Any type of animal attack can be catastrophic and result in physical and emotional trauma. The aftermath of a dog bite may be painful, require extensive medical treatment, and leave behind significant scarring and disfigurement. If you or a loved one has suffered a dog attack, you may wish to consult an Altoona dog bite lawyer about your various legal options.
In many cases, insurance policies for homeowners and renters who own the dog that bit you can provide coverage for your injuries. As a result, you may have significant recourse in seeking compensation for your losses. An experienced Altoona personal injury attorney could assess your situation and determine the most effective course of action in your case.
Common Injuries from Canine Attacks
Many dog bites are severe enough that they require medical treatment, and some are so significant that they require reconstructive surgery. Due to the nature of reconstruction following a dog bite, individuals may need multiple surgeries over a lengthy period of time. These surgeries and treatment tend to be invasive, and the recovery is often painful.
Also, dog bites can result in deep wounds, which can result in scarring and disfigurement. Deep bites may also cause nerve damage, which may be permanent and may drastically impair the movement and function of some parts of the body. Dog bites are also particularly prone to infection, which can cause further complications.
Dog Bite Claims in Altoona
Pennsylvania law allows a personal injury plaintiff to make a recovery if it is shown that the dog owner was negligent. For example, if dog owners failed to follow animal control laws, they could be liable, such as if they:
- Failed to keep the dog on a leash
- Knew that the dog was dangerous, but failed to warn others
- Recognized that the dog might bite without provocation, but did not restrain or keep the dog away from others
As part of proving negligence, plaintiffs must show that the dog owners knew or should have known that the dog may cause injury based on its past aggressive behavior. The injured persons need not prove that the dog bit someone in the past, but any evidence of prior unprovoked aggression by the dog could support a claim for damages. In this situation, a dog bite lawyer in Altoona may be able to help.
Damages in Dog Bite Cases
If, a plaintiff can prove that a defendant was negligent with regard to the handling of the dog, the plaintiff can recover monetary damages, which may include not only medical expenses and lost wages, but also compensation for emotional trauma and pain and suffering.
Legal Obligations of Owners of Dangerous Dogs
In some cases, dogs are designated as “dangerous dogs” under state law. Pursuant to 3 P.S. §459-502-A, this designation applies if the following elements are proven:
- The dog has done any of the following: inflicted severe injury without provocation on public or private property, killed or seriously injured another domestic animal without provocation while off the owner’s property, attacked a human without provocation, or been used in the commission of a crime.
- The dog has either or both of the following: a history of attacking humans and/or domestic animals without provocation, or a propensity to attach humans or animals without provocation – which propensity may be proven by a single incident.
- The defendant is the owner or keeper of the dog.
When a dog qualifies as dangerous, the owner must meet certain statutory requirements, pursuant to 3 P.S. §459-603-A, including:
- Present sufficient evidence of an enclosure to confine the dangerous dog, and the posting of a clearly visible warning sign that there is a dangerous dog on the property;
- Pay court-ordered restitution to victims of attacks;
- Permanently identify the dog by having a microchip implanted;
- Have the dangerous dog spayed or neutered;
- Obtain a surety bond or insurance policy with liability limits of at least $50,000.
If a dangerous dog is ever outside of its enclosure, the owner must have it leashed, muzzled, and under their direct physical control at all times. Finally, if a dangerous dog gets loose, attacks someone, or dies, their owner must inform local law enforcement as well as the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement and the State Dog Warden immediately. These reporting requirements also apply if the owner of a dangerous dog sells the animal to someone else.
Does Comparative Negligence Play a Role in Dog Bite Cases?
While dog owners in Altoona may be liable to pay for the medical expenses of anyone their pet attacks, they may be able to avoid liability for additional damages through comparative fault. If a defendant can convince a court that the plaintiff filing suit against them was partially to blame for the attack he or she suffered, the court may reduce the plaintiff’s recoverable compensation or prevent him or her from recovering anything at all, if the plaintiff is found to be more than 50 percent at fault. Generally, though, a plaintiff would have to have actively provoked a dog into attacking them or have been trespassing on the owner’s property to be considered partially responsible for an attack.
What Is the Filing Deadline for an Animal Bite Claim?
Since a dog bite claim is a form of personal injury lawsuit, the same filing deadline applies to this type of case as it would to any other civil case. According to 42 P.S. §5524, anyone seeking civil damages for a dog bite based on an owner’s negligence must start their case within two years of the date the attack in question occurred. Failing to do so will almost certainly result in a case being dismissed, regardless of its merits.
Call an Altoona Dog Bite Attorney for Representation
Unfortunately, dogs are sometimes poorly trained, raised to be overly aggressive, or have violent tendencies. All too often, these dogs can cause catastrophic injuries, which may necessitate personal injury claims. If the negligence of a dog’s owners led to the dog bite that caused you injuries, contact us to discuss your case with an Altoona dog bite lawyer for counsel and guidance.