How Much Do Dog Bite Lawyers Charge in Pennsylvania?

  • November 01, 2022
  • Blog

Dog bite injuries often result in substantial damages for which the owner is liable. Severe lacerations, infections, and organ damage are common. According to Dog Bite Lawyers, In extreme cases, victims can lose an eye or ear. Scars often last a lifetime, and facial disfigurement may require surgery to restore normal breathing and appearance, sometimes with only partial success. 

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Some tragic cases end in a wrongful death lawsuit. Older people and children are especially vulnerable, but many breeds can kill a healthy, strong adult. 

In many cases, dogs attack for unknown reasons. For example, a tragic case recently occurred in Tennessee where the family dogs attacked and killed young children. Their mother fought to stop the attack for over ten minutes but could not fend off the pack. She suffered life-threatening injuries.

This case shows that even trusted pets can become violent. Because any dog or breed has the potential to bite, owners must take care to ensure they properly supervise, restrain, and train their animals. Pennsylvania law holds them responsible for a bite in all cases except extreme provocation, such as striking a dog or breaking into the owner’s home.

Dog bite cases settle for large amounts. Plaintiffs have entitlement to compensation for medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and, in egregious cases, punitive damages. Dog bite claims can range from several thousand dollars for a minor injury to millions for wrongful death. 

Most personal injury lawyers take dog bite cases on contingency. This allows plaintiffs to proceed with litigation even if they can ill-afford hourly legal fees. 

How Contingency Fees Work In a Dog Bite Case

When you visit Dog Bite Lawyers about your dog bite injury, he or she explains the fee structure. Because contingency lawyers earn payment only if they win a settlement or award, they carefully analyze your case to ensure it is strong enough for you to prevail. 

This adds an additional layer of security for the plaintiffs. They know they are spending time and effort on a worthwhile cause because a contingency lawyer takes the case only if he expects to win.

You are likely to find an attorney to take your dog bite case on contingency, provided you can establish liability and have compensable damages. You pay nothing when you sign the agreement, and most personal injury fee structures require you to pay no upfront fees for court costs, expert witnesses, and other expenses beyond attorney’s fees.

When the case settles, or you prevail in court, the law firm receives a check from the defendant. Your attorney then deducts his fees and any expenses covered by the agreement. You receive the difference from the law firm.

For instance, imagine you settled a dog bite case for $60,000, and your attorney charged one-third for legal fees and taxes reimbursement for other expenses from the lawsuit proceeds. In that case, your final statement may reflect the following:

Settlement Proceeds: $60,000

Attorney’s Fees: $20,000

Court Filing Fee: $300

Net to Plaintiff: $39,700

During negotiations, your Dog Bite Lawyers factor in the legal fees to ensure that the client’s portion is commensurate with the damages.

Dog Bite Lawyers Explain The Damages You Can Win In a Dog Bite Case?

Pennsylvania personal injury law entitles plaintiffs to economic and non-economic damages. In some cases, courts award punitive damages. Typical damages include the following:

Economic Damages:

  • Medical bills
  • Hospital bills
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Plastic surgery
  • Lost income
  • Lost fringe benefits
  • Home healthcare
  • Home assistance

Non-Economic Damages:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium

Punitive Damages

  • Available only if the defendant acted in an extraordinarily reckless, negligent, or intentional manner that caused the dog bite

A Settlement and Contingency Fee Example

In the case of a dog bite, the plaintiff may require an ambulance, emergency room, intensive care, and other hospital treatments resulting in a bill for $25,000. In addition, he or she may need outpatient therapy totaling another $10,000 and plastic surgery costing $20,000, for a total medical cost of $55,000.

Additionally, the plaintiff may have been unable to work for several months due to injuries, resulting in an income loss of $25,000. In this case, the plaintiff has economic damages of $80,000.

In a dog bite case, the plaintiff may have sustained painful injuries requiring weeks of healing and a facial disfigurement causing emotional distress. In addition, the plaintiff may have PTSD from the vicious attack, leading to intense anxiety, poor sleep, and terrifying nightmares.

As the impact on the plaintiff was severe, a jury might award four times the economic damages, bringing the award to $280,000.

