What are my legal rights ifI have been severely injured by my neighbor’s dog?

UPDATED: Jan 13, 2011

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What are my legal rights ifI have been severely injured by my neighbor’s dog?

My neighbor left her dog (120 lbs) out front of her house; no fence or leash. Dog see’s me and my dog and darts over to my yard heading toward me. I put my arm down to stop him from running into me and he takes my arm with him; he tore my bicep. My neighbor’s son went into the house and she came outside to ask me if I needed help. Bottom line – surgery next week, 2-3 months cast, 8-12 months rehab. I am 43 years old, lift weights 5 days week, as well as perform cardio. Should I speak with a personal injury attoreny? In Bucks County, PA.

Asked on January 13, 2011 under Personal Injury, Pennsylvania


Joyce Sweinberg / Joyce J. Sweinberg

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

PS...You should also have someone take photos of your surgical wounds and dressings, and cast.

Joyce Sweinberg / Joyce J. Sweinberg

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

I am sorry to hear of your injuries. Dog bites can be very traumatic and the injuries severe.  By the way you describe it, your neighbor would be liable on the basis of her failure to keep her dog under control.  I am posting an excerpt from my website with some information on the law in PA as well as a link to instructions on how to take photos of injuries:

Pennsylvania has a hybrid approach to liability. There is strict liability for all damages incurred if the dog previously exhibited dangerous behavior or if the injuries are severe. There is also strict liability for medical bills. Other circumstances giving rise to liability occur where the owner was negligent or violated the animal control law, which requires that owners keep their dogs under control, either confined at home, or on a leash when away from the home.

Important Steps to Take After a Dog Bite

Seek immediate medical attention — even if it seems like a minor bite-this is especially important if the dog is not current on shots.

Take photographs of all injuries, even before there is cleanup of the wounds, and after cleanup of the wounds. See this page for instruction on taking photos:

Gather information from witnesses, if there were any. Get names, addresses, and phone numbers

Report the matter immediately to the police. This creates a record of the incident.

Obtain the dog's veterinarian records about shots, diseases and other medical history.

Do not try to negotiate with the animal's owner privately. Make sure that the claim is directed to their homeowner’s insurer. It is best not to engage in conversations with the owner.


If I can answer any questions or help you in any way, please do not hesitate to ask me.  I am in Bucks County.


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

Oh my goodness! Yes, you should seek consultation from a personal injury attorney in your area as soon as you possibly can.  You have what is affectionately known as a "dog bite case."   The law varies in each state.  The dog bite law in Pennsylvania is based upon the common law.  Pennsylvania imposes strict liability for all damages where the injuries are severe or the dog previously engaged in dangerous behavior. The state also imposes strict liability for medical bills even without bad behavior on the part of the dog or its owner. In other cases, victims can recover full compensation if the dog owner was negligent or violated an animal control law.  You have a good case here.  Get moving and good luck.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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