New Dog Bite Case Has Potential to Have Huge Future Impact
An attack on a Federal Express worker in Millersburg, PA, has led to some unique initial court proceedings this July, 2014. Punitive damage claims were allowed to be filed against the man despite lack of a previous biting incident since he had been previously warned by the district justice to restrain his dog which had chased other FedEx delivery persons in the past but failed to do so. The dog’s track record of displaying vicious tendencies, the earlier court warning, and the lack of restraint were taken together as sufficient grounds for a punitive damage suit. This is the first case ever in Pennsylvania in which punitive damage was permitted to be pursued despite no prior actual attack.
Impact on the Home and Neighborhood
In light of this latest development, dog owners will want to exercise a heightened level of caution in controlling their dogs. Gone is the long-lived “one bite rule,” and now even punitive damages can be sought in some cases, so proper restraint of one’s dogs and avoidance of owning dogs known to be vicious in nature is a must. The home and local neighborhood should be a little safer now, but dog owners will have to keep an extra sharp eye on their dogs.
Impact on the Insurance World
A third of all home insurance claims result from dog bite incidents and cost insurers hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Dog bites are a common occurrence and sometimes quite dangerous. In fact, the fifth most common reason for a trip to the ER in the United States is a dog bite. These considerations have led many insurers to refuse to insure certain breeds of dog that have a reputation for an ugly temper- like pit bulls, Rottweilers, and Siberian Huskies, for example. These sorts of dogs must be insured with pet liability insurance if at all. This can be expensive, but discounts are usually offered if one can get a Canine Good Citizen certificate awarded from the American Kennel Club or other accepted institution. With new fields opening up for dog bite suits, “dog insurance” may well go up in price.
Impact on the Legal World
Those bitten by dogs and suffering pain, medical expenses, nerve damage, disfigurement of face or other area, laceration and deep wounds, broken bones, etc. may have an easier time now in securing with the help of an experienced dog bite lawyer full compensation for damage done. Within the limits of the law, a dog bite attorney will likely be able to secure for victims payment for all expenses caused by the bite and in cases of severe bites, further compensation for loss of income, psychological trauma, and for pain and suffering. Punitive damages as well may now be possible in some cases.
Since the cancellation of Pennsylvania’s one-bite rule, a greater number of victims of dog bites have been able to seek compensation in a court of law and ownership of dangerous dogs has been discouraged. Failure to restrain dogs or to care for them in a way that minimizes the chances of their attacking has also been severely deterred. The present case in which punitive damages are being sought for a dog bite may open up even more legal avenues for certain classes of dog bite victims. Dog owners will have to be more careful in this environment, insurers will likely be choosier about which dogs to insure, and dog bite victims will feel more able to collect fuller compensation for the impact of the dog bite on their lives.