Massachusetts Dog Bite Attorneys
Dog bites can leave their victims with lifelong physical and emotional scars, particularly on young children. If you or your child has been bitten by a dog, it’s important to know exactly what your legal rights and options are in Massachusetts. The legal team at DiBella Law Offices, P.C. has been successfully representing Bay State injury victims for nearly two decades and can answer any legal questions you may have. Call the DiBella Law Offices, P.C. today for a free consultation. We have offices in Burlington and Methuen.
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When it comes to dog bites, Massachusetts practices what is called "Strict Liability." This means that a dog’s owner or keeper is automatically responsible for injuries that a dog causes, without having to prove negligence. For example, even if the dog’s owner or keeper showed reasonable care and took steps to restrain the dog and keep it from biting someone, they are still liable for the victim’s injuries.
While most legal action concerning dog bites involves civil law, there are certain occasions when a dog bite may result in criminal charges toward the dog’s owner or keeper. This could happen if the owner or keeper intentionally allowed or encouraged the dog to bite the victim. Depending on the type of dog, unleashing it on another party could be interpreted as assault with a deadly weapon.
There are several instances when a dog’s owner is not liable for a dog bite. Those include instances where the victim was teasing, provoking, or abusing the dog; when the bite victim is trespassing; or when the victim is committing another crime, such as assaulting the dog’s owner.
Most children are drawn to dogs out of curiosity. But at a young age, children are unable to understand that all dogs are not friendly. As a result, the majority of the 4.7 million dog bites that occur in the U.S. each year are suffered by children age 5 to 9. These children are often bitten on the face, head, and neck, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
After a dog bites a child, taking action can be critical to the child’s well-being and recovery. Make sure that you:
- Get the child away from the dog.
- Apply a clean towel to stop the bleeding.
- Call 911 if the bite is serious and requires immediate medical attention.
- Even if you believe that the bite is not serious, take the child to have the bite examined by a doctor.
- Get the name and address of the dog owner and any witnesses to the incident. If possible, get a picture of the dog with your cellphone.
- Report the dog bite to local police or animal control as they will need to contact the owner about the issue.
Also, be sure to constantly check your child for signs of:
- Infection. Early signs of infection can include tenderness and swelling, red streaks near the bite area, fever or chills, oozing from the wound, or loss of sensation around the wound. Seek medical treatment immediately if any of the symptoms present or you believe that your child is experiencing other issues that could be related to the bite.
- Emotional trauma. This can include fear of all dogs or nightmares. Talking to your child about the incident and ways to prevent a future bite can be very helpful. Giving your child a plan of action can be empowering. If the issues persist, you may need to seek assistance from a counselor.
- Scarring. As most children are bitten on the face, head, or neck, these scars can not only be a reminder of the trauma but also a reason for your child to become self-conscious. Children can be teased or bullied for differences in their appearance. Your child’s doctor can provide more information about how and when to consider corrective measures to eliminate visible scars.
If you or a family member has been bitten by a dog, you may be facing extensive medical costs for plastic and reconstructive surgeries, physical therapy, permanent injury or handicap, psychiatric counseling, and more. You may also have to miss a significant amount of work which will cause you significant financial hardship. And, a severe bite to the hand resulting in nerve damage may cause you to give up your vocation or hinder your ability to enjoy life (play the guitar, sew, play tennis, etc.). All of these potential damages deserve compensation from the dog’s owner and their insurance company.
Attorneys at the DiBella Law Offices, P.C. are no strangers to dog bite claims. In one case the firm handled, a client was babysitting when she was bitten in the face by the homeowner’s dog. The woman was sent to the hospital where she received over 200 stitches and a plastic surgeon was called in. Our attorneys settled the case for $150,000 plus payment for medical bills and other expenses.
The average dog’s bite weighs in at 325 pounds per square inch, but some dogs, like the mastiff, can bite as hard as 500 pounds per square inch. That’s enough power to do some serious damage. If you or a loved one has suffered a dog bite, please call the Massachusetts personal injury attorneys at the DiBella Law Offices, P.C. for a free case evaluation.
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- What to Do When Your Neighbor’s Dog Attacks
- What Dog Breeds Are Most Dangerous?
- Preventing Dog Bites and Aggression in MA
- Massachusetts Law About Animals
- Dog Bite Prevention - American Veterinary Medical Association