Dog Bites: One Bite Rule vs. Strict Liability

Categories: Dog Bites

Vicious Dog on a ChainThe Pennsylvania dog bite laws were created to protect victims of dog bites and vicious attacks. These laws determine the owner’s liability for the dog’s bite. The legal consequences of a bite – not to mention the medical costs and emotional trauma for the victim – are confusing in the state for both owners and victims alike. If you are the victim of a dog bite, it is imperative you seek medical treatment right away. Even minor bites have a high risk for infection and a physician must also assess your risk of contracting rabies.

The One Bite Rule

Previously, an owner could not be held liable for their dog’s attack if the attack was the very first time the dog had shown vicious tendencies or aggression. This was referred to as the “one bite rule,” which meant that if this was the first time, the owner would get a pass. This rule is no longer used in Pennsylvania.

Knew or Should Have Known

Now, a dog owner can be held responsible even if this attack was the very first. It is much easier to prove that the dog owner knew or should have known that the dog possessed vicious propensities or was dangerous. The injured dog bite victim must prove that it is more likely than not that the owner knew their dog was likely to bite someone, and they took no steps to prevent it. Some evidence that may be supplied to prove this include:

  • The dog’s breed – showing studies that prove the breed is more likely to attack
  • The owner’s protection to the public – such as fencing their backyard and chaining up the dog
  • How the owner trained and treated their dog
  • The neighbors’ testimony regarding the animal
  • How the owner restrained the dog or how extensively they tried to restrain the dog near others
  • If the dog barked and growled a lot
  • If there are “Beware of Dog” signs on the dog owner’s property
  • If the dog bit, nipped or scratched anyone else, ever before

Strict Liability

Strict liability means that regardless of the dog’s history or the dog owner’s knowledge, if the dog bites anyone for any reason, the dog owner is automatically responsible. All that needs to be proved is that the dog bit the injured party. Pennsylvania is not a strict liability state.

Negligence Per Se

If the violation of a Pennsylvania Dog Law (statute), resulted in a dog attack, the dog owner can be held liable based on that violation, even if the dog had never displayed vicious tendencies before. Some examples of this are:

  • If the dog was outside of it’s property with no leash
  • If the dog was on a restraint, but the restraint was long enough to allow the dog to stray off of it’s property
  • The dog was being used in the commission of a crime

Speak with a Dog Bite Attorney in Pennsylvania

Understanding the laws and bite rules is complicated. If you or a loved one has been attacked by a dog, contact Pennsylvania’s Premier Dog Bite Lawyer, Jeffrey H. Penneys, Esq. for a free case evaluation. We can discuss your rights to compensation and will aggressively represent your right to hold dog owners accountable for their pet’s actions. Contact us online or call 215-771-0430 (cell) or 215-987-3550 (office).