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Dog Bite Accidents

How To File an Insurance Claim for a Dog Bite in Massachusetts or New Hampshire

John Maher:  Hi, I’m John Maher, and today I’m here with Robert Mazow and Kevin McCullough, of the Law Firm of Mazow‑McCullough, a personal injury law firm, with offices in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Robert and Kevin have a great deal of experience as dog bite attorneys, and today we’re going to be talking about how to file an insurance claim for a dog bite in Massachusetts or New Hampshire. Kevin and Robert, welcome.

Robert Mazow:  Thank you.

Kevin McCullough:  Thank you, John.

 

What Types of Insurance Will Cover a Dog Bite in Massachusetts

John:  In terms of insurance, what types of insurance cover dog bite incidents?

Kevin:  The type of insurance that comes into play for dog bite claims involves homeowner’s insurance coverage. You can also be a tenant in a property and have tenant’s coverage. We typically see homeowner’s insurance policies regarding dog bite claims.

John:  Is there a reason why it’s not as much in terms of landlords and things like that? Do people tend not to have pets when they’re in apartment buildings as much?

Kevin:  I think the part that really deters tenants from having dogs is the rental agreements that come into play. A lot of the tenants may live in multi‑complex facilities, and a lot of property owners just don’t want to have the headaches that come involved with dog owners, whether it’s cleaning up, dealing with other tenants, and dogs barking. We routinely see that with the homeowner’s side of things.

John:  OK.

Robert:  I think sometimes an issue that comes up with the tenants [is] that they don’t always tell the landlord that they might have a dog in the apartment or the building, which tends to lead to no homeowner’s insurance coverage applying, which can be an issue.

John:  How can a dog bite victim file an insurance claim for a dog bite?

Kevin:  The dog bite victim wants to make sure they gather as much information that they can regarding the dog itself, whether it’s a description of the dog, getting information from the leash, and also getting the information of the dog owner.

Sometimes, it may involve the handler of a dog, or someone who’s walking the dog, who may not be the actual owner. But it is very important in regards to presenting a claim to gather the information regarding the owner, the address, and if possible, the insurance information.

Robert:  Sometimes, I think the severity of the attack, or the bite, will lead to the police coming to the scene as well, and the police can gather the information. If the victim is, unfortunately, taken away by ambulance or has to go to the emergency room, they can later contact the police department or the animal control officer to get the information necessary to file a claim.

 

Should You Contact An Attorney Before Filing a Dog Bite Claim?

John:  Do you think it’s important that somebody contact an attorney before they file an insurance claim? Are there ways in which that you as an attorney can help somebody to file that claim?

Robert:  I think the answer depends. If it’s a minor injury that doesn’t require medical attention, then I wouldn’t suggest that an attorney is necessary.

However, the dog bite incidents that we tend to see have very severe injuries, severe consequences. In that case, I would highly recommend speaking to a knowledgeable attorney to be the liaison between yourself, the victim of the dog bite, and the insurance company. [This is] just to make sure that everything is done properly and that nobody is taken advantage of, and that medical bills are taken care of and that any payment for scarring or permanent disability is covered.

 

Statute of Limitations on Dog Bite Claims in Massachusetts and New Hampshire

John:  Is there a statute of limitations on a dog bite claim in Massachusetts or in New Hampshire? We should say that a statute of limitations is how long after the incident occurs before you’re no longer able to bring a case up regarding that incident? Is that correct?

Kevin:  That’s correct. The statute of limitations acts as a legal bar, protecting defendants or dog owners, and it requires that a claim be either settled or filed at the courts within a certain time frame. In Massachusetts, the statute of limitations for dog bite claims is three years.

However, there is an exception to that for minors, [or] people who are under 18 years of age. The statute of limitations for dog bite claims for a minor doesn’t actually start to run until their 18th birthday. In that situation it would be three years from the 18th birthday.

The law is very similar in New Hampshire in that the statute of limitations is three years, with the same exception for minors.

Minors and Dog Bite Claims

John:  Would that mean that [if] you were a minor and you were injured in a dog bite incident, but your parents never brought that case to court, when you turn 18, would you then be able to turn around and file a claim?

Kevin:  That’s a great question, John, and something that we have run into in the past. Yes, in fact, if a child suffers a dog bite or a dog attack, and maybe the parents [didn’t file a claim because they] were friendly with the dog owner or maybe they were tenants at a particular property and didn’t want to disrupt what was going on around them. In that situation, definitely, the person who [was bitten] would have the ability to present a claim for up to three years after their 18th birthday.

What to Do If the Owner of the Dog Who Bit You Does Not Have Insurance

John:  When you’re filing a claim for insurance, obviously, you’re trying to get the dog owner to have their insurance compensate you for your injuries, your medical expenses, et cetera. What should a dog bite victim do if the dog’s owner does not have insurance?

Kevin:  One of the things that we think separates us from other attorneys is trying to gather information to see if there are other potential defendants. Oftentimes, the dog or dog owner may be at someone else’s property at the time of the attack.

They may be at a public event at the time of the bite or the attack. Taking a step back, you want to make sure when you’re evaluating a claim as an attorney and helping a victim of a dog bite or dog attack that you find out and gather as much information as you can to see if, in fact, other people may be responsible.

