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Dog Bite Accidents

What Happens When a Dog Attacks a Baby?

Dog Attacks a BabyIn 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.

Dogs Attacking Babies

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.

Treating Infant Dog Bites

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.

Avoiding Dog Attacks on Babies

Although many attacks just seem to come out of nowhere, there are steps parents can take to protect their infants from dog attacks.

  • Always supervise dogs and babies when they are together. Many of the above attacks happened when the caretakers left for just a few minutes.
  • Never have a baby sleep on the floor or in a seat close to the floor when a dog is nearby.
  • Be cautious of unfamiliar dogs. For instance, never wheel a stroller toward a strange dog.
  • Don’t let crawling babies interrupt dogs when they are eating, nursing their young, or sleeping.
  • Teach your child never to put their face at the dog’s level.
  • As the child gets older, teach them how to act around dogs, but when practicing, make sure to use a well-trained dog on a leash.

What to Do If Your Baby Has Been Attacked

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.

How Dog Bite Bacteria Complicates Superficial Wounds

Dog Bite BacteriaOn 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.

Animal Bites and Infections

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.

What Causes Infections from Dog Bites?

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.

What Are the Symptoms of Infection?

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:

  • Pus or fluid oozing from the wound
  • Tenderness in and near the bite area
  • Red streaks near the bite
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever or chills
  • Night sweats
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness or tremors

Treating Infections

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.

Complications Caused by Dog Bites

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.

Tetanus

Symptoms of the bacterial disease tetanus include the following:

  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Stiff jaw and/or neck muscles
  • Stiffness in the abdominal muscles
  • Painful spasms affecting the whole body

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

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.

What Not to Do After Becoming a Dog Attack Victim

Dog Attack VictimWhen 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.

1. Don’t Hesitate to Talk to Witnesses

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.

2. Don’t Overlook Finding the Dog Owner

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.

3. Don’t Forget the Photographs

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.

4. Don’t Discuss Money or Settlements with the Dog Owner

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.

5. Don’t Skip Medical Treatment

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.

6. Don’t Fail to Make an Official Report

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.

7. Don’t Avoid Contacting a Lawyer

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:

  • Get the name, address and phone number of witnesses.
  • Get information for the dog’s owner or whoever had control or custody of the animal when it attacked you.
  • Take photographs of the wounds.
  • See a doctor to further document your dog bite and to obtain treatment.
  • Go to the animal control agency in your area and make a report, then fully cooperate with the investigating officers.

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.

Does Your Dog Bite? Why This Could Spell Trouble

Does Your Dog Bite?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.

Reasons Dogs Bite

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.

Stopping Your Dog from Biting

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.

Signs Your Dog Might 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.

Risks to Your Children

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.

Liability Concerns

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.

Dog Bite Deaths

Dog Bite DeathsEvery 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.

1. The Risk of Dying from a Dog Bite Is Greater in Other Parts of the World

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.

2. Children Are Disproportionately Killed by Dog Attacks

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.

3. Most Fatal Attacks Happen on the Dog Owner’s Property

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.

4. Multiple Dogs Are Often Involved in Deadly Attacks

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.

5. Certain Breeds of Dogs Are Responsible for the Majority of Deaths

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:

  • Pit bull breeds — 159 deaths
  • Rottweilers — 67 deaths
  • Huskies — 17 deaths
  • German Shepherds — 9 deaths
  • Bull Mastiffs — 8 deaths
  • Chow Chows — 7 deaths
  • Doberman Pinschers — 6 deaths
  • Malamutes — 4 deaths
  • Mastiffs — 4 deaths
  • Boxers — 4 deaths
  • Great Danes — 3 deaths
  • Bulldogs — 3 deaths
  • Labradors — 3 deaths
  • Golden Retrievers — 2 deaths
  • Old English Sheepdogs — 2 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.

Cosmetic Surgery and Dog Bites

Cosmetic Surgery and Dog BitesWhen 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.

Primary Reconstruction

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.

Facial Reconstruction

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.

Flap Reconstruction

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.

Skin, Bone, and Tissue Grafts

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.

Contouring

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.

Scar Removal

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:

  • Laser resurfacing to smooth scars
  • Fraxel laser treatments to minimize the appearance of scars
  • Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) lasers to reduce redness of scars
  • Fillers to remove indentions
  • Z-plasties to improve the appearance of scars through surgery

Plastic Surgery for Children

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.

