People love their pets. In fact, according to recent studies, 90 percent of Americans consider their dogs part of the family and take them to the veterinarian almost as much as they take themselves to the doctor.
For a dog owner, it is a horrible thing to witness your dog being injured, or worse. If it happens as a result of someone else’s negligence, why wouldn’t that owner be entitled to sue? Why should they have to suffer all of the grief and pay all of the costs? It would simply not be fair.
The law says that if someone injures you through negligence, even if he or she only injures your property, you are entitled to recover damages. If your dog (your property) suffers an injury as a result of being attacked by someone else’s dog, you may be entitled to compensatory damages.
Read further to learn what you should do if someone else’s dog attacks yours. Find out what compensation you can pursue and from whom. Also, learn what might limit your ability to recover damages.
Under What Circumstances Should I Pursue Compensation?
If someone else’s dog attacks yours, you can, and should pursue compensation under the following circumstances:
- The attack was the result of another’s negligence
- The attacking dog is already listed as a “dangerous dog” as defined by Pennsylvania Dog Law statutes (P. S. § 459-502-A)
- The incident occurred in a city with a leash law and the attacking dog was not on a leash
- The attack was instigated intentionally
- The attack occurred at a pet-sitting establishment or a facility where dogs are housed temporarily for veterinary care, training, or shelter where they have a responsibility to keep your dog safe from harm
Who Can I Hold Responsible?
You may hold anyone responsible who contributed to the circumstance that led to the attack, including:
- The owner
- The keeper – that is, whoever was responsible for the dog at the time of the incident took place
- The owner of the property on which the incident took place, if he or she were aware of harboring a dangerous dog and did not act reasonably to ensure the safety of others
- In certain circumstances, a landlord that rents to a tenant whose dog causes harm
What Damages Can I Recover?
If your dog survives the attack, this would mean that you are entitled to recover the cost of veterinary treatment (past and ongoing) and perhaps additional compensation for your emotional stress.
If your dog does not survive the attack, you should be able to recover any veterinary bills, the cost of cremation, fair market value for your dog and perhaps additional compensation for your emotional stress.
What Can Limit My Ability to be Compensated?
Provocation and Trespassing
Dog owners have a responsibility to keep their dogs under reasonable control or confined within the owner’s property, and secured by a collar and chain or other device so that it cannot stray beyond the premises. If they fail to do so, they may be held liable if their dog attacks yours.
However, if you provoke the animal while it is under someone’s reasonable control – or trespass on the property owned or rented by the owner where the dog is confined or restrained – the dog owner might not be held responsible for any injury his dog causes to yours.
The amount of damages that you receive will be limited by your own percentage of fault. Pennsylvania follows a 51 percent comparative negligence rule, meaning that you can recover damages as long as you are less than 51 percent at-fault for the incident. Furthermore, the amount of damages you are due will be reduced by your own percentage of fault. So, if you are 40 percent at-fault, you can only recover 60 percent of your damages. If you 51 percent at-fault, you will not have a case to recover damages at all.
The Statute of Limitations
In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for bringing a case against those responsible for your dog being attacked is only two years from the date the attack took place. Wait too long and you will be barred from pursuing damages forever. So, you should start collecting the evidence you need to pursue a claim immediately following the accident, while the facts are fresh and witnesses can clearly remember the incident. This 2 year limitations period is extended for minors, who have until their 20th birthday.
If you and/or your pet has been injured by a dog attack, you have the right to seek compensation for your injuries. Philadelphia dog attack attorney Jeffrey Harlan Penneys is available to help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 1-800-465-8795 or 215-771-0430 (cell) to schedule a free consultation with an experienced attorney.