Dog Bite Attorney Boston
Our Law Firm Assists Victims of Dog Attacks in Boston, Worcester, Holyoke and throughout Massachusetts
A dog attack can be a frightening and life-changing experience. Our dog bite lawyers in Boston know this because we have listened to individuals and families from Boston and Worcester to Springfield and Pittsfield. Injuries from dog attacks can lead to permanent scarring, disfigurement and emotional trauma. In many cases, they involve small children. There is no question that a dog bite is a serious legal matter. That’s we encourage you to contact the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone. We work aggressively for our clients to help them pursue compensation.
If you or your loved one was bitten, you know that money will not pay for his or her tears – and you should not have to pay for the unexpected medical bills. The hard-hitting dog bite attorneys at the Law Office of Mark E. Salomone will advocate for the victims of dog bites. We remain dedicated to returning the maximum compensation for your injury and suffering.
When Is a Dog Owner Liable?
What to Do If Dog Bites You
Preventing Dog Attacks
Compensation for Your Dog Bite
What happens when a dog bites and injures someone? In most — but not all — instances, dog owners are financially liable for any injury or property damage their pets cause.
Here’s what you need to know about dog-induced injury and liability, no matter which side of the leash you’re on.
More than half of U.S. states have laws that make dog owners liable almost any time their dogs injure someone. Although commonly called dog-bite statutes, many of these laws cover all kinds of dog-inflicted injuries, not just bites.
Dog-bite statutes are “strict liability” statutes because they impose liability without fault. That is, an injured person does not have to prove that the dog owner did anything wrong, just that the dog caused the injury. Typically, dog owners are liable under a dog-bite statute only if the dog directly caused the injury.
The One-Bite Rule
This misleadingly named rule (dogs don’t necessarily get one “free” bite before the owner becomes liable, as discussed below) makes an owner legally responsible for an injury caused by a dog only if the owner knew the dog was likely to cause that type of injury — for example, that the dog would be likely to bite. The victim must prove that the owner knew the dog was dangerous.
This rule, developed in court cases over many years, comes into play only if the state has no dog-bite statute or if the statute doesn’t apply — for example, if the statute covers only bites, and the dog caused the injury by knocking someone down.
How does an owner know a dog is dangerous? The dog doesn’t have to have already bitten someone. Other indications that might lead a court to believe the owner knew the dog was dangerous include:
- The dog threatens people. The owner of a dog that often growls and snaps at people in public but hasn’t ever actually bitten someone is on notice that the dog might bite someone. If the dog does bite, the owner will be liable.
- The dog jumps on people. The owner of a friendly, playful, large dog which is in the habit of jumping on house guests will be liable if the exuberant dog injures someone. Keep in mind that the motivation of the dog is unimportant for legal purposes — it doesn’t matter that the dog who knocked you down a flight of stairs was just trying to be friendly. An owner who knew that the dog behaved this way and might injure someone because of its size will be liable.
- The dog frightens people. If a dog habitually runs along the fence between the yard and the sidewalk while barking furiously or chases pedestrians or bicyclists, the owner may be liable if the dog causes an injury.
- The dog has been trained to fight. If a dog has been trained to fight, a court will almost certainly conclude that the owner should have known that the dog was dangerous. (Not all fighting dogs are aggressive toward people. However, a dog that has been agitated and abused by someone who wants the dog to fight may well be dangerous.)
- There have been complaints about the dog. If neighbors or others complain to the owner that a dog has threatened or bitten someone, the owner would certainly be on notice that the dog is dangerous.
- The dog’s breed is considered to be dangerous. Generally, courts don’t consider dogs of certain breeds to be inherently dangerous, but in some places, pit bulls, rottweilers, and a few other breeds have been defined by law as dangerous dogs.
Negligence is the third legal doctrine under which a dog owner may be found liable for injuries caused by a dog. A dog owner who is negligent (unreasonably careless) in handling a dog may be legally responsible if somebody is hurt and a reasonable owner would have foreseen the possibility of injury.
When it comes to defining negligence, broad rules are of little help. Whether or not someone acted negligently is a question that must be answered based on the facts of the situation. It’s possible that an owner of a certain breed of dog can be found negligent for not taking special precautions to prevent the dog from causing injury.
A Dog Owner’s Legal Defenses
If you are a dog owner whose dog has bitten someone, you may be able to defend yourself against the victim’s assertion that you are liable for the injuries. However, not all defenses can be used in all states and all situations. For example, some defenses may be available if the dog owner’s liability is based on a case law (“common law”) theory, but not under a dog-bite statute.
When defending against a dog bite claim, a dog owner should pay attention to who has the burden of proof: that is, which party is required to prove that its version of events is true. For example, some dog-bite statutes require the victim to prove that he or she wasn’t at fault; the dog owner doesn’t have to prove the victim was at fault.
