Children are more likely to be bitten by dogs than adults. To keep your children safe, you need to ensure that they understand how to interact with dogs.
We hope this infographic can help explain the basics.
Children are more likely to be bitten by dogs than adults. To keep your children safe, you need to ensure that they understand how to interact with dogs.
We hope this infographic can help explain the basics.
Puppies are adorable little balls of cuteness. In fact, even watching videos of puppies can help to reduce your stress levels and improve your concentration. However, these cuddly little animal babies aren’t always harmless, and to protect yourself and your family, you should understand a few essentials.
At Mazow┃McCullough, PC, we are celebrating National Puppy Day on March 23 by sharing a few tips and ideas with you. If you have a puppy, know a puppy, or are thinking about getting a puppy, keep the following in mind.
Puppies are curious creatures, and to keep them safe, you need to puppy-proof your home. Typically, you should take similar steps as you would with a young child. Secure electrical and drapery cords so that puppies don’t get tangled or pull on them. Make sure that puppies can’t get into garbage cans, laundry baskets, or any other containers holding smelly items that may be alluring to puppies. Little dogs need to understand that they shouldn’t mess around with these items, but at the same time, you also want to protect them from eating something that could be a choking hazard.
Put toxins such as medications and cleaners in a spot where puppies can’t get into them. Also, don’t forget to hide things that are poisonous to dogs, such as chocolate, grapes, and macadamia nuts. Ideally, for the safety of your home and the puppy, you should have a crate for the puppy to use when you are out of the house. But, make sure that you have a quick release collar or no collar at all because the collar could become a hanging hazard in a crate.
Typically, you don’t adopt puppies and bring them home until after they are weaned, but if you are in a situation where you are around a mama dog and her pups, you need to exercise additional caution. Do not approach dogs when they are nursing their young, and make sure that young children in your care understand this rule.
Canine mothers in your care need a safe and private place to keep their pups. If there’s too much light, the mama dog may become anxious and potentially act out. If she doesn’t feel safe in one location, she is likely to take the dogs to another spot; however, moving the puppies too often can put them at risk. To minimize both of these risks, try to provide a safe spot with soft, dim lighting, such as a corner in an unused closet or shed, where the dog can care for her pups privately and securely.
Puppies are so cute and seemingly harmless that many owners overlook the importance of puppy training. However, puppies are adults by their first birthday, and if you don’t establish positive habits early in your puppy’s life, you will end up with an adult dog riddled with bad habits. Unfortunately, puppies can do many things that may be dangerous if done by an adult dog, simply because of the size difference.
For instance, if a six-week-old rottweiler puppy jumps up on a person, it’s not a big deal because the puppy only weighs about 10 pounds. However, by the puppy’s first birthday, he’s likely to weigh about 100 pounds, and at that weight, jumping up on a person could lead to falls and injuries. A rottweiler’s weight continues increasing until about their third birthday, further underscoring the need for adequate training when they are young.
However, size isn’t the only reason you need to train puppies. Even with small dogs, you need to think about their developing teeth. Between age two and four weeks, most puppies get their baby teeth which are smaller and rounder than their adult teeth. Baby dog teeth start to fall out around age 12 to 16 weeks, and most dogs have a full set of adult teeth by the time they are six months old. As a result, if you let a puppy chew on your hand or the furniture, those activities may seem harmless for a while, but when your dog gets their adult teeth, these activities could lead to injuries or property damage.
Like human babies, puppies need a lot of sleep. To protect your pup’s developing brain and body, you need to ensure they get ample amounts of sleep. Additionally, children need to understand that approaching a sleeping dog or puppy can be dangerous. If you disrupt a sleeping dog or puppy, they may become aggressive and snap.
Sometimes, it’s easy to think that puppies are just like miniature dogs, but they aren’t. Puppies are much more immature than their older counterparts. They don’t have the control or the empathy of older dogs. For instance, while dogs find yawning contagious, puppies don’t. Although yawning isn’t particularly important, dog experts believe that fact highlights the lack of empathy in puppies compared to full grown dogs, and because of that, you and your children need to be extra careful around puppies.
