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Dog Bites


In Delaware, state law and many city and county laws state that any dog bite that causes injury can be sued upon, even if it is the first bite by the animal. Usually, the only times that would not be the case is when someone trespasses onto the property where the dog is kept, or if someone is teasing the animal. That makes perfect sense.

The problem that is occurring more and more frequently is most homeowner policies or renters policies are excluding paying for any type of dog bite cases. Just a few years ago, you would see policies that would exclude certain breeds of dogs that some would consider dangerous. However, a lot of the policies are adding additional exclusions for any breed of dog.

If you are bitten by an animal on the street or any where you have a right to be, you should contact the local SPCA. It does not mean the dog will be put down. I am very much a dog lover, and I would not want to see that happen. However, you need to at least set up a record of what occurred. The authorities should investigate exactly what took place and why the bite occurred.

Contact the Law Office of Michael J. Hood

At the law office of Michael J. Hood, in Wilmington, we bring more than 30 years of experience to personal injury victims in Delaware and Pennsylvania. For a free initial consultation, contact us online or call our office at 302-777-1000 for an appointment.

Delaware’s Dog Bite Law

Protecting Your Rights When You’ve Been Bitten in Delaware

Most of the time, a dog is man’s best friend, and most pet owners act responsibly, minimizing the risk of dog attacks. But it only takes a moment of carelessness to lead to serious injury.

Delaware’s Dog Bite Law

Delaware has one of the more comprehensive statutes governing liability for damages caused by a dog. The law provides for damages for personal injury and property loss, and allows an injured person to bring legal action against not only the owner of the dog, but against third parties whose negligence may have contributed to the attack. For example, if a person is dog-sitting and the animal in his or her charge bites someone, he or she may be liable.

Delaware’s dog bite law finds liability under four different scenarios:

  • Intentional tort—A person who incites or orders a dog to attack another person will be liable
  • Negligence—Negligence involves a failure to use a reasonable standard of care. If a dog owner doesn’t use that level of care that an ordinary person would (as determined by a jury), he or she may be liable for any ensuing attack.
  • Negligence per se—“Per se” means “as a matter of law.” Under Delaware law, a dog may not run free unless accompanied by an owner/custodian and under reasonable control, or on the owner’s property. If a dog bites or attacks someone while in violation of this requirement, the injured party does not need to show negligence or carelessness by the owner. The simple fact that the dog was running free is considered proof of negligence.
  • Scienter—Scienter is a legal term that refers to the dog owner’s knowledge of the animal’s inherently dangerous nature. If a dog bite victim can show that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had a propensity toward violence, the victim won’t have to show negligence to recover compensation.

Exceptions to the Law

A dog’s owner will not be responsible for injuries to anyone who was illegally on the owner’s property at the time of the attack, or who was engaged in the commission of any crime when bitten, or who teased, tormented or abused the dog.

Contact Our Office

To arrange a free initial consultation, contact us online or call our office at (302) 777-1000. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

Dog Bite Laws – Who Pays if Someone Gets Hurt

Dogs are a fact of every day life. Chances are good you own at least one.

According to the American Pet Products Association, there were 83.3 million owned dogs in the U.S. in 2012, with 47% of all households having at least one dog. Not all dogs are good dogs, and not all dog owners are good dog owners. About 4.7 million dog bites occur each year with nearly 800,000 of them requiring medical attention, according to the American Human Society. If you or a loved one have been injured due to a dog bite, you may be able to obtain compensation from the dog’s owner or his or her insurance carrier.

Delaware Dog Bite Law

Delaware law concerning liability for harm done by dogs is fairly progressive, as far as the victim’s rights are concerned. They should also put dog owners on notice that they need to keep their dogs under control at all times. Delaware Code Section 1711 states,

The owner of a dog is liable in damages for any injury, death or loss to person or property that is caused by such dog, unless the injury, death or loss was caused to the body or property of a person who, at the time, was committing or attempting to commit a trespass or other criminal offense on the property of the owner, or was committing or attempting to commit a criminal offense against any person, or was teasing, tormenting or abusing the dog.

Unless your are committing a crime, or trying to, on the dog owner’s property, or are “teasing, tormenting or abusing the dog,” and are injured, killed or had property damaged or destroyed by the dog, the dog owner is liable for damages. This is a “strict liability” statute, which means if a certain bad thing happens (a dog bite for example), then a certain party (the owner) has a legal obligation to pay for damages.

Pennsylvania Dog Bite Law

It’s a little more complicated in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania dog bite law sets apart different groups of victims and treats them differently. The source of the state’s dog bite law are court decisions, the statutory “Dog Law” (3 P.S. § 459-101 through § 459-1205) and the cases interpreting that. Within the Dog Law is the Dangerous Dog Statute (3 P.S. § 459-501-A through § 459-507-A).

The common law (court created) legal cause of action for “scienter” (prior knowledge) allows a victim to recover full compensation if the dog previously bit another person without justification or showed a tendency to do so.

If the dog hasn’t bitten before, Pennsylvania’s dog bite law offers two remedies depending on the degree of injury. A “severe injury” is “any physical injury that results in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations requiring multiple sutures or cosmetic surgery.” (The Dog Law, sec. 102.)

  • A severely injured victim can make a Dog Law claim against the dog owner for medical expenses and all other losses and legal damages. That victim must show the dog inflicted severe injury without provocation.
  • If not severely injured, the victim can make a Dog Law claim against the dog owner for medical expenses only. (Sec. 502, subdivision (b) of the Dangerous Dog Statute) The victim would have to prove the dog caused the injury, there were medical expenses as a result and the defendant owned the dog.

Contact Our Office

If you or a loved one have been injured by a dog and want to learn more about your rights and legal options, to arrange a free initial consultation, contact us online or call our office at (302) 777-1000. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.