One Free Bite — Dog Bite LawJuly 8th, 2011 by Gabriel Z. Levin
A common misconception in Pennsylvania Dog Bite Law is that the dog and dog owner are entitled to one free bite and cannot be sued for the first bite. This is not at all the law. Our dog bite lawyers understand that general negligence stemming from a dog bite injury has absolutely nothing to do with the how many times the dog has previously bitten, attacked, or injured.
The first time a dog bites someone, the dog owner can be sued under a general negligence theory, including but not limited to and strict liability or negligence per se claims based on the jurisdiction. For example, if your jurisdiction, like Philadelphia, has a leash law. If the bite occurred on a public street in Philadelphia and the dog was not properly leashed, you could sue under a general negligence theory and as a violation of the leash law.
However, in the scenarios presented above, you cannot ask for punitive damages because the dog was not a known dangerous dog. In a sense an argument can me made that this is a free bite because punitive damages are generally much higher then compensatory damages in most dog bite cases.
If the dog has previously bitten,attacked or injured, you can sue for all of the above claims for your dog bite injuries plus punitive damages because the dog is a known dangerous dog. You must be able to show that the dog previously bit or attacked with proof from animal control or another source in order to qualify the dog as a dangerous dog.
Whether the dog has previously bitten only matters in terms of damages, meaning how much money your case is potentially worth. However, whether there exists a previous bite is irrelevant for establishing liability in a general dog bite case.