How to Choose a Dog Bite Lawyer

Dog Bite LawyerIf 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.

Understands Your State Laws

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.

Experienced with Dog Bite Cases

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.

Well-Rated by Professional Organizations

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.

Works on a Contingency Basis

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.

Bringing Forward a Dog Bite Case

Dog Bite CaseIn 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.

Public Hearing

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.

Civil Case and Negotiations

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.

Damages in Dog Bite Cases

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.

Allowable Defenses

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:

  • The victim was trespassing
  • The victim was attacking the defendant
  • The victim was provoking the dog in some way

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.

What Happens When a Dog Bites Someone in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has very strict dog bite laws. If a dog bites, attacks, or hurts someone in this state, it may be labeled as a dangerous or nuisance dog. Then, both the dog and its owner may face strict penalties. A dog can only be labeled as dangerous or a nuisance if it actually hurts someone. It can’t get these labels due to its breed or just from growling or looking mean. If it does bite or attack, however, here’s what happens.

Dog Bites in MA

Due Process for Attack Dogs

If someone is attacked by a dog, they have three years to bring forward a complaint, and at that time, the case goes to a public hearing. That gives the victim as well as the dog owner the chance to present evidence and testimony related to the dog’s attack.

Based on that information, the hearing authority can choose one of the following three options:

  • Dismiss the complaint
  • Label the dog as a nuisance
  • Label the dog as dangerous

Note that this is essentially the criminal hearing. If someone has been attacked by a dog, they can also bring forward a civil suit. A civil suit is where the victim works with a dog bite attorney to get compensated for the damages associated with the dog attack.

Nuisance Dogs in Massachusetts

If a dog is determined to be a nuisance, the owner usually has to take action to reduce the unwanted behavior. For instance, the courts may require the dog to go to obedience classes, or they may create other requirements.

Penalties for Dangerous Dogs

When a dog bites someone, they are typically going to be labeled as dangerous, and in that situation, their owner may be required to do one or several of the following:

  • Keep the dog restrained
  • Confine the dog to secure premises, such as a locked pen or dog run with a roof
  • Put a muzzle or a short leash on the dog for outings
  • Insure the dog for at least $100,000 as a safeguard against future injuries or property damage
  • Create a permanent and reliable way for the state to identify that dog in the future, such as a microchip, photographs, veterinary records, etc.
  • Neuter or spay the animal
  • Euthanize the dog

Owners Who Break the Rules

If the owner doesn’t follow all the requirements for their nuisance or dangerous dog, the city may be able to take the dog and impound it. If the dog is ordered to be euthanized after being impounded, the owner usually must pay all the fees related to the impoundment and the euthanization. If the owner fails to pay, the city can place a lien on their property or increase the amount of their vehicle excise tax. Additionally, the dog owner will be banned from owning another dog for at least five years.

Civil Penalties for Dog Owners

After biting someone, the dog can face any or all the penalties listed above, but the owner may face additional civil penalties. When it comes to dog bite law, Massachusetts is a strict liability state. That means that the owner is always liable if their dog attacks. The only exceptions are if the victim was criminally trespassing, attacking, or provoking the dog, but these exceptions don’t apply to children under the age of seven. If a child is involved, the dog owner is always liable.

The owner may have to pay for the victim’s injuries as well as other costs related to their recovery or any disabilities that arise due to the injuries. Additionally, the owner may have to pay for pain and suffering, loss of consortium, or wrongful death if applicable.

Criminal Penalties for Dog Attacks

In some cases, the owner may also face criminal penalties. For instance, if an owner sets their dog loose and tells them to attack, that is akin to assaulting someone with a deadly weapon, and that dog owner may face assault charges.

If you have been bitten by a dog, you have a right to justice. You may also have a right to compensation, but that’s not the only reason you should come forward. If you don’t act, the dog may continue its behavior and other people could get hurt.

To protect others from the dangerous dog that attacked you and obtain the compensation you deserve, consult with a dog bite attorney today. At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we are experienced personal injury lawyers who can help you.