In most cases, this represents the best outcome for the plaintiff. However, punitive damages can vastly increase the amount. 

For instance, imagine if an unleashed fighting dog attacked the plaintiff. The owner used brutal techniques to turn the dog mean, giving it the propensity to bite. In addition, the defendant left this dangerous dog off-leash, and it escaped from his yard and began trolling the neighborhood. It happened upon a pedestrian who tried to walk past the animal. The dog interpreted the walker as a threat and unleashed a vicious assault.

In this case, the defendant acted egregiously. Firstly, he engaged the animal in illegal dog fighting, causing it to feel that humans condoned violence. Secondly, the owner abused the animal, intending to turn it mean, so it would fight hard and bite.

Next, even though the owner trained the dog to bite, he took insufficient measures to keep this known hazard away from the public. It was left to wander on a property from which it could escape. It did, resulting in severe injury to an innocent person.

A case like this is unusual. Most dog bite cases result from either an honest mistake or the dog turning aggressive for unknown reasons. In those situations, the owner bears responsibility, but a court is unlikely to award punitive damages. However, punitive damages are justified when the owner is a bad actor who places people in danger.

No “One Bite” Defenses Allowed in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania disallows one-bite defenses. In “one bite” states, an owner is responsible only if the dog has a history of biting. If the dog bites only once, the owner is theoretically immune from liability. However, the law in these states requires owners to protect the public from a dog with a history of biting, and if the animal hurts someone again, the injured party can bring a personal injury lawsuit.

Pennsylvania holds the owner liable regardless of the dog’s history. In addition, the plaintiff needs not prove that the owner acted negligently, such as by allowing the dog to escape from a home or wander off-leash. The fact that the dog bit is enough to establish a case. A few affirmative defenses are available in Pennsylvania but apply to only a tiny fraction of incidents.

Affirmative Defenses In Pennsylvania Dog Bite Cases

An affirmative defense in a personal injury lawsuit combats the claim when the plaintiff has proven that the incident and injury occurred. The defendant argues that even though his dog bit someone, no liability exists because of an exceptional circumstance.

Provocation is an affirmative defense in a dog bite case. To establish this defense, the owner must show that the plaintiff did something of his own accord that a reasonable person would conclude is an aggressive action that forces a dog to bite.

For instance, physically abusing an animal can cause it to bite in self-defense. Alternatively, striking or otherwise attacking the dog’s owner would provoke a dog to bite in defense of its master. Also, taking a dog’s food or toys without a legitimate reason is a provocation.

Also, exceptions apply when the dog bites someone engaged in illegal activity. Police dogs are trained to chase and stop fleeing suspects. If a suspect runs from the cops and is bitten by a pursuing police dog, the department is not liable for his injuries. 

However, if a suspect is cooperative and a police dog bites him, the handler and department may be liable.

The same reasoning applies to other dogs when confronted by criminal activity. For instance, a burglar bitten in the hand by a guard dog while fleeing with jewelry likely has no personal injury case. However, if an owner trained a dog to bite and it attacked a kid crossing through the owner’s yard, the owner may be liable.

Pennsylvania law holds dog owners strictly liable for bites. No “one bite” law applies, so owners with typically tame animals face automatic liability. The plaintiff needs not to prove some type of negligence, such as disregarding a leash law. The fact that the bit happened is enough.

However, the owner may be exempt from liability if the dog acts in self-defense, in defense of another person, or against someone engaged in a crime.

Contingency fees make it possible for dog bite victims to pursue compensation without spending thousands of dollars on Dog Bite Lawyers' fee upfront and risking losing that money if the case fails. The attorney assumes that risk, allowing clients to avoid the financial stress of funding astronomical litigation costs. Instead, they can focus on healing their injuries and returning to everyday life.

Consult With a Pennsylvania Dog Bite Lawyers

Mattiacci Law pursues negligent dog owners whose animals bite. Dog bite cases can result in enormous damages, and Mattiacci Law is committed to helping clients obtain every dollar they deserve.

Related Content: What Evidence Do I Need to Win a Dog Bite Settlement

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