Once again, happy National Puppy Day from the team at Mazow┃McCullough, PC! We hope that you can enjoy the happiness of a puppy, but we also want to remind you of the importance of practicing puppy safety especially with children.
If you’ve been attacked by a puppy or an older dog and need legal help, contact us today for a free case evaluation.
In May 2018, a three-month old baby was mauled to death by dogs in Los Angeles. The family owned a Rottweiler, a Labrador, and a terrier, but officials weren’t sure which dogs were responsible for the attack. The same month, an eight-month old baby girl died when her grandmother’s pit bull attacked her in Florida. The dog was three and the family had owned her since she was a puppy. In June, a German Shepard killed a five-month-old baby in Georgia.
Tragically, these stories are not that uncommon. Children are more likely to die from dog attacks than adults, and 10% of fatal attacks involve infants. Experts speculate that dogs tend to attack children than adults because of their small stature, and babies are often at the right height. In fact, the baby in Florida was on a bouncy chair on the floor. Dogs are also more likely to bite children and infants in the face, while they target the hands or extremities of adults. American Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers have an average strength of 269 pounds of pressure when they bight down.
Fortunately, most dog attacks are not fatal for infants, but they can cause puncture wounds, lacerations, and avulsions. Dogs also carry a lot of bacteria in their mouths, and their bites can lead to rabies, tetanus, or other infections. If a baby gets bitten by a dog, you should rinse the wound with sterile or saline water. You should not try to close the wound on your own, because you risk trapping the infections. Instead, you should take the child to the hospital, where they can sanitize the area and administer stitches if necessary. In extreme cases, plastic surgery may also be required. If the baby is unvaccinated, he or she may need a tetanus shot, and if you’re not sure whether or not the dog has an up-to-date rabies vaccination, the baby will likely need that as well. After a baby was attacked by the family pit bull in East Falmouth, Massachusetts, the child needed several operations. Due to intense trauma to her face and skull, she needed a tracheotomy, reconstructive jaw and facial surgery, and a replacement for the bridge of her nose. The dog was a family dog with no history of attacks, and to save the baby, the dad had to stab the dog.
Although many attacks just seem to come out of nowhere, there are steps parents can take to protect their infants from dog attacks.
If your baby has been attacked by a dog, seek medical help as described above. If the dog was not yours, get the owner’s name and contact details, and find out if the dog is up to date on vaccinations. Also try to obtain contact details for any witnesses in the area. Report the dog to the authorities as soon as possible. This step could save other people’s lives, and if you don’t put in a complaint quickly, you may run out of time. Also, make sure that you contact a dog bite attorney in Massachusetts. They can help you get the compensation you need and deserve after an attack. At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we have handled countless dog bite attacks. Contact us today for a free case consultation.
On August 1 2018, CBS News reported that a man lost both his legs to amputation after his dog’s licks lead to infection. In fact, the bacteria caused sepsis throughout the man’s whole body. At the time of writing, after several surgeries including the amputation of both hands, the man remains in hospital recovering. The specific bacteria, capnocytophaga, is only one of several found in the mouths of dogs, cats, and humans. Up to 74% of dogs and 57% of cats carry this particular bacteria. If that can happen with licking, imagine what happens when you get bitten.
Generally, 10–20% of bite wounds become infected. This includes 30–50% of cat bites, 5–25% of dog bites, and 20–25% of human bites. The risk of infection depends on the nature and site of the wound as well as on individual patient characteristics and the species responsible for the bite. There is a high risk of infection in patients with asplenism, hepatic cirrhosis, diabetes mellitus, immune deficiency, and implants.
Infection from all animal bites is caused by bacteria. The bacteria can be found in the mouth or saliva of the animal, on the skin of the person who was bitten, or even in the surrounding environment. The bacteria then enters the wound after being on the skin.
It’s astounding how much bacteria lives in a dog mouth, enough so that even licking a superficial wound can complicate a bite. Beyond that, animal bites are often polymicrobial, meaning multiple species of bacteria are involved.
