If you have suffered a serious dog bite in Massachusetts, Choose an experienced leader in dog bite cases.
Every year in the United States, dog bites injure roughly 1,000 people who require serious medical treatment for their wounds.
The Massachusetts dog bite law dictates that the dog owner or “party in control” of a dog that causes injury or death to another person is strictly liable for the injuries and losses caused suffered by the victim. This means the dog’s owner(s) or “parties in control” of the dog are legally obligated to compensate the victim for the injuries and losses suffered in the attack.
A close reading of the Massachusetts dog bite statute reveals that the owner or party in control of the offending dog is responsible for all injuries, not just those caused by a “dog bite“, but may also include fractures suffered as a result of a fall caused by a dog.
If you or someone close to you has been injured by a dog, contact us to schedule a free consultation with our experienced Boston dog bite lawyers.
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 categories of personal injury cases which require the plaintiff to prove negligence on the part of the defendant as a precondition to recovery, a victim of a dog bite or other injury caused by the dog requires no evidence of negligence to sustain a claim. The only legal defenses available to the owner or party in control of the offending dog, include the “teasing or tormenting” of the dog by the victim, prior to the attack, or that the victim was trespassing at the time of the attack. Other than these two distinct defenses, the owner or party in control of the dog is legally responsible to fully compensate the victim for the injuries and losses suffered.
What Are the Most Common Dog Bite Injuries?
The 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 physical injuries which are often accompanied by psychological harm as well. Some of the most common injuries include:
- Puncture and tear wounds caused by dog bites can result in substantial damage to the skin, muscle, and underlying tissue of the victim. Such injuries can often lead to severe scarring or even partial amputation damaged hands, arms, legs, and feet. If puncture wounds are not properly treated promptly following an attack, the wounds may become infected and lead to other very serious medical complications.
- Facial Scarring: The face is the most commonly attacked part of the human body attacked by dogs, particularly among children, and can result in permanent facial scars and disfigurement, requiring painful, costly reconstructive surgeries to repair.
- Head Injury: These injuries most commonly result from caused by a charging dog, resulting in serious trauma to the head, skull, and brain. The severity of these injuries can range from a small bump to a traumatic brain injury (TMI).
- Broken or Fractured Bones: Similar to head injuries, these usually result from being knocked to the ground or pulled down while attempting to escape a charging dog and can impact virtually every part of the body.
- Emotional Injuries: For many people, the emotional injuries sustained in a dog attack are no less painful than the accompanying physical injuries. People who have been injured by a dog may experience flashbacks or suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Children are often particularly vulnerable to emotional injuries following a dog 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 with an expert dog bite attorney in Boston.
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. When the injuries are caused by a dog owned by a close friend or family member, the decision to seek financial compensation can be particularly difficult. To a large extent, the Massachusetts laws governing dog bite injuries should lessen the concern and awkwardness, as the need to “sue” the dog owner is far less common in dog-related claims. This is due primarily to the strength of the Massachusetts dog bite laws, which – in most instances – eliminates the need to prove negligence on the part of the dog’s owner.
The first step in the process is to retain a lawyer with significant experience in cases involving dog bites and other animal attacks. While lawyers who concentrate on “personal injury law” generally possess a wide range of experience, when it comes to dog bite cases, it is important to choose a dog attack lawyer who has successfully handled a significant number of cases involving dog bites and attacks, and preferably one with extensive experiences in a wide variety of injury categories, such as permanent scarring, infection, psychological trauma, facial reconstruction, cellulitis, amputations, psychological harm, and complex fractures.
I Was Bitten, But Not Badly Injured. What Can I Do?
Under Massachusetts law, the victim of a dog attack must 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 nexus between the event and the injuries are called “the proximate cause”. Without proximate cause, 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 for their attendant psychological injuries despite the relatively minor impact of their physical injuries.
Will Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Dog Bites in Massachusetts?
