Animal Attacks & Dog Bites Attorneys in Harrisburg, PA Also serving York, Chambersburg, Carlisle, and surrounding areas! Injuries from animal attacks and dog bites can be life-threatening occurrences. Victims can suffer long-term physical and emotional repercussions. A legal concept entitled strict liability often applies to dog attacks. The attorneys at Mooney & Associates know all about animal attacks/bites and can determine whether or not strict liability applies to your particular situation. Legal Responsibility In most cases, if you are asked into the house or onto the property to perform work for someone, that property owner has the legal responsibility to assure that the property is safe, including keeping a pet away from you or at least warning you of the presence of the animal. Even the improper use of a police dog can constitute unreasonable force in making an arrest, and therefore, may result in liability. Also, if the person has violated a leash law, that owner may have been negligent and caused your injuries, thus entitling you to compensation. Harboring knowingly dangerous animals may even result in criminal convictions. Animal attacks and dog bites can produce dramatic, life-threatening injuries. If you or a loved one has been injured in one of these attacks, Contact us, Mooney & Associates today for further information. Beyond Aggressive Dogs Although animal attack claims most commonly involve dog bites, many other types of domesticated animals such as ferrets, cats, and even birds can also bite humans, causing injury and potential liabilities for their masters. Non-domesticated animals, such as large cats ordinarily found in the wild, can attack children and adults. Liability for such attacks, if any, will vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. A lawyer experienced in personal injury law is the best source for accurate advice and information regarding animal attack cases. After the Attack If an animal bites you, the first thing to determine is who is the owner of the animal. In most states, the owner of an animal can be held liable for the injury it inflicts, provided that the owner knew or had reason to know that the animal had dangerous propensities. In other words, if an animal owner knows that his or her animal is dangerous and could cause injury to another person, the animal owner can be held liable for the animal’s harmful actions. Determining whether an owner knew of the animal’s dangerous propensities can be difficult. The first question that often arises in making that determination is whether the owner needs to know of the particular animal’s potential for harm, or whether the owner only needs to know that type of animal is potentially harmful. For example, when a person has a pit bull as a pet, does that mean that the owner knows or should have known that the animal would be harmful just because it is a pit bull? Most courts have ruled that an animal owner is responsible for knowing both the particular and general potential for his animal to cause harm. Therefore, if a pit bull owner had never seen his pet act viciously, he still might be held responsible for the damage his dog caused by being an aggressive animal. The owner is said to have “constructive notice” of the animal’s vicious propensity. Sometimes an animal’s vicious propensity may be inferred from the circumstances of the attack. For example, if a trained guard dog attacks someone, a court can infer that the owner knew or should have known that the dog would attack someone who entered the area the dog was guarding. Strict Liability Some states impose what is known as strict liability on the animal owners whose animals bite or attack others. Under the theory of strict liability, an owner is legally responsible for an animal bite regardless of whether the owner did anything wrong with respect to protecting others from the attack. Therefore, even if the owner had no reason to know that his or her animal was dangerous and the animal bit someone, the owner will be liable. There are instances in which a vicious animal owner may not be held liable for an attack by the animal. If the owner has given adequate warning and has taken measures to keep the animal away from people, a person who ignored the warnings and was injured by the animal might not successfully recover for their injuries. In that situation, the inured person’s behavior is known as contributory negligence or assumption of risk. For example, if a person climbs over a fence and is bitten by a dog on the other side, a court could hold the dog owner not liable. Provocation and Signs An animal owner may not be held liable if he can show the injured person was bitten by the animal when entering an area that had a sign “Beware of Dog.” Once again, the injured party would have assumed the risk. An animal owner can also prove that the animal was provoked by the injured person, such as by making threatening gestures, and then the animal attacks, which could negate the owner’s liability. Lastly, the relationship between the owner and the injured person can also affect the owner’s liability. If the owner invites someone to their property and they are injured, the owner can be held responsible. But, if the person is trespassing on the owner’s property, the owner will probably not be liable for the injuries caused by the animal. There are other potential responsible parties, other than the owner, who can be held responsible for animal bites. Examples are animal keepers, parents of a minor, property owners, and landlords. Examples of animal keepers could include kennels or a pound. A person under 18, if injured, can bring a legal claim against the minor’s parents, even if the parents had no involvement with the animal. A property owner can be liable for injuries caused by an animal the property owner has allowed to be on his or her property. If an apartment landlord knew or should have known that the tenant owned a dangerous animal, the landlord may be liable for bite injuries. Medical Expenses, Lost Wages, Pain and Suffering Depending on the seriousness of your injuries resulting from an animal attack, you may be able to recover for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and property damage. In some instances, you may even be entitled to receive punitive damages. Punitive damages are to punish someone for his or her behavior. To receive an award of punitive damages, the wrongful conduct usually must be more than negligence, such as reckless or intentional conduct. For a dog owner to know that his dog was very dangerous, but to repeatedly allow the dog to run freely at a school yard and eventually attack a child, could result in punitive damages. The amount of punitive damages is not necessarily related to the actual damages sustained, but rather to how outrageous the animal owner’s actions were. If an animal has bitten you, you may be entitled to recover damages as a result of this action. Determining your legal rights, however, can be complicated. It may be unclear as to whom you should bring a claim against and to what sort of damages you are entitled. To insure that you receive full compensation, you should contact an attorney at Mooney & Associates, who has dealt with animal bite cases in the past. When your future is at stake, contact Mooney & Associates. The attorney you choose does make a difference.