The injured person provoked the dog. Some acts — for example, hitting or teasing a dog — can almost always get the dog and its owner off the hook. However, innocent and unintentional provocation of a dog (for example, accidentally stepping on a dog’s tail) can also count as provocation that may let the dog owner off the hook. The motivation of the injured person is irrelevant to whether the dog was provoked.
The injured person knowingly took the risk of being injured by the dog. If you warn a visitor that your dog, which is in the back yard, might bite a stranger, or if you post a warning sign, you have a good argument that anyone who gets injured took on the risk of injury, knowingly.
In addition, people who make a living working with dogs — groomers, pet sitters, veterinarians, or kennel operators, for example — are generally presumed to voluntarily take the risk of a dog bite. However, in some states with dog-bite statutes, the owner is still liable even if the injured party knowingly took the risk.
The injured person was trespassing. In most states, dog owners aren’t liable to trespassers who are injured by a dog. However, unless you warn people off your property with signs or locked gates, you are considered to have given an “implied invitation” to members of the public to approach your door on common errands — for example, to speak with you, to try to sell you something, or to ask directions.
A general rule is that a dog owner who could reasonably expect someone to be on the property is probably going to be liable for any injury that person suffers. This rule is particularly important when it comes to children: There is a legal responsibility either to prevent the child from coming on the property or to keep the dog from injuring the child.
The injured person was unreasonably careless, and that carelessness contributed to the injury. The owner may not be liable if, for example, the injured person ignored a “Beware of Dog” sign.
Prevention: The Best Remedy
Probably the most important piece of advice when it comes to legal liability for dog bites is this: Do all you can to prevent your dog from injuring others and do all you can to prevent yourself from becoming a dog bite victim. Take appropriate precautions and teach children how to behave around dogs. To learn more about ways to prevent your dog from biting or injuring others, read How Dog Owners Can Avoid a Lawsuit.
When you’ve been bitten by a dog, emotions can run high. Fear, panic, anxiety and physical pain can distract you from taking the important steps necessary after your dog bite.
- First, identify the dog that bit you and who the owner is.
- Then, go to the doctor and have your physical issues addressed.
- Then, report the incident to your local animal control center and/or police department. Note the date you filed the report and with whom you spoke.
- Finally, call the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone to begin the process of seeking compensation for the injuries and losses suffered.
It is also extremely important to take photos of your injuries and the accident location. If you can without putting yourself in additional danger, take pictures of the dog that bit you. The Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone may take additional photos to properly document the case.
As an owner, there are steps you can take to minimize the possibility of your dog attacking someone:
- Spay or neuter your dog.
- Do not teach your dog to play roughly.
- Be sure your dog has up-to-date vaccinations.
- Take your dog to obedience classes so it becomes accustomed to obeying voice commands.
- Never leave babies or small children with a dog unless there is an adult with them.
- Keep your dog in a fenced yard, do not allow it to roam.
You might be wondering what your dog bite case is worth. The value of your dog bite claim could depend on a variety of factors. An attorney can consult with experts and look at the nature of the injuries. Some dog bite injuries require surgery and may involve permanent damage to the extremities. They might result in loss of fingers or toes and permanent facial scars. The injuries can affect past and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages or loss of earning capacity and past and future pain, suffering, disfigurement and disability. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss your circumstances.
Value of your Dog Bite Claim
Because most dog bite claims are settled by the pet owner’s homeowner insurance, a dog bite lawyer with our firm can deal with the insurance company and ensure you receive the settlement you deserve.
If you or a loved one has been viciously attacked by a dog in Massachusetts, a dog bite lawyer will help you get compensation for:
- Pain and suffering
- Medical expenses
- Emotional trauma and anguish
- scarring / disfigurement
- Lost wages
Insurance Companies and Dog Bites
In some cases, you or your child might get injured by a friend, neighbor or family member’s dog. You might feel extremely reluctant to file a dog bite lawsuit against someone you know. Keep in mind, however, that dog bite claims typically involve a negotiation between your attorney and the insurance company. Generally, a homeowner’s insurance policy will cover the losses. We use discretion and skillfully negotiate with the insurance company to obtain a fair settlement.
Most homeowner insurance policies cover dog bite claims. In fact, under Massachusetts law the owner of the dog is strictly liable for any injuries.
The law also recognizes the right for the victim of a dog attack to pursue non-owners of property such as landlords that knowingly allow dangerous dogs to be kept on the property.
Though you may be able to collect from the dog owner’s insurance company, do not sign anything until you speak with one of our experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone. You may be due more than what the insurance company has to offer you.
Contact a Massachusetts Dog Bite Lawyer at the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone
At the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone, serving Boston, Worcester, Springfield, and communities throughout Massachusetts, an experienced Boston dog bite attorney can fight for your rights and get the compensation you deserve.
Remember, your initial consultation is free, and you don’t pay us unless you win.