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Does Pennsylvania Have a One Bite Rule?

Posted in Dog Attack on Tuesday, April 30, 2024.

The law of Pennsylvania no longer follows the one-bite rule, which used to apply when a person sued the owner of a domesticated animal (often a dog) for bite injuries. In the past, the court required an injured person to prove the dog’s owner had, or should have had, knowledge of the dog biting someone at least once before the incident underlying the lawsuit.

The one-bite rule has since been replaced by statutes known collectively as The Dog Law. The Pennsylvania legislature created a strict liability rule, which mandates the confinement of a dog upon the first bite. The owner’s knowledge is irrelevant under this statute. An owner is liable for a bite victim’s medical treatment costs based on the bite alone. A dog bite attorney from our firm could help you understand how this statute relates to your case.

The One-Bite Rule

Historically, bite victims had to prove an owner had previous knowledge–or was negligently unaware–that their dog had a propensity to cause injuries. A person satisfied this by demonstrating the owner knew of the dog committing one bite before the attack-at-issue. Essentially, if the dog bit someone before, it had a propensity to hurt others again. The owner’s awareness of that first bite should’ve put them on alert that the dog was dangerous.

A person also had to show the bite took place within the owner’s enclosure, meaning within the limits of the owner’s property. Upon proving this, in addition to the one-bite rule, the court could deem the dog owner liable.

The Strict Liability Rule for Dog Bites

The Dog Law, contained in Pennsylvania’s Consolidated Statutes, removed the previous ‘one free bite’ interpretation, and the statute now permits liability for the dog’s first bite. When a dog attacks or bites someone, the owner is liable by reason of the attack or bite itself; their knowledge of the dog’s propensity to act aggressively is no longer an element the bite victim must prove.

However, owners are strictly liable only for medical costs incurred by bite victims. To recover damages beyond medical expenses, a person must establish the owner’s negligence.

How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help With Dog Bite Cases

A personal injury attorney is a resource for bite victims looking to sue for medical costs and related damages. Dog bites are a delicate issue, but an experienced lawyer could assist you in finding justice. Call us now to discuss your legal options.