The best example of that is someone who is in charge of walking the dog, a dog walker. That may be a business, an actual corporate entity, or it could just be a local neighbor or someone walking the dog who may have their own insurance and they may take on the responsibility of that incident.

That’s the first step in evaluating whether or not there is coverage. Ultimately, if you determine there is no insurance coverage to go after, it can be tricky, but you still want to find out as much information as you can.

Again, as Robert mentioned earlier, depending upon the severity of the injury, whether or not that dog owner, or that handler, has any assets to pursue or other coverage that may be available to help pay medical bills [and] lost wages, or help compensate the dog victim.

Robert:  There are just two important points that I want to try and hone what Kevin said. The statue in Massachusetts is not just limited to the dog owner. If the dog owner does not have insurance coverage, but they’re having their son take the dog for a walk, and the son has his own homeowner’s coverage, and during the time that the son has control of the dog, the son’s homeowner’s policy could come into play.

It’s not just the owner. It’s the keeper. I think people sometimes miss that nuance in the statue that if a keeper of the dog has control of the dog at the time of the incident, then they are responsible. It could be a groomer, or dog daycare, or just a neighbor walking the dog.

The legislature wants to make sure that people are protected, and that’s why they’ve added the language for adding the keeper.

The other issue is that if a person doesn’t have homeowner’s coverage, that doesn’t prevent you from making a claim. Ultimately, it is the dog owner or keeper that is responsible, and you are entitled to seek compensation directly from them if they happen to have assets that are recoverable.

John:  All right, really great information, Kevin and Robert. Thanks very much for speaking with me.

Robert:  Thank you.

John:  For more information on dog bite cases, or other personal injury cases, visit the firm’s website, at helpinginjured.com, or call 855‑693‑9084

How to Get Maximum Compensation for a Dog Bite

 

John Maher:  Hi, I’m John Maher, and today I’m here with Robert Mazow and Kevin McCullough, of the Law Firm of Mazow‑McCullough, a personal injury law firm, with offices in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Robert and Kevin have a great deal of experience as dog bite attorneys, and today we’re going to be talking about how to get the maximum compensation for a dog bite. Welcome, Robert and Kevin.

Robert Mazow:  Thank you.

Kevin McCullough:  Thanks for having us.

 

Legal Strategies For Maximum Compensation for a Dog Bite

John:  Sure. What legal strategies might you use to help a dog bite victim get the most compensation possible?

Kevin:  Like any case, compensation is based upon a variety of factors. With dog bites, in particular, many times we’re talking about permanent scarring, sometimes, unfortunately, loss of use of a body part. Many times we’re talking about facial scarring [and] nerve damage, depending upon how deep the bite or attack is.

The way we see clients maximize their ability to recover, certainly what they’re entitled to recover for, is using a variety of strategies.

First and foremost, if scarring is involved, getting plastic surgeons involved is critical. We tend to work directly with the plastic surgeon that might have taken care of the victim, have discussions with them about the possibility of future scar revision, to make the scar look less drastic and dramatic. We discuss with them the likelihood of permanent disability, whether or not, in a year or so, somebody’s hand will come back to full capacity.

If the plastic surgeon is either unavailable or unwilling to assist us and the client, we have the ability to retain plastic surgeons [or] experts to work with. We’ll have the client evaluated, and we’ll get an opinion from the plastic surgeon to determine whether or not there’s permanency involved.

I think that is perhaps the most critical point of maximizing compensation is that to make sure that if, in fact, the victim is going to have to go back in for multiple surgeries over the course of [several] years, that the compensation they get now for their injuries is going to have to make up for those future expenses that they’re going to have.

Robert:  Exactly. Either the future expenses, or if there’s nothing that can be done to perhaps revise a scar that’s on somebody’s face, you need to know that because the person will be living with that for the rest of their lives, this is the time that they need to be compensated for that.

If it’s a young child who has a scar on her face, she’s going to have that when she graduates from high school, when she gets married, when she has children. She’s going to have it forever, so that is an important factor when it comes time to seeking compensation for these kinds of injuries.

Kevin:  Robert talked about some of the different components of the damages and the injury, but from a practical perspective as far as legal strategy, I think the most compelling thing when we’re presenting a claim is having the insurance representative, and often times, the insurance defense attorney meet with the client and get a chance to physically inspect the scarring.

Photographic evidence is great, but sometimes it doesn’t show the full extent of an injury. It is along the lines of a strategy, but it really is within the presentment to have the insurance representative come out and meet with the client and take a look at the injury.

 

How Can a Victim Increase the Compensation for a Dog Bite?

John:  That maybe gets us into the next question which is, “Is there anything that a dog bite victim can do to help increase the amount of the settlement?”

Kevin:  Definitely. The dog bite victim can help and assist by listening to the doctors, to make sure they do what they’re supposed to do, which can be cumbersome, taking care of a wound, changing the dressing, [and] doing what is necessary on their part. [Also] keeping that information, retaining it, [and] taking photographic evidence throughout the healing process.

Often times, when we as attorneys are trying to resolve a claim with an insurance adjuster or an insurance defense attorney, and often times a jury, it’s a few years later after the incident and the scarring may look pretty good. It may still be there, but it looks better. We need those people to appreciate what the client went through during that first six months.

