A dog bite is a very traumatic experience and may result in permanent physical injuries, such as scarring, as well as permanent psychological trauma. If a bicyclist is chased by a dog, the bicyclist may lose control of the bicycle and fall, causing other serious injuries. In some cases, the injury may require cosmetic surgery in order to prevent permanent disfigurement.
Under Massachusetts law, the owner or keeper of a dog is strictly liable for personal injuries, including scarring, caused by a dog attack. This means that it is not necessary to prove that the dog owner was negligent or even that the dog has bitten anyone before, or that the dog is vicious. It is necessary to prove that the defendant was the owner or keeper of the dog. It is a defense to a dog bite claim that the victim was teasing or tormenting the dog (unless the victim is under the age of seven), or that the injured person was trespassing at the time of the attack.
In many cases, dog bite claims are covered by the dog owner’s homeowner’s or tenant’s insurance policy. In Massachusetts, many homeowner’s insurance policies will cover the claim for injuries and also pay the injured person’s medical bills under coverage known as Medical Payments coverage.
Attorney Patricia Watson has successfully represented both children and adults who have been injured as a result of dog bites.
Steps to take if you or your loved one is bitten or attacked by a dog:
If your injuries are serious or life threatening, the first thing you should do is to seek immediate medical treatment. If you are unable to drive to the nearest emergency room, call 911.
It is important to identify the owner of the dog. If the owner is present at the time of the incident, try to get his or her name, address and telephone number and ask for proof that the dog is current on it’s vaccinations. If you can’t identify the dog’s owner, the local animal control officer will help you to identify the owner and determine if the dog has been vaccinated against rabies. If it has not, the dog officer may order the dog to be quarantined.
The value of a dog bite claim depends upon the severity of the injuries, the degree of scarring, and whether or not the victim developed any complications, such as an infection. It usually takes about twelve months for a scar to fully mature, which is important to determining the value of your claim, as well as determining whether any further cosmetic surgery will be needed. For this reason, we do not recommend settling your claim until your doctor says you are fully healed. At this point, your attorney will make a demand for settlement and attempt to negotiate a settlement with the dog owner’s insurance company. If the dog owner does not have insurance, or if the insurance policy has a clause excluding dog bites, your only option may be to sue the dog owner individually. If the dog owner does not own property, it may not be worth pursuing him or her individually.
The statute of limitations for dog bite cases is three years in Massachusetts, which may be extended in cases where the victim is a minor.
If you or your loved one has been bitten or attacked by a dog, contact our office today for a free consultation with an experienced Massachusetts dog bite attorney. You can call us at 978-462-3177 or use our contact form here.