In almost every instance, a homeowner’s insurance policy, held by the dog’s owner at the time of the attack, will provide the sole source of funds used to compensate the victim for the injuries and losses sustained in the attack. This often leads to tremendous disparity in outcomes for those attacked by dogs owned by renters of apartments or condominiums (who are far more often uninsured) as compared with dogs owned by single-family homeowners, who tend to carry homeowners’ insurance coverage with far greater frequency. Many homeowners’ insurance companies are adding breeds of dogs to their policies that exclude coverage under the policy. These breeds include but are not limited to Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, Great Danes, Mastiffs, Akitas, Chows Chows, Alaskan Malamutes, Staffordshire Terriers, and others.
My neighbor’s dog attacked me and I was asked to sign papers by their insurance company. Should I sign it?
No legal document should ever be signed in connection with a pending or potential legal claim without prior consultation with an experienced 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 or “plaintiff” to recover compensation for the injuries and losses to which they would otherwise be legally entitled. 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 makes 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 pending claim for personal injury, reviewed by an experienced attorney before signing anything.
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 lawyer’s goal is to obtain full and fair compensation on behalf of the victim, most often paid by the company insuring the dog’s owner. In some instances, a party other than the dog’s legal owner, (the “keeper” or “party in control”) may also be responsible for compensating the victim of the attack. Only a lawyer with experience representing victims of dog bites can best advise the victim on the range of available legal options.
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. 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.
Defendants in 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, the dog who bit the victim has a history of biting of 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.
Parker Scheer has 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.
- 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 most commonly result from being knocked over or into something by the dog, resulting in an injury to the head. The severity can range from a small bump to 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: Similar to head injuries, these usually result from being knocked over or pulled down while attempting to run away from the dog.
- Death: Dog attacks result in approximately 18 deaths across the United States each year.
Dog Bite – Significant tissue loss and scarring to the upper lip; emotional distress
Our Boston dog bite attorneys handled a case where the plaintiff traveled to the defendants’ home to see a dog that she was considering adopting. The defendants were the dog’s “foster family,” which was set up through an animal rescue network. The plaintiff was greeted at the door by the defendants and also by the adoptive dog. An experienced dog owner, the plaintiff began interacting with the dog, and the defendant suggested she help give him his weekly bath. The plaintiff agreed and followed the defendant’s instructions while bathing him. As the plaintiff was drying the dog with a towel, the dog began to growl and unexpectedly lunged forward, and began biting the plaintiff’s face. The plaintiff immediately covered her mouth with her hand and realized that she was bleeding profusely. The plaintiff ran to a mirror to find that her nose had been bitten and a large section of her upper lip was completely missing. The defendant immediately drove the plaintiff to the emergency room. On the way to the hospital, the plaintiff learned that the defendant had himself been bitten by the same dog just a few weeks earlier, which required emergency treatment. Emergency room physicians determined that the plaintiff’s injuries were non-suturable and a clean, dry dressing was applied. She was advised to follow up with a plastic surgeon immediately. Early the next morning, the plaintiff presented to a plastic surgeon who immediately admitted her for lip reconstruction surgery and skin grafts. The plaintiff’s plastic surgeon successfully reconstituted her upper lip from tissue inside her lower lip and a skin graft. Despite an overwhelmingly successful lip reconstruction, the plaintiff was nevertheless left with visible scars. At the time of the injury, the plaintiff was employed in an elder care field that involved public speaking and face-to-face interaction. As a result of the severe trauma of the dog bite, the pain associated with speaking and facial movement, and obvious disfigurement, the plaintiff was caused to miss significant time from work. The plaintiff filed a claim against the dog’s “foster family” and the dog’s owner, the rescue network, pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 140, Section 155, the so-called “Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute”. The defendants’ respective insurance companies agreed on joint tort liability and the claim was settled following one day of mediation.
Dog Bite – Partial Amputation of Nose
The plaintiff, a Massachusetts licensed neuropsychiatrist, and her husband, arrived at the home of the plaintiff’s sister to meet the defendants’ newly adopted dog, which was a Dalmatian. The plaintiff and her husband entered her sister’s home and the plaintiff warmly greeted the dog. When the plaintiff bent down to hand the dog a toy to play with, the dog suddenly and without warning lunged toward the plaintiff’s face. The dog managed to bite off a sizable portion of the plaintiff’s nose. The plaintiff was initially unaware of the extent of her injuries and was originally under the impression that the dog’s head had simply struck her nose during the attack. It was not until she and her husband went into the defendant’s bathroom to inspect her nose that the plaintiff realized the severity of her injuries. The plaintiff and her husband were horrified to learn that the dog had amputated a significant portion of her left nostril during the attack.
