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In the United States, dog bites injure about 1,000 people each day, and they require medical treatment for their wounds. Dog bite laws vary from state to state.
The Massachusetts dog bite law dictates that the dog owner or party in control of a dog who causes injury or death to another person is strictly liable. This means the dog owners or parties in control of the dog are legally obligated to compensate that victim for the injuries and losses suffered in the attack.
Notice that the law says the owner or caretaker is responsible for all injuries, not just those caused by a dog bite. If a dog attacks and injures someone without ever actually biting the person, the owner is responsible for these injuries.
If you have been injured by a dog, schedule a free consultation with Parker Scheer LLP today.
“If anyone needed legal advice I would point them to Parker Scheer! Eric and his team were great! Everything got handled quickly. He responded so quickly, very helpful & I got results that totally exceeded my expectations.
There is no one better!!” – Catherine Moore
How Do Attorneys Prove Fault in Dog Bite Cases?
Unlike other kinds of personal injury cases, which require the plaintiff to prove fault on the part of the defendant, a victim of a dog attack requires far less proof. The victim need only show that the dog inflicted the injuries (as opposed to by some other cause) and did not result from the “teasing or tormenting” of the dog prior to the attack.
The victim will also need to prove that he was not trespassing at the time of the accident. In many instances, a homeowner’s insurance policy, held by the dog’s owner at the time of the attack, will provide coverage to the victim for the injuries and any losses sustained.
Furthermore, in Massachusetts, if the victim is a minor under the age of seven at the time of the attack, it is presumed that the victim did not perform any “teasing or tormenting” and the full burden of proof falls on the defendant.
What is Scienter, Negligence, and Negligence Per Se in Massachusetts Dog Bite Cases?
Victims in Suffolk County and throughout the state also have the option to use the other reasons for liability, which are scienter, negligence, and negligence per se. Scienter is the knowledge that the dog has previously acted in a manner similar to the one at hand. For example, that the dog who bit the victim has a history of biting people.
Negligence refers to the actions the dog’s caretaker did not take that should have been taken, or any unreasonable actions they did take. It can also refer to the absence of ordinary care that should have been taken with the dog. When the dog’s caretaker violates an animal control law, regardless of whether he or she is the dog’s owner, it is negligence per se. An example of this would be violating a leash law.
Which Dog Breeds Are the Most Dangerous?
Every dog in this state is capable of attacking someone under certain circumstances. However, there are certain dog breeds that are more likely to be provoked to attack. Some of the dog breeds that have attacked the most people include Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Cane Corsos, German Shepards, Jack Russell Terriers, Bulldogs, Great Danes, Boxers, and Pit Bulls.
What Are the Most Common Dog Bite Injuries?
The dog bite attorneys at Parker Scheer LLP have extensive experience representing adults and children injured by dogs in Massachusetts. Victims of a dog attack can experience a wide range of injuries and often experience both physical and psychological harm. Some of the most common injuries include the following:
- Bites: Puncture and tear wounds caused by dog bites harm the skin and flesh of the victim and can lead to severe scarring or partial amputation of fingers or toes. If puncture wounds are not properly treated after a dog attack, the wounds can become infected and lead to serious health complications.
- Facial Scarring: The face is the most commonly attacked part of the body. These wounds can lead to scars and disfigurement that last a lifetime and will require painful, costly reconstructive surgeries to try and conceal the damage.
- Head Injury: These injuries most commonly result from being knocked over or into something by the dog, resulting in an injury to the head. The severity of this injury can range from a small bump to a brain injury.
- Broken or Fractured Bones: Similar to head injuries, these usually result from being knocked over or pulled down while attempting to run away from the dog.
- Emotional Injury: For many people, the emotional injuries sustained in a dog attack are more painful than the physical injuries. People who have been injured by a dog may experience flashbacks or post-traumatic stress disorder. Children may be the most vulnerable to emotional injuries after a dog attack. In fact, children often have a hard time becoming comfortable around dogs again after an attack.
- Death: Dog attacks result in approximately 18 deaths across the United States each year.
These injuries can completely disrupt a person’s life. If you have sustained any of these injuries, contact our team right away to discuss your case.
I was severely bitten by a friend’s dog, what should I do?
Needless to say, seek medical attention immediately! Dog bites involve the possibility of infection, including rabies and other diseases, and must be explored and treated as soon as possible after the attack. Legal matters can and should wait until the victim’s medical condition is brought under control. After the dog bite victim’s injuries have been treated, the process of seeking compensation for the injuries and losses suffered can begin.
The first step is to retain a lawyer with significant experience in cases involving dog bites and other animal attacks. While lawyers who concentrate in “personal injury law” generally possess a wide range of experience, when it comes to dog bite cases, choose a lawyer who has successfully handled a significant number of cases involving dog bites and animal attacks, and preferably a lawyer with extensive experiences in a wide variety of injury categories, such as permanent scarring, infection, psychological trauma, facial reconstruction, cellulitis, amputations, and complex fractures.
I was bitten, but not really injured. What can I do?
Under Massachusetts law, as in most other States, the victim of an animal attack must be able to demonstrate evidence of injury resulting from the attack, as well as the opinion of a qualified medical expert that the injuries claimed resulted from the attack as opposed to any other cause. The relationship between the event and the injuries is called “causation”. Without causation, the law does not permit the victim to recover compensation. However, in some instances, the majority of the “injury” may be psychological rather than entirely physical. In such cases, the victim may be entitled to substantial compensation, despite the absence of a major physical injury.
Will Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Dog Bites?
In the majority of cases, dog owners are considered legally responsible for any injuries caused by a dog they own or “control,” unless the owner can prove that the plaintiff teased, tormented or abused the dog prior to the attack. Many states, including Massachusetts, hold dog owners “strictly liable” for their dog’s violent behavior; while in other States, owners are liable only if they had prior knowledge that their dog had the potential to become violent.
My neighbor’s dog attacked me and I was asked to sign something from their insurance company. Should I sign it?
No legal document should ever be signed in connection with a pending or potential legal claim without the benefit of legal counsel from a qualified attorney. Documents prepared by insurance companies that require the signature of the victim often contain “release” language, which – if signed – may effectively eliminate the right of the dog bite victim to seek compensation for the injuries and losses they would otherwise be legally entitled to recover. While some insurance documents may simply seek legal “authorization” on the part of the insurance company to obtain the victim’s medical records and bills, such documents are often lengthy and filled with complex legal terminology that make them difficult to understand. For this reason, it is always prudent to have any document sent to you, particularly those sent by insurance companies in connection with a claim for personal injury, reviewed by an experienced attorney before signing it.
The owner of the dog who attacked me doesn’t have insurance. Can I still take legal action?
In cases involving injuries caused by animal attacks, such as dogs, the intended result is the payment of financial compensation to the victim, most often by the company insuring the dog’s owner. In some instances, a party other the dog’s legal owner, (the “keeper”) may also be responsible for compensating the victim of the attack. A lawyer with experience in representing victims of dog bites and the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that provide for compensation in the event of such an attack can best advise the victim on the range of available legal options.
Contact Our Dog Bite Law Firm Discuss Your Case Today
If you have been bitten or attacked by a dog, contact us for a free confidential case review and receive a response within hours. You can also call our office at (617) 886-0500.
Some of our other practice areas include car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, wrongful death, medical malpractice, pedestrian accidents, and slip and fall accidents. You will not need to pay any legal fees until we have helped you recover damages.