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Pennsylvania & New Jersey Dog Attacks – What Are Your Legal Rights?

We have helped numerous dog attack victims in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.   One of the first questions victims of dog attacks often have when they call me is, “What are my rights?”

First and foremost, it is important to get proper medical treatment, as infections after dog bites can be common.  Therefore, one of the first things I discuss with a dog bite victim is whether they are receiving medical treatment for the injuries.

Dog Bite Case Result: PA dog owner receives $1,000,000 settlement after attacked by own dogs

Depending on the severity of the injuries and circumstances surrounding the attacks, dog attack victims may be able to make a claim to recover financial compensation for their injuries and damages caused by the attacks against the dog owners, caretakers, trainers or even the breeders.  Also, victims of dog attacks may be able to have the dogs declared dangerous, again depending on the circumstances surrounding the attacks. 

Both Pennsylvania and New Jersey have laws that protect victims of dog attacks.  However, the laws in both states are slightly different in terms of what the victim has to legally prove in order to win a dog bite injury case.

New Jersey Dog Bite Law

New Jersey imposes a strict or absolute liability standard on the part of dog owners for injuries sustained by victims due to dog attacks. What that means is a dog attack victim in New Jersey, whether in Cherry Hill, Camden or other cities in New Jersey, does not have to prove the dog had a vicious propensity before the attack or the owner knew that the dog was vicious.  If a victim is bitten or attacked in NJ, the only things the victim has to prove are:

  • the defendant owned the dog,
  • the dog bit the victim, and
  • victim was in a public place or lawfully on the dog owner’s property.

However, if the dog bite victim was trespassing, i.e., on the owner’s property without permission, then strict liability will not be imposed on the dog owner.

Pennsylvania Dog Attack Law

Pennsylvania does not impose a strict liability standard in dog attack cases.  The legal standard is negligence.  Thus, dog attack victims in Pennsylvania have to prove the following:

  • the owner owed a duty to the dog victim,
  • the owner breached that duty,
  • as a result of the breach, the dog attack happened, and
  • the dog attack resulted in injuries and damages.

Like NJ dog bite victims, PA victims do not have to prove the dog's prior viciousness.  However, the dog has to show a level of viciousness in the attack, and this will depend on the facts of the case. 

In addition, PA does impose a leash law on all dog owners.  The name of the law is a bit misleading.  The leash law does not require dogs to be on a leash; rather, it requires that dogs are under proper and adequate control.  Therefore, the dog may be confined to the owner’s property, or maintained within reasonable control of the owner or another person.

Proving A Viable Dog Attack Case In PA & NJ

Consider the following example: a dog owner lets his dog out in his backyard during the day.  The fence that keeps the dog on the property is broken, and the dog often escapes from the backyard.  The owner knows about the fence but fails to fix it.  Despite knowing that the dog often escapes due to the broken fence, the owner continues to let the dog out in the backyard.  One day, the dog escapes and attacks a young kid playing in a neighborhood playground.  The child suffers serious facial injuries and requires multiple surgeries and future plastic surgeries.

1. Applying Pennsylvania Law

In this case, the owner had a duty to keep his dog under reasonable control, i.e., confined to his backyard.  He breached that duty because he knew that his dog often escapes due to the broken fence and failed to fix the fence.  Due to his negligence (failure to fix the fence and still letting the dog out in the backyard), the dog escaped and attacked the child.  As a result, the child suffered serious injuries. The dog owner will most likely be found liable in this situation.

2. Applying New Jersey Law

If the attack happened in New Jersey, the victim does not have to prove the owner was negligent.  The dog owner is strictly liable because he owned the dog, the dog attacked the child, and the attack happened on a public playground.

Help After A Dog Attack In PA Or NJ

If you or a loved one was attacked or bitten by a dog, you have legal rights.  Call Daniel J. O’Brien, Esq., an experienced dog bite lawyer to schedule a FREE consultation.  877.944.8396

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