Are You Liable For a Dog Bite Incident On Your Property?

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
July 3, 2024
Angry dog aggressively barking and defending his territory

When someone is bitten by a dog on your property, the situation can be distressing for everyone involved. The primary question that arises is whether you, as the property owner, are liable for the incident. In Pennsylvania, liability for dog bites can be complex and depends on various factors, including the dog’s history and the circumstances of the bite. Understanding your responsibilities and the potential legal consequences is crucial to navigating such situations effectively.

At Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C., we understand the anxiety and confusion that can follow a dog bite incident. Our experienced team is here to help you understand your rights and responsibilities under Pennsylvania law. We can guide you through the legal process, ensuring you are well informed and prepared to handle any claims that may arise from a dog bite on your property.

Understanding Strict Liability and Negligence

In Pennsylvania, dog owners can be held liable under two main legal theories: strict liability and negligence. Strict liability applies when a dog has previously bitten or attacked someone, indicating the owner should have known the dog had dangerous propensities. If a dog bites someone for the first time, the owner may still be liable if it can be proven they were negligent in handling or controlling the dog.

Negligence occurs when the dog owner fails to exercise reasonable care to prevent the dog from causing harm. For instance, if a dog is known to be aggressive and the owner allows it to roam freely without proper restraints, this could be considered negligence. Liability in such cases hinges on whether the owner took adequate steps to prevent the incident, such as securing the dog or providing warnings to visitors.

Another important aspect is the concept of harboring or keeping a dangerous dog. Pennsylvania law requires owners to take specific precautions if their dog has a history of dangerous behavior. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in the owner being held liable for any injuries caused by the dog, regardless of where the incident occurs.

The Role of Trespassing and Provocation

Whether or not the victim was trespassing or provoking the dog can significantly impact liability. In general, property owners are less likely to be held liable if the person bitten was unlawfully on the property or was provoking the dog at the time of the incident. Trespassing occurs when someone enters your property without permission. If a trespasser is bitten by your dog, liability is less straightforward and may depend on whether you took reasonable measures to secure your property and warn potential intruders about the dog.

Provocation, on the other hand, refers to actions that might incite a dog to bite, such as teasing or threatening behavior. If a victim is found to have provoked the dog, this can limit or eliminate the property owner’s liability. However, it can be challenging to prove provocation, and the specific circumstances of each case will play a crucial role in determining the outcome.

Pennsylvania courts will examine the facts of each case to determine whether the dog owner acted reasonably under the circumstances. Even in cases involving trespassing or provocation, there may still be a degree of liability if the owner failed to take appropriate precautions or if the dog was known to be exceptionally dangerous.

Insurance Coverage and Legal Consequences

Homeowner’s insurance policies often cover dog bite incidents, but coverage can vary widely. It is essential to review your policy to understand the extent of your coverage and any exclusions that might apply. Some policies may have breed-specific exclusions, meaning certain dog breeds are not covered. In such cases, owners may need to purchase additional coverage or take extra precautions to mitigate potential risks.

If a dog bite claim is filed against you, your insurance company will typically handle the investigation and settlement process. However, serious cases involving significant injuries or multiple incidents may lead to lawsuits requiring legal representation. Understanding the insurance aspects and having a proactive plan can help manage the financial and legal repercussions of a dog bite incident.

In addition to financial liability, there can be legal consequences such as fines or court orders to remove the dog from your property. Repeated incidents or severe cases may lead to criminal charges, emphasizing the importance of taking dog bite prevention seriously. Being informed about your legal obligations and taking necessary precautions can significantly reduce the likelihood of facing such severe consequences.

Why Choose Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C. for Your Case?

At Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C., we have a deep understanding of Pennsylvania’s dog bite laws and can provide the guidance you need to navigate these complex situations. Our talented attorneys have extensive experience handling personal injury and liability cases, ensuring you receive knowledgeable and compassionate representation. We are committed to protecting your rights and helping you achieve the best possible outcome.

Our firm has been serving the Southeastern Pennsylvania community for over 65 years, offering a unique combination of big firm resources and small firm personal attention. We work closely with our clients to develop tailored legal strategies that address their specific needs. If you are facing a dog bite liability issue, contact us at (215) 822-7575 or visit our contact form to schedule a consultation.

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
Pennsylvania Attorney's
July 3, 2024
Established in 1952 by Irwin S. Rubin, Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C. boasts over 65 years of experience serving clients throughout Pennsylvania. Renowned for its commitment to ethical representation, the firm has garnered prestigious accolades, including being named the "Best Law Firm" for its outstanding legal defense work by U.S. News & World Report. Their team of seasoned attorneys, recognized as Pennsylvania Super Lawyers and Rising Stars, brings unparalleled expertise to a wide range of legal matters, ensuring exceptional representation for individuals, families, businesses, and organizations.