Most commonly, symptoms of infection of a dog bite include redness, pain, and swelling at the site of the wound. It is important to seek medical treatment if any of these symptoms continue for more than 24 hours. Other symptoms of infection include the following:
First and foremost, you need to properly clean and assess the wound. For superficial or minor bite wounds, thoroughly wash the area with soap and water. Then, cover the wound with a fresh, clean bandage. For serious wounds seek medical attention, as bandaging the wound can lock in the bacteria. Most infections develop within 24 to 48 hours, so it’s important to keep a close eye on your injuries during this window of time.
Your doctor might suggest a tetanus shot depending on your vaccination status, and if there is a sign of infection, your doctor may recommend intravenous antibiotics or oral antibiotics until the infection is resolved.
If the animal that bit you starts showing symptoms of illness or infection, you should contact your doctor immediately, even if you don’t have any symptoms. In addition to bacterial infections, dog bite infections can include tetanus and rabies.
Symptoms of the bacterial disease tetanus include the following:
Thanks to the widespread use of the tetanus vaccine, tetanus infection is very rare in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children should receive five tetanus shots before age of six years. Teens and adults should receive the vaccine every 10 years. If you are uncertain how long it’s been since your last shot, you should choose to get the vaccine after a bite. There is no cure for tetanus.
Rabies in humans is also an extremely rare occurrence in the United States. According to the CDC, there are only one to three cases per year. The symptoms of this viral disease include a high fever, swallowing difficulties, and convulsions.
Once symptoms are present, rabies can lead to death. If you’ve been bitten by any animal that shows symptoms of the disease, it’s critical to start rabies treatment immediately. After being bitten by someone else’s dog, you need to find out if the dog has been vaccinated and you need to see proof of vaccination records.
With a mild infection, you should feel better within 48 hours of receiving treatment, and if not, you should contact your doctor immediately. While rabies and tetanus are fairly unlikely, sepsis and other bacterial infections are a real risk. As mentioned above, just a dog’s licking can cause serious infection if left untreated.
If you have been bitten by a dog, you need legal counsel, and we can help. To learn more or to set up a free case evaluation, contact us today. At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we are seasoned personal injury attorneys who have successfully handled a number of dog bite cases for our clients.
When you or a loved one is bitten by a dog, your first instinct may be to panic and run away, but if possible, you need to stay calm, get medical help, and find out who owns that dog. Besides these essentials, there are several things you should not do. Here’s a list of things not to do after a dog attack.
Get the name and number of anyone in the area who saw the attack. Remember that memories can fade quickly and ask if they’ll let you or your attorney record them making a statement about what they saw. Ultimately, if you need to bring forward a legal claim against the dog owner, their comments can be invaluable.
It is of utmost importance to identify the dog and the dog owner. If the dog is a stray, you face the possibility of having to endure rabies treatment, a painful and expensive process. Note, however, that these shots are not always required, as rabies may not be in your area. Don’t be surprised if your doctor tells you that you don’t need the shots after all.
In addition, if you are attacked by someone’s pet, you may be entitled to compensation that you can use to pay medical bills, cover time off work, pay for cosmetic surgery if needed, and help you deal pain and suffering from your injuries.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so be sure to get photographs of the wounds before being treated and during healing. However, don’t let the dog’s owner or anyone who may side with the dog take your photographs. They may capture your wounds in a way that is misleading.
In some cases, the dog’s owner may apologize and offer you a private settlement for your injuries. Do not accept that settlement. It is impossible to calculate what the attack is going to cost until you seek medical treatment, and even then, some injuries may take a while to show up completely. Keep in mind that even an offer that sounds high may not be enough.
Be sure to get treatment — dog bites can cause serious infections with significant consequences. In fact, if you receive a bite to the face, insist on treatment at the hospital by a plastic surgeon. Emergency room doctors are wonderful at saving lives, but perhaps not as competent at making stitches or wounds look the best.