Robert:  The healing process, right, I think that’s an important factor. Keeping a journal, perhaps, a photographic journal, would be critical, because like Kevin said, by the time it comes to a jury, it could be many, many years after the incident. It could look a lot better, but the jury, the claim representative, or the defense attorney needs to understand what it was like looking in the mirror every time over those years, to see what this scar looks like.

John:  Is it also to show the jury perhaps that they did everything possible that they could have to resolve the situation? You said it’s important to show that they went to the doctor, that they got advice, that they followed the doctor’s advice, and that’s to show that they did everything in their power to resolve it and get better?

Robert:  Absolutely. Juries, as they should be, are critical. They should be skeptical any time somebody’s making a claim for injury. So if, as Kevin said, the person is not taking care of their scar, is not keeping it covered perhaps when they’re out in the sun, or not caring for it, a jury or a claim representative could be critical of that and say, “Hey, you’ve made this worse.” That would be a way to not maximize the recovery.

 

What to Do When an Insurance Company Offers a Settlement That Is Too Low

John:  What should a dog bite victim do if the insurance company offers a settlement that is lower than the actual damage, like medical bills, et cetera?

Kevin:  The first thing they should do is not be offended. It’s something that the insurance industry does. They assess and evaluate risk, and assess and evaluate claims and injuries. That includes whether or not they paid defense attorneys and whether or not there is an attorney representing the injured party. It’s something that you wish weren’t true, but it is.

If someone who has suffered a dog bite or a dog attack and they’ve gone through the process on their own and they’ve gathered the medical information and submitted their claim to the insurance company, and they’re faced with what they believe to be a low settlement offer, they should certainly speak with an attorney, someone who’s experienced to review that with them.

Because maybe there is an explanation as to why the offer that was made was said to be fair and reasonable, or maybe things just weren’t presented to the insurance company in an effective way.

But if you’re in that position where you’ve gone through that process, and you’ve received what you believe to be a low settlement offer, you should definitely speak with an attorney and go over that and make a plan to move forward and try to maximize your recovery.

John:  Is there an opportunity, in that case, to go back to the insurance company and say, “Hey, I think that’s really too low based on the situation,” and maybe make a counter proposal, or is it a matter of at that point you have to have an attorney and you’re going to be going to court or something?

Robert:  I would always recommend, when you’re dealing with an insurance company, [that] it’s an adversarial relationship. I don’t think that it’s in a victim’s best interest to be negotiating themselves, because it’s hard to be objective.

If it were handled by an experienced attorney, there would certainly be negotiation. The first offer made by the insurance company is very rarely their best offer. The option would be to continue to negotiate. Many times, it may require filing a lawsuit and going through the discovery process, and perhaps seeing, as Kevin said, if there was something that was not presented properly or could have been presented better to the insurance company.

These things are influx. There’s no set schedule as to how to determine a value, so there are multiple ways to continue to negotiate and press forward.

John:  All right, great information. Robert and Kevin, thanks for speaking with me today.

Robert:  Thanks, John.

Kevin:  Thank you, John.

John:  For more information on dog bite cases, or other personal injury cases, visit the firm’s website at helpinginjured.com, or call 855‑693‑9084

Handling a Dog Bite That Occurred When Working in Someone’s Home

 

John Maher:  Hi. I’m John Maher. Today I’m here with Robert Mazow and Kevin McCullough of the “Law Firm of Mazow McCullough,” a personal injury law firm with offices in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Robert and Kevin have a great deal of experience as dog bite attorneys. Today we’re going to be talking about how to handle a dog bite that occurred while you were working in someone’s home.

Robert and Kevin, welcome.

Kevin McCullough:  Thank you, John.

Robert Mazow:  Thank you, John.

When Can a Dog Bite Occur While Working in Someone’s Home?

John:  What should a dog bite victim do if they’re bitten while working in someone’s home? What would be some of the situations where that would come up?

Robert:  As far as the situations that it could come up could be a painter or service repairman, things like that. It is something that does occur frequently, and we deal with it. There is an analysis that needs to be performed, though, because there are different types of insurance that are involved when someone’s working and also bit or attacked by a dog at a private residence.

In the state of Massachusetts, if you are working at the time of an injury, regardless whether it’s a slip and fall, a car accident or a dog attack, you may be entitled to what’s called “Worker’s Compensation insurance” through your employer. In addition to that, in the situation where a worker is bit or attacked at a residence, the homeowner’s insurance for the property owner or dog owner or keeper of the dog at the time would also come into play.

Kevin:  That’s correct.

Is the Owner Responsible For a Dog Bite?

John:  If a dog bites a person working in a home, is the homeowner then responsible for the bite?

Kevin:  Again, it’s a balancing between, if there’s Worker’s Compensation, they would be the first level of coverage for any lost wages or medical bills, but that doesn’t prevent the victim from also making a claim against the homeowner’s insurance of the dog owner or keeper at the time the worker was bit.

What You Need to Know About Workers’ Compensation

John:  Let’s talk about that a little bit more. You’re saying that a dog bite victim would be eligible for Worker’s Compensation, and that’s in addition to damages from a regular insurance claim. Is that right?

