Reporting a Dog Bite: What Legal Actions Should You Take in Philly?

Reporting a Dog Bite: What Legal Actions Should You Take in Philly?

Dealing with a dog bite can be a traumatic experience, both physically and emotionally. In Philadelphia, it is important to take action as soon as possible in order to protect yourself and your rights. The longer you wait to press your claim, the weaker it will become.

Steps to Take After a Dog Bite Injury

See below for a list of some of the steps you should take if you or someone you love suffers a serious dog bite injury.

Seek Medical Attention

Seeking immediate medical attention should be your first priority. That includes at-the-scene first aid as well as emergency room care. Dog bites can lead to serious infections if not treated promptly.

Since medical records are some of the most credible legal evidence that it is possible to collect, keep every document that your healthcare provider gives you. Additionally, keep a journal in which you detail the progress of your injuries from day to day.

Report the Bite to the Department of Public Health

Report your dog bite to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. One of the reasons you need to do this is so they can test the dog for rabies. The Department of Public Health might quarantine the dog for a period to make sure it doesn’t represent a threat to the public. 

Gather Evidence To Prove Liability

Pennsylvania does not have a “one-bite rule” – meaning owners are strictly liable for injuries that their dogs inflict, regardless of their past behavior. Importantly, homeowners’ insurance and renters’ insurance typically covers dog bites, so you may feel more comfortable pursuing compensation even from a friendly next-door neighbor.

Evidence of your injuries might include:

  • Photographs;
  • Medical records;
  • Eyewitness testimony; and
  • Your own testimony.

If you have retained a lawyer, they can suggest other effective forms of evidence.

Seek To Negotiate a Settlement With the Dog Owner or the Insurance Company

The dog owner (or, more likely, their insurance company) will likely prefer a private settlement over a full-blown trial, even in cases of catastrophic injury. If you have a lawyer, let them do the negotiating for you.

File a Lawsuit

A personal injury attorney will be able to help you file a lawsuit and pursue compensation for your injuries. Lawsuits require very specific documentation, and you must comply with complex rules of evidence and civil procedure.

Be aware of the statute of limitations, which sets the deadline for filing a lawsuit: In Pennsylvania, you must file a lawsuit for a dog bite within two years of the date of the bite. If you wait longer than this, the judge might bar you from suing the dog’s owner.

Defenses Against Dog Bite Claims

There are several defenses that a dog owner may use in a dog bite claim in Pennsylvania. In all of the below cases, the burden of proof is on the dog owner to prove their defense.


A dog owner can escape liability if the victim provoked the dog to the point that a bite was the natural response.


The dog owner may argue that the victim was trespassing on their property when they were bitten. Under Pennsylvania law, a dog owner is not liable for bites that occur while the victim is trespassing on their property. This rule applies except under limited circumstances.

Comparative Negligence

The dog owner may argue that the victim’s own negligence contributed to the bite. For example, if the victim was not paying attention and walked into the dog, the owner may argue that the victim’s own negligence contributed to the bite.

Assumption of Risk

The dog owner may argue that the victim assumed the risk of being bitten by entering a property where dogs were present, and a “Beware of Dog” sign was prominently displayed.

A Lawyer Can Help You File a Claim Against the Insurance Company

Dealing with a dog bite can be a difficult and stressful process, but taking the right legal actions can help protect your rights and ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve. 

If you or someone you know has been bitten by a dog in Philadelphia, make sure to seek medical attention, report the bite to the appropriate authorities, contact an attorney, gather evidence, and be aware of the statute of limitations deadline to file a lawsuit.

Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm in Philadelphia Today To Get Help With Your Case

To learn more and get the help you deserve, call Zavodnick & Lasky Personal Injury Lawyers at (215) 875-7030 or contact us online.
You can also visit our law firm at 123 S Broad St #1220, Philadelphia, PA 19109.