Also, start a journal as soon as possible. Spend a bit of time each day recording your thoughts, feelings, and pain levels for the first few weeks after the attack. If you have to make a claim for compensation, know that the claim could take several years to complete, so consider keeping this journal as you wait.
While the hospital may make a report regarding your attack, do not rely on them to do so. You should always make your own report to animal control. That agency has investigators who will interview witnesses and take care of other things that may help your case, as well as prevent the offending dog from biting others in the future.
Filing a dog bite report also provides a paper trail that may help the next victim. Without these records, authorities cannot enforce laws effectively.
There are laws to protect your rights and the rights of children from dog attacks, both on and off your property. Also, dog owners must be held responsible when their dogs attack.
Now that we’ve covered what you shouldn’t do, here is a quick list of what you do need to do:
Then, contact us. At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we are experienced dog bite attorneys who have helped countless clients get the justice they deserve. We will start with a free case consultation and help you decide the best way forward.
A little bite from a puppy may not seem like a big deal, but as your puppy becomes a dog, those bites can become more serious. As dogs get bigger, their jaws develop more strength and they have the potential to do a lot more damage. To protect your family, your friends, and even your dog, you need to stop the biting before it spells trouble. Even if it’s your dog’s one and only bite, you can be sued if someone is harmed.
Dogs bite for a number of different reasons. They may snap when they’re feeling possessive over an area, a toy, or their food. In other cases, they may bite out of fear, such as when they’re dealing with a vet or a stranger. Just as humans lash out when they’re in pain, dogs too may bite if they’re hurt. Mothers may even bite if they feel like their pups are in danger. Sometimes, dogs simply fall back on their evolutionary instinct to chase prey, and they bite because of that.
To prevent your dog from biting, try to identify why he’s biting. For instance, if he nipped you when you tried to take a toy back from him, he may be biting due to possessiveness. To prevent that from happening, you need to train your dog to “drop” or “leave” items on command. You should also train him to “wait” before giving him snacks so that he doesn’t encroach upon your plate or your hand. To be on the safe side, contact a dog trainer to help you. If you allow your dog to continue biting, the biting is likely to get worse.
Also, reduce stranger anxiety by exposing your dogs to a number of different situations, but do it in a slow and steady way that is easy on the dog. For instance, let him meet some of your friends when he’s safely on a leash, but limit interaction to 10 or 15 minutes until he’s comfortable. Also, get to know the signs that your dog is feeling anxious and may be about to bite.
Dogs usually show a number of aggressive behaviors before they attack. When dogs are uncomfortable, the fur stands up on their back. At the same time, dogs expose their teeth and the whites of their eyes while pinning back their ears. In other cases, dogs may act standoffish by holding their ground or making direct eye contact with other dogs. When you see these signs, get your dog out of that situation and into a space where he can calm down.
If you have children, they face an even larger risk of being bitten than you do. In fact, over half of all dog bite victims are children under the age of 13. Children and even babies are also much more likely to die from dog attacks than adults. Arguably, their small stature makes them more vulnerable than adults, and small children may provoke or interrupt dogs in ways that make them snap.
In addition to thinking about your family’s safety, you also need to think about your liability if your dog bites someone else. When it comes to dog bites, Massachusetts is a strict liability state. In other words, you are criminally and civilly liable if your dog attacks someone. The only exception is if your dog attacks someone age seven or older who is trespassing on your property, physically attacking you, or provoking the dog.
If your dog has a history of aggressive behavior, you may face even greater liability. The prosecuting attorney may try to argue that you should have take action before your dog attacked.
Have you been attacked, bitten, or injured by a dog? If so, you may be entitled to compensation. To learn more, contact Mazow | McCullough, PC today. We can start with a free case evaluation and help you decide the next steps.
Every year 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs, and tragically, about 20 people die from these attacks every year. People can die due to intense bleeding from wounds, head injuries, and infections and other causes. Here’s what you need to know about deaths from dog bites.
Although only a handful of people die from dog bites in the United States every year, the numbers are much higher in the rest of the world. Worldwide, approximately 59,000 people die from rabies every year, and according to the World Health Organization, 99% of rabies deaths are related to dogs. In the United States, inoculations help to keep these numbers much lower.