Kevin:  The way it generally works is if there is Worker’s Compensation coverage, that would be primary as far as the medical bills, the medical treatment and the lost wages. If there were also to be a settlement or judgment against the homeowner, and payment was made, by the homeowner’s insurance company, then the Worker’s Compensation insurance coverage would be entitled to be reimbursed for some of what it had paid.

There’s no double recovery available here. It’s just an interplay between the two different kinds of insurance coverages. If there happens to be a homeowner’s claim in addition to the Worker’s Compensation claim, then the Worker’s Compensation insurer would be reimbursed.

John:  You’re saying that the first and foremost way that a worker in somebody’s home would be compensated would be through their own Worker’s Compensation. Then, only in the case where you had an additional insurance claim against the homeowner, you could potentially be reimbursed from that and the Worker’s Compensation would be reimbursed by that money.

Kevin:  Exactly. Of course, there’s so many different “what if’s” in that scenario. If it’s a worker that’s just doing some odd jobs for you, the chances are [that] there may not be Worker’s Compensation coverage available. Their first and only line of recovery would be against the homeowner and/or the homeowner’s insurance carrier.

How to File For Worker’s Compensation for a Dog Bite

John:  How does a victim go about filing that? Do they talk to their employer and that’s how they start the process of the Worker’s Compensation claim?

Robert:  Yeah. If a worker is bit or attacked while working at a private residence, the first thing they should do is get the medical treatment that they need. Beyond that, as far as the requirements for notification for claim services, you want to be sure to notify your employer exactly what happened, when it happened and how it happened.

There may be some issues with where the dog was in the property, or some other defenses down the road as far as how the dog may have gotten loose in the home and the incident occurred, but just for purposes of notifying the employer, you want to do that immediately after the medical treatment.

Then, you want to communicate with the property owner or dog owner to make sure that they’re notified of the incident, what happened, how it happened and, if at all possible, get their insurance information to communicate the incident to them, as well.

How Can a Dog Be Kept From Attacking an Outside Worker That Comes to the Home?

John:  Would it be a good idea for property owners who have dogs to make sure that those animals are confined in some way when an outside worker is going to be coming to their house, whether it be putting them in the backyard on a leash, or keeping them confined to a certain room, or something like that?

Kevin:  I can speak to that because I have both a dog and a cat in the house. Whenever we have workers there, my wife makes sure that the dog is kept safe and away. That protects both him and the people that are on the property.

John:  You never know how an animal is going to react when there’s a stranger in the house.

Kevin:  At the end of the day, and I tell this to anybody who comes in with a dog bite, I’m a dog owner and a dog lover, but dogs are unpredictable animals. At any time, no matter how safe they may be, you never know how an animal might react to something that sets them off.

John:  That’s great advice. Again, Robert and Kevin, thanks for speaking with me today.

Robert:  Thank you.

Kevin:  Thank you.

John:  For more information on dog bite cases or other personal injury cases, visit the firm’s website at helpinginjured.com or call 855‑693‑9084.

The Importance of Photographs in a Dog Bite Case

 

John Maher:  Hi. I’m John Maher. Today I’m here with Robert Mazow and Kevin McCullough, of the law firm of Mazow McCullough, a personal injury law firm with offices in Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.

Robert and Kevin have a great deal of experience as dog bite attorneys, and today we’re going to be talking about the importance of photographs in a dog bite case.

Robert and Kevin, welcome.

Robert Mazow:  Thank you, John.

Kevin McCullough:  Thanks for having us.

 

What Makes Photographs So Important in a Dog Bite Case?

John:  Sure. How important are photographs in a dog bite case?

Robert:  It’s probably the most important part of a case, when presenting the physical damages of a dog bite. There’s generally two parts to the dog bite injury – the physical damages and the emotional damages.

The physical damages need to be portrayed in such a way to the insurance company that they understand that there is a scar, where the scar is, how the scar appears during different parts of the day, or different parts of the life of the scar. It’s critical.

John:  I’d have to imagine, too, that the human body being what it is, we start to heal pretty quickly. There’s an incident, you’re bit by a dog, or you have a child that’s bit by a dog, and then within a couple of days, I would imagine that the injuries are going to start to look a little bit better.

They’re going to start to heal a little bit. It would be important to have photographs, right from the beginning of when that incident occurred. Would that be true?

Robert:  I couldn’t agree more. Again, it depends on the depth of the bite, the location of the bite. You are correct that the human body heals miraculously. What a scar might look like in the emergency room is going to look completely different two years later, depending on where the scar is and how deep the scar is.

Kevin and I always suggest keeping a photographic journal of the life of the scar, so you really can keep track of how it looks.

Kevin:  John, as you mentioned, the human body can change dramatically in a few days. It really depends upon where on the body the person may have been bit, and it also can vary dramatically depending upon the age or size of the victim.

Photographic evidence throughout the healing process in the case, and then just preserving that evidence for presentment down the road, is as Rob mentioned, one of the most important factors.

 

Do You Have to Hire a Professional Photographer?

John:  Is it important to hire a professional photographer, or is this something that you can do yourself?

Kevin:  I don’t think it’s necessary to have to hire a professional photographer. If you can capture an accurate image of what the injury really looks like, on your own, or with a professional photographer, that would be suitable.

You just want to make sure the lighting is good, that it really portrays what the victim is dealing with at that given time, [and] when you’re taking the picture.