After making this discovery, the plaintiff began to feel extremely light-headed and fainted while in the bathroom. Emergency medical services were called to the house. While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, the plaintiff’s sister located the amputated portion of the plaintiff’s nose and placed it in a jar of tap water. The plaintiff’s sister believed that this would preserve the rescued tissue until the plaintiff arrived at the hospital, thus making it easier for the doctor to reattach it to the plaintiff’s face. Unfortunately, in order to preserve the tissue, the plaintiff’s sister should have placed the amputated portion of the plaintiff’s nose in saline or packed it in ice. The tap water that it was placed in caused the tissue to swell, which further complicated the grafting process.
Despite this complication, the plaintiff still underwent initial surgery which resulted in the re-attachment of the severed tissue to the plaintiff’s nose. In addition to this surgery, the plaintiff also underwent a number of other painful scar revision surgeries designed to improve the visual appearance of her nose.
The incident, including the disfigurement occasioned by the loss of considerable tissue, left the patient with a significant amount of physical and emotional pain. The patient felt depressed and distant from her husband as a result of her traumatic experience.
The plaintiff, a 23-year-old woman, was invited to the defendant’s home, along with two other female friends, to bid a final farewell to the defendant’s dog who was scheduled to be euthanized the following day. Unbeknownst to the plaintiff, the basis for the euthanization of the dog was an attack on the defendant just one week earlier.
During her visit, the defendant requested that a picture be taken of the group of girls beside the dog. The defendant’s mother agreed to take the picture and while the girls and the dog were in the process of posing for the picture, the dog suddenly and without warning bit the plaintiff’s face, causing significant injuries to her lips and nose. The defendant’s mother immediately drove the plaintiff to the hospital. The defendant and her other friends identified two large pieces of human tissue torn from the plaintiff’s face, retrieved them, and took them to the hospital
Due to the severity of the plaintiff’s injuries, she was transported to a Boston hospital where plastic surgeons assumed her care. The plaintiff underwent surgery that day to reattach a portion of the salvaged tissue in an effort to repair her severed lips and nose. With great skill, the plaintiff’s plastic surgeon successfully reconstituted her lips from the salvaged tissue and a skin graft. The plaintiff required additional surgery months later to further repair and reshape her lips and “debulk” the scar tissue that had formed about her lips and nose. Despite an overwhelmingly successful facial reconstruction, the plaintiff was nevertheless left with visible scars about her lips and nose.
As a result of the severe trauma of the dog bite; the pain associated with recovery; and the realization that the plaintiff was faced with permanent facial scarring, the plaintiff developed post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety requiring counseling sessions and medication.
The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the dog’s owner pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 140, Section 155, the so-called “Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute”. The resolution of this claim was somewhat complicated by an insurance coverage issue. The defendant was covered by a primary homeowner’s policy and by a second policy covering an out-of-state vacation home. The out-of-state insurer initially denied coverage on the grounds that exclusion for claims “arising out of” the premises applied.
Coverage counsel countered that the dog, unlike a pool or guest house, was as transitory as the owners themselves, and would likely be deemed insured by the court in a declaratory judgment action. While no case law on point existed in the foreign state, The reasoning of the court in the Massachusetts case of Callahan v. Quincy Mutual Fire Insurance Co., 50 Mass. App. Ct. 260 (2000) was expected to be relied upon by the plaintiff.
The case was settled approximately one month prior to trial.
Contact Us – Seven Days a Week – To Discuss Your MA Dog Bite Case.
If you have been bitten or attacked by a dog in Massachusetts, contact us for a free confidential case review and receive a response within hours. You can also call our office seven days a week at (617) 886-0500.
In addition to representing victims of dog bites and other related injuries, Parker Scheer also provides highly experienced legal counsel to victims of car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, wrongful death, medical malpractice, pedestrian accidents, slip and fall accidents, and victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. There is never a fee to discuss your case and all information shared with us remains strictly confidential.