One study published in the Pediatrics medical journal looked at 109 dog-bite fatalities that occurred over a six-year period from 1989 to 1994, and it discovered that over half (57%) of the victims were children under the age of ten. Experts speculate that this happens due to the small stature of children as well as their potential lack of caution when approaching dogs.
In addition, 10% of fatal attacks involved sleeping infants. Tragically, large dogs can crush an infant’s head in their mouths, and even small dogs can attack in a way that leads to unsustainable blood loss or infections.
Research from the Centers for Disease Control indicate that the proportion of children affected by dog bites during the following two years was even more striking. From 1995 to 1996, there were 25 dog-bite related fatalities in the United States. Over 10% of these attacks affected infants under the age of 30 days, and 80% of the attacks affected children under the age of 11. Only five adults (20% of the total) were affected.
The Pediatrics study indicates that 18% of deadly attacks are caused by dogs on chains, but the majority of fatal attacks (59%) involved unchained dogs on the owner’s property. In contrast, only 22% of attacks happened off the dog owner’s property.
In the CDC research on dog bite related fatalities from 1994 to 1995, the majority of the attacks involved multiple dogs. Over a third of deadly attacks involved two dogs, 8% involved three dogs, and 20% were caused by a pack of six to 11 dogs. In fact, during this time period, all the attacks that occurred off the dog owner’s property involved two or more dogs.
From 1994 to 1995, Rottweilers were responsible for the greatest number of dog-bite related fatalities in the United States, but when you look at a longer span of time, other breeds emerge as the deadliest.
To narrow in on the most deadly breeds of dogs in the United States, the Daily Beast took research from Animal People that tallied media reports of dog attacks from 1982 to 2009 in both Canada and the United States. Based on that research, the following breeds are responsible for the most deaths:
In addition to that, the following breeds were all responsible for one death each: Border Collies, Akitas, Briards, Great Pyrenees, Collies, Airedales, Saint Bernards, Weimaraner, Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, and Beagles.
Note that these rankings are in the order of total number of deaths over a 27-year period. They don’t reflect the ranking used by Daily Beast. That list considered the total population of each dog breed, and then it compared those numbers to the number of attacks by that breed.
If a loved one has been killed by a dog, you may be entitled to compensation related to wrongful death. Owner negligence often plays a big role in deadly attacks, and you may be entitled to a settlement for medical bills, funeral expenses, and pain and suffering as well as other costs. Additionally, when you make a claim, you prevent that dog or the owner from hurting other people. To learn more, contact Mazow | McCullough, PC today.
When a dog attacks someone, the victim could suffer from deep puncture wounds and torn tissue. According to some estimates, 27,000 of the 4.5 million people who are bit by dogs every year need reconstructive surgery.
Here’s a look at some of the most common plastic surgeries and procedures that dog bite victims may need.
Immediately after getting bitten, many people need primary reconstruction. However, it’s critical for healthcare providers to be extremely careful with stitches. A dog’s mouth has over a thousand species of pathogenic bacteria, and if locked in, the bacteria can lead to serious infections. Children in this situation should receive care from a Level I pediatric trauma hospital.
Approximately 10% of patients with soft tissue injuries to their mouth, jaws, or face received those wounds from a mammal bite; dogs are the culprit 90% of the time. With these wounds, most victims need secondary reconstruction months or potentially even years after the injury. Often, it takes multiple procedures to get the face back to how it looked before the attack, and in addition to plastic surgeons, you may need a care team that involves a dermatologist, an ophthalmologist, and other specialists.
When dogs bite, they tend to clench down and as they pull away from the victim, they can damage skin. To address these injuries, the plastic surgeon may recommend flap reconstruction. Also called autologous tissue reconstruction, this procedure is commonly used to rebuild breasts after a mastectomy, but it can also be used to rebuild areas such as nasal passages. It involves taking skin, muscle, or bone from one part of your body and moving it to another part. Specialists have used forehead flaps to reconstruct the nose or forearm flaps for ear reconstruction.