John:  These days, a lot of people have smart phones with cameras on them. Just about everybody now has access to a camera that’s of pretty decent quality, so you can get some good photographs, even on your own.

Robert:  Yeah. What we’re seeing lately is the client [has the\ ability to take multiple images, [and] email them to us. We can preserve them in our computer file. It actually helps in the settlement process [by] having those photographs available and providing them to the insurance companies.

 

What Type of Photographs Need to Be Taken For a Dog Bite Case?

John:  Are there specific photographs that need to be taken? I’m wondering whether or not you need some more distant shots or some more close up shots of the injuries. What about pictures of the location where the incident happened, things like that?

Robert:  All of that is important. First of all, as far as the kind of photographs, close ups are important. It’s also important that the insurance company sees a picture of the full body, so they can get some perspective on what the person looks like as a whole, as opposed to just a close up of a scar on their arm, or something like that.

It would be also important to somehow capture the date that the photograph was taken. Cameras these days can do that, or the email that it comes with, can automatically set the date that the picture was taken.

As far as the scene, [it’s] less important, but if you’re ultimately going to present the case to a jury, it’s important for the jury to get a feel of the location – if it happened outside, if it happened inside, if it was tight quarters, if it was in a private establishment, [or] in an open field. That would be less important than the actual physical damages.

 

How to Format Dog Bite Photographs

John:  What’s the proper format for photographs, and what photographs should be provided to the victim’s attorney? You talked a little bit about making sure that the date, if possible, is on the pictures. [Are there] any other formats that we need to be thinking about?

Kevin:  The photographs [should] be, what we call authenticated, as far as when they were taken [and] who took the picture. Beyond that, as long as we preserve what we want to preserve within the photograph, and we save that in a manner that we can introduce at trial, we usually don’t run into any particular issue as far as the format.

 

When Should You Stop Taking Pictures?

John:  You mentioned making sure that you have evidence over the course of that injury [as it] is healing. Should you be taking pictures immediately after the incident and then every day after that, or maybe is it weekly?

When do you stop? When do you stop taking pictures?

Robert:  The timing of the pictures can vary dramatically depending upon the severity of the injury, and it will vary from case to case. It is important to capture a few images of the wound early on, so that everyone involved knows what the victim was dealing with.

It can be weekly. It can be monthly. It can be bi‑monthly. It really depends, but as long as there is a timeline of what that victim has gone through at each particular phase, that would be sufficient to present the claim.

John:  That’s great information. Kevin and Robert, thanks for speaking with me today.

Robert:  Thank you, John.

John:  For more information on dog bite cases, or other personal injury cases, visit the firm’s website at helpinginjured.com, or call 855‑693‑9084.

What to Do When a Dog Owner Wants to Handle a Bite Privately

 

John Maher:  Hi. I’m John Maher. Today I’m here with Robert Mazow and Kevin McCullough of the law firm of Mazow McCullough, a personal injury law firm with offices in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Robert and Kevin have a great deal of experience as dog bite attorneys. Today we’re going to be talking about what to do when a dog owner wants to deal with a bite privately. Welcome, Robert and Kevin.

Kevin McCullough:  Thank you.

Robert Mazow:  Thanks, John.

 

Should You Talk to the Dog Owner in Private?

John:  What should a dog bite victim do if the dog’s owner wants to speak with him or her privately, regarding the incident?

Kevin:  As far as communicating and talking with the dog owner, it really would depend upon the relationship between the victim and the dog owner. What I mean by that, is sometimes it can be uncomfortable if it’s a family member or a friend.

On the other end of the spectrum, it could just be a complete stranger. I would strongly recommend to my clients, if they have no connection to the dog owner, [if] it’s not a family member [or] a friend, that they avoid contact with the dog owner.

It’s human nature for someone to want to reach out to make sure that the victim is OK. I think that that’s a fair inquiry. Assuring the dog owner that the victim is OK and will be OK is fair communication.

The difficult part is when the dog owner is a family member or a friend. In that instance, I advise my clients to just be careful. Obviously, you don’t want to create a divide among friends and family members.

But you do want to make sure that, whether it’s you or your child that was bit, that you get the proper medical treatment that you need [and] that you listen to what the medical providers tell you as far as wound care.

Document the bite as best you can, and give as much information to the dog owner as is necessary, ensuring that either you or your child are OK and you’re going to be OK, and keep it limited.

John:  Is there a danger in offering up information about, like you said, saying that you’re OK? Could that dog owner then come back, if it ever did go to court, and say, “Oh, well, I called them to find out whether or not they were all right and they said that they were fine.”

Kevin:  We do frequently see situations when we’re contacted by a bite victim, either a few weeks or a few months after an attack, when there is involvement with the insurance company representatives.

Sometimes the insurance company representatives will be surprised at the extent of the injury, because they’ve either been misinformed by their insured, the dog owner, or they just didn’t truly appreciate what happened.

Oftentimes, there may be a statement that was taken from the dog owner or the victim, where it was stated that, “Yeah, I’m OK. I’m going to be OK.” That’s a fair statement. That’s an honest statement.

But it can be twisted and manipulated sometimes, or just misunderstood by the insurance company representative. You do want to be careful what you say. If it’s recorded, if what you say can potentially be used to defend your claim, it will be by the insurance company.

