Pets add love and companionship to the lives of many Pennsylvania residents, but not all pets are treated with the kindness and respect that they deserve. Some animals do not learn to modify their aggressive and dangerous behaviors, and when they cause harm to others their owners may be liable for those losses. In Pennsylvania, strict liability applies to animal bite and attack cases where medical costs are the victims’ damages.
Strict liability for animal-caused injuries
Strict liability is a theory of law that decreases the amount of proof that a victim must show to recover their losses. It applies to animal bite and attack cases for certain damages, so that if a person’s dog harms a victim and that victim incurs medical costs from that attack, the owner of the dog is liable to pay for those medical costs without a showing of negligence.
Strict liability only applies to damages related to medical expenses. If a victim suffers emotional distress, pain, and other non-medical damages, they may have to offer more proof, such as evidence of negligence, to recover their other losses. The severity of an animal attack or bite injury may dictate what losses a victim can claim through personal injury litigation.
Defenses to animal bite and attack claims
Even when a person’s pet causes serious harm to a victim, that pet owner may assert defenses to attempt to clear them from liability for the victim’s losses. One common defense that may appear in an animal bite and attack case is that of trespass. If a victim intentionally or willfully trespassed onto the property of the pet owner, and the attack by the pet happened on that property, then the victim may not have the right to seek their damages from the pet owner.
Similarly, when a pet owner offers evidence that a victim provoked or caused an animal to come after them and attack, that victim may be prevented from recovering their damages. However, pet owners who are negligent or reckless with their dangerous pets may have a more difficult time overcoming claims against them for harm inflicted by their animals.
Building an animal bite and attack case
As with many other types of personal injury cases, animal bite and attack cases can be driven by the facts and evidence presented at trial. There is no way to predict or guarantee an outcome when a victim elects to litigate their claim, but the guidance of a personal injury attorney can assist a victim as they may important decisions about their legal options. This post is not offered as legal advice and readers are asked to find their own counsel about questions related to their claims.