In Pennsylvania, you have a two year limitation for filing a dog bite claim against a negligent owner. For minors, they have until their 20th birthday to file suit. However, it is vital that you understand exactly how the statute of limitations applies and how it can affect the outcome of your case.
The Basics: Understanding the Statute of Limitations for Pennsylvania Dog Bite and Attack Claims
If you or a loved one was viciously attacked by a dog, you might not think of filing a lawsuit right away. After all, the insurance company might offer a settlement, or you may think that the damages are not that severe. After a few weeks (maybe even months) of treatment, you finally realize how serious your injuries are – and now you wonder if it is too late to file a lawsuit.
For those over the age of 18 who were attacked or bitten by a dog, you have two years to file your injury case against the dog’s owner. If you wait past this two year statute of limitation, the court will dismiss your case and you will be unable to collect compensation – even if you have strong evidence showing that the owner was negligent.
Special Deadlines for Minors
When the victim is a minor (under the age of 18), the claim must be filed within two years of their 18th birthday. Often, parents can file a lawsuit on behalf of their child for losses they have suffered, including medical costs, lost wages, and the trauma their child endured. However, if parents want to wait, then their child must file within the two year mark after their 18th birthday, or they will be barred from receiving compensation, too.
You Have Two Years, but You Should File Sooner Than That
While you can wait up to two years to file your claim, doing so might mean less compensation than you deserve.
It is hard for witnesses to recall details from a few weeks ago much less two years ago. Therefore, the longer you wait, the less compelling the testimony will be of any eyewitnesses to the attack. Likewise, it might be hard to gather evidence about the dog’s past behavior or evidence that would suggest the dog’s owner knew their pet was a liability. The dog might have been put down, veterinarian records lost, local complaints archived, and photographs of the incident gone.
The Burden of Proof Is on the Victim – Not the Defendant
In injury cases, everything is opposite. Instead of proving beyond a reasonable doubt, you must use the preponderance of the evidence to show that the other party was the cause of your injuries. The defendant does not have to prove that your case is weak, but they will try to have as much of your case’s evidence discredited or excluded.
If you cannot prove that the defendant was negligent by using the power of your evidence, you might lose your case. Sometimes, you can still win as long as your evidence tips the scales more in your favor than the defendant’s. But when the evidence is too weak, you may not receive the compensation you deserve.
Due to the power evidence holds over your case’s outcome and amount of money you receive, it is imperative for you to file early. That way, you and your attorney have access to the most compelling evidence and you have stronger proof to validate your compensation requests.
Insurance Companies Might Try to Drag Out the Timeline
Insurance companies know that there is a two year statute of limitations. This means you must file your case with the court – not file a claim with the dog owner’s homeowners insurance. Therefore, when you file a claim with the dog owner’s insurance, they might try to delay it. They may say they are investigating, require more forms, say you are missing forms, and place your claim on hold. They will do whatever it takes to delay the case so that you run low on time.
The insurance company will not let you know about your right to file a lawsuit. They know that, if you file one, you might receive more compensation than they want to pay. They will also tell you that they are working with you, and that they are on your side. They will make you think that these delays are just part of the claims process.
The best thing you can do to protect yourself in cases like these is to have an attorney by your side. An attorney is your advocate, and they know the usual stall tactics insurance companies use to pay out as little as possible. They also know the deadlines, and they can push the insurance company to settle or threaten them with a lawsuit. Your attorney will know when it is the right time to file your suit, especially if the insurer refuses to settle for a fair value.
Most importantly, when you get an attorney involved, insurers are more likely to speed up the process rather than to wait around. Likewise, your attorney will start gathering evidence, right away, so that nothing is lost if you do file a settlement later.
Then, your attorney will calculate out how much you deserve for your injuries, and they will make sure that the insurance company pays what you deserve.
Schedule a Free, No-Obligation Consultation with a Dog Attack Attorney, Now
If you or a loved one has been injured in a dog bite or vicious attack, you have rights. You should immediately seek medical treatment, file a claim with the other party’s insurance, and then meet with an attorney.
There is no obligation to hire an injury attorney. In fact, you do not pay attorney Jeffrey H. Penneys, Esq., unless he wins your case.
To get started, book a free case evaluation by calling him directly on his cell at 215-771-0430, the office toll-free at 800-465-8795, or by filling out an online contact form.