Again, the difficult part is, if it’s a family member or friend, you do want to still communicate with them. Let them know that things are going to be OK, and that you or the child will be OK from the attack.

John:  All right. Maybe just be honest about what the situation is and say, “Yeah, we had to go to the hospital because there were some injuries, but we’re dealing with it. Ultimately, we’re going to be fine. But we were injured here and we did have to go to the hospital.”

Robert:  It can become very tricky, because, like Kevin says, many times these bites happen with a dog that you know. A child visiting family/friends at Thanksgiving and they’re down, petting the dog. The next thing you know, the dog has bitten their face and caused serious injuries.

It’s a difficult balancing act, I would think, for a parent to decide, “Well, these are family or friends and we want to keep that. However, my child is going to be scarred forever,” so how do you balance that?

We have many difficult conversations with clients when they need to decide what’s in the child’s best interest. If it’s in the child’s best interest to make a claim, that’s what they should do.

If it’s in the client’s best interest to maintain the relationship with the family as best as possible, then that’s the decision that they need to make.

 

Is a Private Settlement With a Dog Owner Possible?

John:  Is it possible to settle with a dog owner privately?

Robert:  It is possible. I don’t recommend it without advice, because an inexperienced person isn’t going to know the extent of what the claim might be worth.

If a child is bit and a person offers a few thousand dollars, that might sound great at the time. But the victim might not appreciate that the scar might be with them forever and that the few thousand dollars being offered now wouldn’t be fair compensation into the future.

John:  Would that offer have a legal binding to it at all? Or could this just be a personal transaction where they wouldn’t necessarily [have to commit to it]. They could offer $3,000 as compensation, but maybe they end up not being able to pay it or they don’t follow through with it.

Robert:  Of course, that’s why you would tread very carefully in a situation like that. If I were the dog owner making a monetary offer of settlement, I would require a release of all claims.

Once I hand over that check and that check cleared, you can no longer go after me. If a dog owner wants to give a victim a few thousand dollars without any protection, then there’s nothing legally binding about that necessarily.

Kevin:  I think the difficulty with dealing with dog owners privately, without an attorney, can be dangerous in the context of a child. Oftentimes, you don’t know how the injury or wound will develop and heal over time, and as the child grows, how the scars may stretch or affect their ability to move, or things like that.

If a parent does resolve a claim with a dog owner privately, on behalf of a child and then the wound or injury is much worse, there could be some legal implications between the parent and the child, the person whom you resolve the case for, whether or not you had the legal ability to do that without the courts involved and approving a settlement, and things like that.

It can be very tricky. It is possible, but it really depends a lot on the age of the victim and the extent of the wound.

 

How to Protect Yourself in a Private Dog Bite Settlement Agreement

John:  What are some of the most important ways then that a dog bite victim can protect themselves in a situation where the dog owner wants to keep things private and speak with you?

Robert:  Again, I would be very careful. If they were some sort of private negotiations, I would certainly consult an attorney, just to make sure that everybody’s rights are protected.

There’s nothing wrong with settling it privately. There’s nothing wrong if there’s no homeowner’s insurance [and] a dog owner steps up and takes responsibility for what his or her dog did.

But, again, especially dealing with a minor, these should be done properly through the courts, for a judge to approve that this is a fair settlement.

If somebody came to our office and wanted to do something privately, I would tell them, “Well, let’s just be very careful before we go ahead and do that.”

John:  Right. That’s great information, Robert and Kevin. Thanks again for speaking with me, today.

Robert:  Thanks, John.

Kevin:  Thank you, John.

John:  For more information on dog bite cases and other personal injury cases, visit the firm’s website at helpinginjured.com or call 855‑693‑9084.

Dog Bite Law & Injury Podcasts

Barking-Dog

Every year thousands of adults and children are bitten by dogs all across the country. Dog bite injuries can be significant and traumatic. In many of these cases, the person bitten by a dog can take legal action against the responsible party in order to help recover damages. Taking legal action in the event of a dog bite injury, however, can be a complicated and confusing task.

That’s why our experienced dog bite law attorneys have recorded the podcasts below to help explain aspects of dog bite law that you might need to know about – such as the extent of the dog owners liability and the importance of documenting the incident – and to outline what legal action you can take to address yours, or your loved ones’, injuries.
 
 
When a dog bite occurs, certain laws apply as far as the dog owner’s liability and where compensation is concerned. But what should you do if the owner of the dog that bit you wants to deal with the situation privately, outside of insurance policies and attorneys?

audio-speakerListen to: What to do when a Dog Owner Wants to Handle a Bite Privately

When you are injured, it’s important to document as much as you can about the incident, including your physical injuries. The same is true in a dog bite case. Taking photographs is a simple yet effective way to clearly illustrate the severity of the injuries caused by the dog for future reference.

audio-speakerListen to: The Importance of Photographs in a Dog Bite Case

A dog bite can be a frightening incident, especially if serious injuries occur. If you were bitten by a dog while working in someone’s home, you may be able to take legal action.Here’s what you need to know.

audio-speakerListen to: Handling a Dog Bite That Occurred When Working in Someone’s Home

