Knowledgeable Dog Bite Injury Lawyer Representing Victims Across NJ and PA
Unlike other practice areas, under Pennsylvania law, the owner of a dog that attacks a person may be held responsible. However, it must still be shown that the owner of knew his or her dog had a “vicious propensity.” In other words, it must be shown that the owner knew or should have known that the dog was vicious or dangerous.
The “One Free Bite” Rule Is Not True
Defendants often attempt to argue they are not responsible for a dog attack if it never bit anyone in the past. This is due to the mistaken belief that a dog is entitled to “one free bite” before an owner knows the dog is potentially vicious. However, this is simply not true.
There is no such thing as “one free bite” under Pennsylvania law. (Deardorff v. Berger, 606 A. 2d 489). A dog can be shown to have vicious propensities without biting anyone. According to John Mattiacci, an experienced dog bite attorney, if an owner knows his or her dog lunges at people, snaps at people, barks loudly, or is difficult to control, such facts may be enough to show that the dog was potentially dangerous. Very often an investigation is needed into the history of the dog and the owner’s actions in training, socializing, handling and exercising the dog in order to help show its likelihood of biting someone.
Finding All Potential Parties
Philadelphia’s dog bite lawyer John Mattiacci and the firm make every effort to identify everyone who may be responsible for a dog bite. This includes not only the owner of the dog but also dog walkers, the landlord of the property where the dog is kept or was located, the breeder or seller of the dog, and any person that trained it.
I highly recommend John Mattiacci as an attorney. He has gone above and beyond what was required of him in my case. I could not have asked for a better attorney to help me through the trial process.Jill S.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What kinds of damages might I be entitled to?
Three types of damages are available in Pennsylvania, depending on the circumstances.
- Economic damages are easily countable losses such as medical bills, lost wages, future lost earning capacity, and related expenses.
Non-economic damages are compensation for physical and psychological harm, including physical pain and suffering, loss of life’s pleasures, embarrassment and humiliation, and mental harm and anxiety.
- Punitive damages may awarded in certain cases where the defendant’s conduct was more than just negligence, but was willful, wanton, or showed reckless indifference to the rights of another (e.g., taking no actions to restrain or leash a dog that has bitten someone in the past and knowingly allowing the dog to roam free around other people).
The dog owner is my next door neighbor. Will pressing a claim against him drive him into bankruptcy?
Probably not, as long as he maintains homeowners or renters insurance. These types of policies commonly pay out on dog bite claims, although the policy might contain certain loopholes (a coverage exclusion for pit bull attacks, for example). Generally, it is uncommon for a defendant to be driven into bankruptcy in all but the most significant cases. Most times, claims and lawsuits are resolved for the available insurance coverage.
How much do homeowners insurance policies pay out in claims for dog bite injuries every year?
Homeowners insurance policies pay out about $600 million per year to dog bite victims, representing about a third of all homeowners insurance claims. Renters insurance policies pay out still more. The value of each claim is dependent on the facts of that specific case.
How much is the average insurance payout for a dog bite claim?
The Insurance Information Institute estimates the average payout at $33,230 for 2016. Remember that this is only an average – the amount awarded depends largely on the severity of your injuries. This figure often includes more than just medical expenses. The value of each case must be determined based on facts of each specific incident and the extent of the injuries.
What are the main defenses against dog bite claims?
The two most common defenses are:
- Trespassing: Although trespassers generally cannot recover for dog bites, remember that you are not a trespasser as long as you had a legal right to be where you were at the time of the attack.
- Provocation: Your claim might be defeated if you provoked the dog. However, the question of whether the provocation was “sufficient” is where opposing parties sometimes fight it out in court, or at the settlement table.
Can a tenant dog owner’s landlord be held liable?
Yes, under certain circumstances. It may be easier to win a claim against an “in possession landlord” (who lives or works on the premises) than to win a claim against an “out of possession” (absentee) landlord. Either way, however, you will have to show notice and negligence on the part of the landlord. This is something that depends on the facts of each specific case.
How does the statute of limitations work for a dog bite claim?
In Pennsylvania, you generally have two years from the date of the attack to file a lawsuit. If you fail to file a lawsuit in this time, your claim will almost certainly be forever barred. Settlement negotiations will also be impossible, since the defendant will have no motivation to negotiate with you if he or she knows you can’t take your case to court. This is why it is important to contact an experienced dog bite lawyer immediately after an attack.
Does it make any difference if I was hurt while separating two fighting dogs?
Technically it makes no difference, unless one of the fighting dogs was your own and it was your own dog that bit you. Some defendants may try to make a assertion of mistaken identity in order to escape liability, however.
How can I afford to hire a lawyer?
You don’t need a dime to hire John or his firm, as they charge no advance fees – instead, any attorney fee can be contingent and is paid as a percentage of your eventual compensation. If you receive no compensation, you will owe our firm nothing. We are only paid if we recover money in the case.
About John Mattiacci
I began practicing personal injury law more than 15 years ago. I have had the opportunity to represent clients in very significant case, and have personally helped recovered over $50,000,000 for my clients in a variety of personal injury cases. I have also received many honors from the legal profession, including:
- Induction into both the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Only about one percent of all lawyers qualify for membership to these forums.
- Designation as a “Pennsylvania Rising Star” by Super Lawyers. Only about two and a half percent of Pennsylvania lawyers qualify for this honor.
- A rating of 9.9/10 by Avvo, one of the nation’s most prestigious lawyer rating services.
Get the Ball Rolling Today; Call Moorestown Dog Bite Injury Attorney John Mattiacci
If you have been injured by a dog, your first priority is to seek medical attention. Your second priority, however, is to speak with an experienced Pennsylvania dog bite lawyer. Contact me today for a free, no-obligation initial consultation, either by filling out my online contact page or by calling my toll-free number at (866) 617-0050.