Dog Bite FAQ
Dog Bite FAQ: Attorney Eric J. Parker Answers Questions About Dog Bite Cases and the Law That Protects Dog Bite Victims in Massachusetts
Just today 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.
My neighbor’s dog recently attacked me. Should I contact a lawyer or can I just deal with the insurance company on my own?
Pursuing compensation from an insurance company without the benefit of experienced legal counsel places the claimant at a huge disadvantage in the negotiating process. Insurance companies would prefer to resolve claims with unrepresented claimants for one simple reason: victims who are represented by highly experienced attorneys generally receive higher recoveries – even after the payment of legal fees and expenses — than those paid to victims who represent themselves. The claims process and the laws that guarantee the rights of injured people to be compensated for injuries caused by the negligence of others are technically complex. To assume that the legal process can be successfully navigated by persons lacking any formal legal training is a mistake which should be avoided.
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.
I was bitten by a dog, but the injuries are minimal. What should I do?
Once treatment is complete, you may wish to speak with a lawyer as to your legal options and the relative “value” of your claim. Very often, particularly in cases involving minimal injury to the victim, the costs of pursuing a claim may exceed the amount ultimately paid to the victim. Again, a lawyer with significant experience in representing victims of animal attacks is in the best position to advise you as to whether you have a case worthy of legal action.
I was bitten but not really injured (no blood, no scars). 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.
Where can I learn more about local (Massachusetts) dog bite related laws?
A dog bite victim’s right to receive monetary compensation for the injuries and losses sustained as a result of an attack by a dog are set forth in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 140 section 155, commonly referred to as the Massachusetts “dog bite statute”, which provides as follows:
Chapter 140: Section 155. Liability for damage caused by dog; minors; presumption and burden of proof.
Section 155. If any dog shall do any damage to either the body or property of any person, the owner or keeper, or if the owner or keeper be a minor, the parent or guardian of such minor, shall be liable for such damage, unless such damage shall have been occasioned to the body or property of a person who, at the time such damage was sustained, was committing a trespass or other tort, or was teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog. If a minor, on whose behalf an action under this section is brought, is under seven years of age at the time the damage was done, it shall be presumed that such minor was not committing a trespass or other tort, or teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog, and the burden of proof thereof shall be upon the defendant in such action.
My neighbor’s dog attacked me. He asked me to sign something from his 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.
If you have suffered an injury due to a dog bite or animal attack, contact our dog bite attorneys for a free confidential case review and receive a response within hours, or call our Boston office, toll free, seven days a week at: .
If you need a dog bite lawyer outside of Massachusetts, contact us for a referral.