Being bitten by a dog can cause critical injuries, many of which are costly. Time away from work and permanent damage can further add to the costs of the incident. If you’ve been attacked by a dog, here’s how to get the maximum compensation for a dog bite.

audio-speakerListen to: How to Get Maximum Compensation for a Dog Bite

If you or a loved one have been attacked by a dog, you may have legal recourse. However, the process of obtaining compensation for damages can be lengthy and complex. Here’s how you can file an insurance claim for a dog bite in Massachusetts or New Hampshire.

audio-speakerListen to: How To File an Insurance Claim for a Dog Bite in Massachusetts or New Hampshire

Being bitten by a dog is a frightening experience. However, pursuing a claim against the owner of the dog can be even more so, especially if the dog’s owner attempts to mount a strong defense. Here are several common defenses in dog bite cases.

audio-speakerListen to: Common Defenses in Dog Bite Cases

Photo credit: chefjancris / Foter / CC BY

What Types of Damage Will a Dog Bite Claim Cover?

Potentially Dangerous DogWhile some dog bites are minor, resulting in little more than a few scrapes and hurt feelings, others can be serious, resulting in significant physical, emotional, and financial damages. When a dog attacks an adult or a child, it is important to get medical care as soon as possible. However, many families find that they are unable to afford the costs associated with a critical dog bite.

In Massachusetts, a dog bite claim may be able to be brought forward in order for the victim and their family to obtain financial compensation to help cover costs. Here’s what you need to know about the types of damages a dog bite claim may cover.

1. Medical Care

The chief damages that a dog bite claim is designed to cover are the medical costs associated with the attack. This can include hospitalization, surgical procedures, doctor’s visits, physical therapy, and other medical costs.

If you or a loved one have been attacked by a dog, it is imperative that you keep diligent records of all medical treatment and related costs. Make copies of your medical bills and submit them to your Massachusetts dog bite attorney in order to help increase the value of your dog bite claim.

2. Scarring and Disfigurement

Unfortunately, all dog bites involve some form of scarring. Depending upon the size of the dog and the extent of the attack, the scarring can be gruesome and traumatic. Scars can be physically painful to the touch and also emotionally painful to look at. This type of injury and damage resulting from a dog attack is why you need an experienced attorney to represent your interests. It is vital to consider future medical treatment and scar revision surgery when evaluating a dog attack case for purposes of settlement.

3. Emotional Trauma

Often, dog attacks will create significant emotional trauma for the victim, especially if the victim is a child. The victim may become afraid of dogs, or be apprehensive about going to places where dogs may be present. If you or your loved one have suffered any kind of emotional challenges as a result of the attack, it is important that you seek counseling or psychological care.

Costs for these services may be able to be included on your dog bite claim if it is clear that you are obtaining counseling or psychological care directly in relation to the attack. Additionally, the court may award you damages simply for pain and suffering. Discuss how these damages may be able to increase the value of your dog bite claim with an experienced personal injury attorney.

Contact Mazow & McCullough Today

At Mazow & McCullough, we work with dog bite victims and their families every day. Our goal is to help dog bite victims obtain the highest settlement possible from the attack in order to cover all related damages. When you consult with us, we will evaluate the circumstances surrounding the attack and determine who may be held liable for your injuries.

We will work hard to exhaust every possible resource for financial compensation, and we will guide you through the process of bringing forward a claim for maximum damages. Call us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your legal needs with an experienced dog bite lawyer.

Photo credit: State Farm / Foter / CC BY

Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute

Angry Shiba Inu

Many states do not have specific laws related to dog bite liability, and when dog attacks occur, it can be difficult to who may be held liable for damages. Massachusetts, however, has a specific dog bite statute. Massachusetts is also a strict liability state. Here’s what you need to know about the state’s dog bite laws and how strict liability may affect your case.

Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute

The dog bite statutes are listed in Massachusetts General Laws in Chapter 40, Section 155. This law states that the dog’s “owner or keeper” is liable for damages if their dog bites, attacks, or injures another person. However, two basic criteria must be met in order for the statute to apply:

  • The dog must have caused property damage or injury
  • The victim of the attack must not have been trespassing or provoking the dog

While many people assume that a dog must bite in order to qualify for damages, this is not necessarily true. Massachusetts law covers any injury or property damage caused by a dog, even if the dog is being friendly. For example, if a friend’s dog jumps on you playfully but knocks you down and causes you to hit your head on the concrete, your friend could be held liable for your medical care and other damages related to the incident.

What Is Strict Liability?

Generally speaking, there are two approaches to dog bite liability. Each state handles dog bite incidents differently.

Negligence

In states that use negligence as the basis for dog bite liability, an owner must have previous knowledge that the dog was vicious or would bite and neglected to protect others from the risk. For example, if a dog owner knows that their dog is vicious and has bitten before, and allows their dog to roam at large, they may be held liable for damages.

Strict Liability

In states that use strict liability as the basis for dog bite liability, a dog owner does not have to have previous knowledge that the dog was vicious or would bite. They are held liable for their dog’s actions, regardless of whether the dog is known to be friendly or vicious.

How Does Strict Liability Affect a Dog Bite Claim?