Surgeons may also use grafts on dog bite victims. This is just like a flap in that it involves moving skin or tissue from one area to another, but the key difference is that a flap has its own blood supply while a graft needs to be placed specifically where it can access the blood supply of the area. For example, surgeons may take cartilage or bones from ribs to reconstruct the nose.
Patients may also need special procedures to help with the contours of their face. If they have areas where the skin is depressed, they may need fat moved into those areas, which is possible using fat grafting. Conversely, when patients have thicker skin due to the build-up of scar tissue, they may need debulking, which refers to thinning out the skin surgically.
Many patients have scars even if they don’t need reconstructive surgeries, and other patients may still have scars after extensive reconstruction work. Unfortunately, in both cases, facial scars can contribute to issues such as low self-esteem and post-traumatic stress disorder. Because of that intersection, scar removal is not just cosmetic. It can have a significant impact on the physical and emotional healing process.
To address scars after a dog bite, plastic surgeons may use the some of the following techniques:
Children are disproportionately affected by dog attacks, and they often need plastic surgery. One study looked at the dog bite injuries of 108 children from ages five months to 18 years. Approximately 60% of these children had injuries to their faces while 30% had injuries on their extremities.
Immediately after the attack, 39% of these children had their wounds closed in the emergency room, and they needed a consultation with a plastic surgeon. Another 21% of the children needed skip flaps or other types of reconstructive surgeries as part of their initial treatment.
Over a quarter of the children had to be hospitalized after the initial treatment, and close to 10% needed to stay in the hospital for an extended period of time due to infection. Based on this study, the breed of dog involved affected the likelihood of needing surgery or hospitalization. Half the children who were bitten by pit bulls needed surgery. That was triple the rate experienced by children who had been bitten by other breeds of dogs.
If you or your child has been bitten or attacked by a dog, the healing process can be long, emotionally traumatic, and expensive. You may be entitled to compensation for the cost of your medical bills and other expenses. To learn more, contact Mazow | McCullough, PC today for a free case-evaluation.
If you’ve been attacked or injured by a dog, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages and injuries. Even if you already brought criminal charges against the dog’s owner, you may still be able to bring forward a civil suit. In fact, because the standards of proof are different, you can even bring forward a civil suit if you lost the criminal case.
A civil suit is a legal process where you hold someone financially liable for the injuries and distress they have caused to you. However, if you want to initiate a civil suit, you need the right lawyer. Ideally, you should look for a dog bite attorney who meets the following criteria.
Dog bite laws vary a lot from state to state. Many states, such as New Hampshire and Massachusetts, are strict liability states, meaning that the owner is almost always liable when their dog attacks. But in other states, liability can be harder to prove. To ensure you get the best settlement for your case, you need a lawyer who is experienced handling cases in your state.
In most cases, if a lawyer practices in a certain state that means they have passed the bar exam for that state, and by extension, they understand the laws in that state. However, some states offer reciprocity, meaning that if a lawyer passes the bar in one state, they may become automatically licensed to practice in a neighboring state. To ensure you’re obtaining the best legal counsel, make sure they are experienced practicing law in your state.
In addition to ensuring your lawyer has experience in your state, you should also ensure that they are experienced with dog bite cases in particular. Armed with experience, a lawyer knows how to fight common defenses from the dog owner’s attorneys. They also have a network of quality expert witnesses they can call on, and those witnesses can be essential for linking your injuries to the dog attack and for establishing the pain and suffering you’re likely to experience due to certain injuries.
Experienced dog bite attorneys also know how to evaluate your injuries, damages, and pain and suffering in a way that gets you the best settlement possible for your situation. In contrast, an inexperienced attorney may fail to note all the damages you suffered from the attack.
Dog attacks can lead to physical disabilities, but they can also cause untold pain and suffering, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or a long-term fear of dogs. All of these elements can affect your life in serious ways, and you need a lawyer who understands how to bring all of these conditions to the court’s attention.
