Beware of Dog” sign, the assumption of risk defense could work in favor of the defendant dog owner..
Consult an Attorney to Determine Dog Bite Liability
The placement of a “Beware of Dog” sign can complicate a dog bite lawsuit. Therefore, victims should consult with an experienced dog bite attorney to collect evidence and build their case. While the dog bite law can protect dog attack victims, the assumption of risk defense can limit how much a victim may collect or quash their lawsuit altogether.
If you have been injured in a dog attack and a “Beware of Dog” sign was posted, contact Jeffrey Harlan Penneys, Esquire today. We can discuss your dog bite claim over a no obligation consultation. Call 215-987-3550 (office) or 215-771-0430 (cell) or fill out an online contact form to schedule your free case evaluation.