In Massachusetts and other states that use strict liability, it is much easier to bring forward a claim for damages caused by a dog attack. Since Massachusetts law considers owners to be liable for their dog’s actions in all cases, you do not have to prove that the owner was negligent in the care of their dog. You simply have to prove that the dog that attacked you belonged to the owner in question.

Contact Mazow & McCullough Today

At Mazow & McCullough, we have an innate understanding of strict liability and Massachusetts dog bite law. When you consult with us, we will thoroughly review the facts of your case and help you take the next step in bringing forward a claim for compensation.

Our goal is to help you get the full and fair financial restitution you deserve for your injuries and related trauma. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to speak with an experienced dog bite lawyer.
Photo credit: boltron- / Foter / CC BY-SA

How To Keep Your Dog From Biting Someone Else

How to Keep Your Dog From Biting Someone ElseBeing a dog owner requires a high level of responsibility. Not only do you need to ensure that your pet is adequately fed, watered, groomed, and is in good health, you must also train your dog to behave well in a variety of situations. Although you can never truly be certain that your dog will never attack or bite someone else, being proactive can reduce the chances that your dog will harm another person. Here’s how you can help keep your dog from biting you, a member of your family, a friend, or even a stranger.

Get Your Dog Spayed or Neutered As Soon As Possible

Statistics show that unneutered male dogs are the most likely to attack a person. However, female dogs who are not spayed are also highly likely to bite. As a dog owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that your dog is spayed or neutered at the appropriate age.

When you take your puppy or adopted dog into the vet for their first examination, discuss spaying or neutering your pet with the veterinarian. Your veterinarian will make a recommendation on when to neuter or spay your dog and can help you set up an appointment for the procedure.

Make Sure Your Dog Is Adequately Socialized From an Early Age

Socialization is critical for dogs, especially those who will be around small children. Start socializing your dog as soon as possible, since socialization is most effective when it occurs when the dog is young. Expose your dog at an early age to a variety of situations, including being walked at the park with other dogs and children, being over at a friend’s house, having people over to your home, and other normal social situations.

By ensuring that your dog is comfortable in many different social scenarios, you can reduce the chances that your dog will become frightened or aggressive when they are exposed to these situations later on in their life.

Provide Your Dog with Consistent Training

Consistent training is another must for responsible dog ownership. Whether you choose to train your dog yourself or have your dog enrolled in professional training, it is important that your pup understand basic commands like “sit,” “stay,” “no,” “heel,” and more. When your dog learns to obey your commands without question and in any situation, you can reduce the risk that your dog will attack when he begins to show discomfort or aggression.

What to Do If Your Dog Bites Someone

Massachusetts is a strict liability state, meaning that if your dog attacks, bites, or otherwise injures another person, you will be held liable for the resulting damages. If your dog has bitten or attacked another person, it is critical that you obtain legal advice as soon as possible.

For more information take a look at our Dog Bite Resources page

Photo credit: markhillary / Foter / CC BY

3 Things to Do When You Can’t Identify the Owner of a Dog That Bit You

3 Things to Do When You Can’t Identify the Owner of a Dog That Bit YouBeing bitten by dog is a frightening experience. If you or a loved one were bitten by a dog, the most important thing is to receive medical care right away. After your condition is stabilized, the next critical step is to identify the dog that bit you. However, in some cases, the dog is a stray or it is unknown who the owner of the dog is. Here’s what you need to do if you cannot identify the dog that bit you right away.

1. Ask Around the Neighborhood

If you don’t know the dog that attacked you or your loved one, it is important to ask around the neighborhood first to see if anyone else knows who the dog belongs to. One of the primary concerns with a dog bite is the transmission of rabies. Rabies is a serious disease and is characterized by a variety of symptoms including hallucinations, abnormal behavior, and often, death.

If you are not able to determine whether the dog that bit you has rabies or not (typically through physical testing of the dog), you will need to receive preventive care in order to prevent the disease. Once symptoms begin to manifest, the chances of survival are quite slim.

2. Check With Your Local Law Enforcement Agency or Humane Society

Often, dogs at large will have been spotted by animal control officers, law enforcement officers, or individuals who work or volunteer at the Humane Society. There is a good chance that if the dog has been seen around the neighborhood, one of these entities will be able to provide you with at least some information about the dog. If anyone has reported the dog for vicious behavior before, law enforcement officials in your area should have a record of the complaints that were filed.

3. Contact an Experienced Dog Bite Attorney

The next most important thing you can do after being bitten by any dog, especially a stray, is to contact an experienced dog bite attorney in your area. An attorney can help you get the medical care that you need after being bitten by a vicious dog, and an attorney can also assist you in investigating the facts of your case and locating the dog in question.

It is important that you reach out to you a seasoned dog bite attorney as soon as you are physically able in order to protect your right to the full and fair compensation you deserve for your injuries and losses.

Contact Mazow & McCullough Today

At Mazow & McCullough, we have an innate understanding of how the law surrounding dog bite cases works. When the dog that attacked you is located, we may be able to bring an injury claim forward to the dog owner’s insurance company.

We are dedicated to providing you the comprehensive legal assistance you need after a serious dog attack. We will aggressively pursue the maximum financial restitution available for your medical bills, lost wages, and emotional pain and suffering. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation to discuss your unique legal needs.
Photo credit: chefjancris / Foter / CC BY

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