There are a lot of lawyers out there, and to ensure you’re hiring the best dog bite attorney, you should look for lawyers who are involved with professional groups and who receive high ratings from third-party organizations. Ideally, the lawyer you hire should be part of the state bar association and county bar associations. They should also be members of state organizations such as the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys and federal groups such as the American Association for Justice.
To learn more about prospective attorneys, you may want to look at sites such as Avvo and Super Lawyers. Both of these sites have profiles and client satisfaction ratings which can be helpful in your research process.
After you’ve narrowed down your options to a handful of lawyers, you should look at how they charge their clients. Most quality dog bite attorneys work on a contingency basis. They start with a free consultation, and during that meeting, they give you a sense of how your case is likely to progress. If your case is strong, the lawyer typically agrees to work on a contingency basis, which means there’s no charge to you unless there is a recovery.
If you or a loved one have been attacked by a dog, we may be able to help. At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we have extensive experience guiding our clients through dog bite cases, as well as multiple other types of personal injury lawsuits. To learn more or to set up a free case evaluation, contact us today. We can help you get the justice you deserve.
In Massachusetts and New Hampshire, you have just three years to bring forward a dog bite claim. After that time, the statute of limitations expires, and you can no longer seek a settlement. However, there is one exception — if you were bitten as a child and your parent didn’t file a suit, you can bring forward a claim for three years after your 18th birthday.
If you’ve been bitten, attacked, or injured by a dog, you should contact an attorney to talk about your situation. In the meantime, here’s an overview of the process so you know what to expect.
In Massachusetts, dog bite cases start with a public hearing. You, your legal representative, and the dog owner or handler goes in front of a hearing authority. You explain the situation and what happened, and the hearing authority either decides to dismiss the complaint or label the dog as a dangerous or nuisance animal.
This is effectively the criminal trial for the dog. If the dog is labeled as dangerous or a nuisance, it may need to be euthanized, or its owner may be required to follow strict protocol such as muzzling the dog in public, keeping it kenneled, or enrolling in obedience classes.
In New Hampshire, the process is a little bit different. Generally, you report the incident to the authorities, and the dog owner can choose to waive their right to a criminal trial by paying a forfeiture fee. However, if the dog is guilty of its second attack in a 12-month period, the owner has to appear in district or municipal court. Based on the ruling in this trial, the owner may have to take certain actions ranging from dog training to euthanizing the dog.
After the public hearing, you can bring forward a civil case against the dog’s owner. Essentially, this is where you show how the dog attack has affected you financially and emotionally, and you attempt to obtain a settlement from the owner’s insurance company.
If the dog owner doesn’t have insurance, your lawyer will help you look at alternative angles. For instance, if a friend or relative was walking the dog, their insurance may cover the situation. Similarly, if a professional was walking the dog, their employer may be responsible. If the attack happened on someone else’s property, they may be liable.
Keep in mind that most dog bite cases don’t go to court. Instead, they are resolved through negotiations. That means that you may have to sit down with your lawyer and a representative for the dog owner, but you usually don’t have to go through a long trial.
Whether you go to court or settle out of court, settlements are based on damages, and your lawyer will help you assess your damages. Typically, that includes financial losses such as medical bills, lost time at work, hiring help around the home due to your injury, or any other costs related to the dog attack. Damages can also include pain and suffering. Those are compensatory damages, but there may also be punitive damages, which are amounts designed to punish the dog owner for their negligent behavior.
To avoid paying damages, the dog owner or their representative will likely try to argue that they are not liable. However, when it comes to dog bites, Massachusetts and New Hampshire are strict liability states. That means that the owner is almost always liable except in a few rare situations. Aside from arguing that they don’t own the dog, the most common defenses dog owners use are the following:
Generally, these rules don’t apply to children under the age of seven. In the past, judges have taken liberal definitions of provocation, and they have relieved owners of liability in cases where, for example, the victim accidentally stepped on the dog’s tail, intervened in a dog fight, or petted a strange dog while it was eating.
If you have been attacked or injured by a dog, take action now. For a free case consultation, contact Mazow | McCullough, PC.