Massachusetts Dog Bite Attorneys
How to File a Dog Bite Lawsuit in MA
Each year, more than four million people are the victims of dog bites. Nearly a million dog bite victims a year require medical attention for their injuries. About half of dog bite victims who require medical attention are children. When a dog bites a person, the owner is generally held responsible, and victims have the legal right to be compensated for their injuries or damages to their property. For more than 25 years, the Massachusetts personal injury attorneys of Lynch & Owens have worked tirelessly to bring justice and proper compensation for their clients.
If you have been the victim of a dog attack by a negligent owner, you may be entitled to:
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering damages
- Lost wages
- Future plastic surgeries
Injuries Caused by Dogs in Massachusetts
Unlike states with the so-called “one bite free” rule, Massachusetts imposes strict liability on dog owners, regardless of the dog’s history or breed. Dog owners in Massachusetts are subject to a variety of statutes, rules, and regulations. The Massachusetts dog bite statute, MGL c.140, s.155, assigns “strict liability” for dog bites that are not the result of trespassing, teasing, or taunting, with particularly strict provisions for dog bites involving children under seven. Licensing and registration of dogs is provided under MGL c.140, s.137, and rabies vaccination rules are provided under MGL c.140, s.145A. In many dog bite cases, the pain of an initial bite is compounded by stress, expense and painful shots following a bite by an unvaccinated dogs.
Dog Bite Coverage: Homeowner’s Insurance
According to the Insurance Information Institute, over a third of all U.S. homeowners insurance claims, a staggering $530 million, were paid to dog bite victims in 2014. The average cost of a U.S. dog bite claim was $32,072 in 2014, up 15% from 2013. The increasing cost of dog bites is not a short-term trend. From 2003 to 2014, insurance payments for dog bite claims jumped 67%, including settlements, jury awards and judgments.
As a result of the explosion in dog bite claims, many insurance companies have quietly begun inserting exclusions or exceptions to dog bite coverage into homeowners insurance policies. If you are a large dog owner, you should check your policy, particularly if you have small children. One of the most common claims involve large dogs biting the unfamiliar playmates of the owner’s young children. Even if you are certain your dog would never bite your child, even the most tolerant dog may pose a bite-risk to an unfamiliar child. Nationwide, homeowners insurance pay an average of 15,000 claims a year for dog-related injuries. Make sure your homeowners insurance policy includes coverage for your pet, or you may face personal liability for any injuries caused by your dog.
When Dogs Knock Down Children, Elderly People & Cyclists
Everyone has met a friendly-but-hyper puppy who enthusiastically jumps on every new person he or she meets. If a dog injures a person by jumping, tripping, or knocking the person over, the dog’s owner is likely to be held liable.
It is important to note that so-called “Massachusetts dog bite statute”, MGL c.140, s.155, does not use the word “bite”, where the statute provides:
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.
Under Massachusetts law, dog owners are strictly liable for injuries arising out of accidental or even friendly dog behavior. This includes injuries to children, elderly individuals, cyclists, or bystanders who are injured as a result of a dog, even if no bite occurred. If you are injured in accident that involved a dog, you should consult with an attorney. Unlike “slip and fall” cases in which property owners are afforded substantial protection, dog owners are strictly liable for most injuries caused by their pet, whether at home or on a public street.
Sensitive Reality: Dog Bites Cases Involving Friends & Neighbors
One unique feature of dog bite cases is how frequently the bite involves the beloved pet of a friend, neighbor, or family member. The last thing most people want to do is file suit against the parents of their child’s classmate or a friendly neighbor. The dog’s owner, in these cases, is often terrified that their dog might be put down, and the social and personal repercussions of filing suit, even if the dog owner’s homeowner's insurance will cover the damages, is a real and legitimate concern for plaintiffs. Attorney Lynch and Galas understand the difficult emotions and sensitivities present in dog bite cases involving friends, family members, and neighbors. We understand that demonizing a person’s beloved pet can be counterproductive, and we seek to settle claims arising out of dog bites in a manner that avoids unnecessary stress or conflict for our clients. Our goal is to obtain compensation for our client’s injuries, not “prosecute” an animal owned by a generally responsible pet-owner.
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