Use Some Restraint: Leash Laws in Massachusetts and New Hampshire

Leash LawsMassachusetts and New Hampshire do not have a statewide leash law. Instead, municipalities and other governments make laws related to dog restraint, control, and leashing. However, leashes are required in some areas, and there are a number of other laws related to leashing and tethering dogs. To get a sense of the requirements, take a look at these specifics.

Municipal Leash Laws in Massachusetts

Different towns have different leash laws. For instance, in Salem, the law says that dogs need to be on a leash of an appropriate length. The exact length is left to the discretion of the owner. In contrast, in Andover, MA, dogs must be firmly held on a leash that is six feet or less in length. On the owner’s property, the dog must be under the owner’s control, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be on a leash.

Public Highway Rest Areas in Massachusetts

Based on Section 174B, dogs must be restrained while at rest areas near public highways. If owners need to let their dogs run off some steam, they should walk them around while on a leash, or they should look for a designated dog park. At the time of writing, the fine for breaking this law is $100. Keep in mind that the law specifically says leash or chain. As a result, owners may be cited if they are just using a rope or something that is not a proper leash.

Leashes for Hearing Dogs in Massachusetts

Dogs with special jobs may need special leashes to identify them. For instance, people who train hearing dogs need to obtain a license from the Director of the Office of Deafness for their dogs, and they must also provide the name and address of the clients who receive hearing assistance dogs. To ensure hearing dogs are easily identifiable, they must wear a bright colored collar and leash.

Restraining Dogs Around the Visually Impaired in Massachusetts

When a dog is around someone who is partially or completely visually impaired, the dog must be restrained with a leash on both public and private walkways and roadways. Often, dog owners identify the visually impaired by their white canes or their guide dogs, but these individuals are not required to have either of those items with them. Additionally, the courts cannot assign contributory negligence to a blind person for not having those items.

To explain, imagine that someone is walking their dog without a leash. When they encounter a blind individual, the dog runs forward and trips the blind person. If the blind person takes the dog owner to court, the defendant cannot argue that the blind person contributed to the injury by not identifying themselves with a cane or a guide dog.

Leashes and Massachusetts Wildlife Areas

The state has over 200,000 acres of wild areas, and traditionally, many dog owners let their dogs roam unleashed in these areas. As of 2018, the state requires dogs to be on leashes in state wildlife management areas. Dogs involved in hunting or training are exempt from the rule.

Note that this only applies to state managed areas. It doesn’t necessarily apply to wildlife areas managed by the federal government, but to be on the safe side, owners should always check the rules before taking their dogs to any natural areas.

Tethering Laws in Massachusetts

The law also has strict guidelines on tethering dogs. If you tether your dog, you need to make sure that they can’t leave the property while on the tether. Legally, you cannot tether a dog for more than 5 hours in a row in any 24-hour period. That includes tethering a dog to any stationary object including poles, dog houses, and trees. You are also not allowed to tether dogs outside for longer than 15 minutes between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am. Dogs under six months old cannot ever be tethered outside.

You also have to ensure that the tether weighs less than an eighth of the dog’s weight. For instance, a small dog who weighs 16 pounds, can’t have a tether that weighs more than two pounds. Additionally, the tether must be designed for dogs. You can’t use logging chains or other makeshift tethers. The tether must be on a swivel so that it doesn’t get tangled, and you can only have one dog per tether. You have to attach the tether to a harness or a collar, and the collar must be loose enough so that you can slip two adult fingers between the dog and the collar.

New Hampshire Leash Laws

In New Hampshire, state law doesn’t require dogs to be on leashes. Again, that is left up to municipalities. For instance, in Manchester, NH, owners can’t let dogs run unattended in the city. Dogs must also be on a leash or in a carrier, and their keeper must be old enough and strong enough to keep the dog under control. However, owners don’t have to keep their dogs on a leash if the dog is confined to an automobile. Although New Hampshire doesn’t have leash laws, the state has strict laws about menacing or vicious dogs.

If you have been hurt by an unleashed dog, you may be entitled to compensation. Even if the area where you were attacked does not have a leash law, both New Hampshire and Massachusetts are strict liability states in relation to dog bites, and owners are responsible for their dogs’ actions.

At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we have experience fighting dog bite cases. We have helped clients who have been bitten by unleashed dogs, including a teenager who we helped win a $450,000 settlement after a put bill attacked him and left severe injuries. We want to help you and your family get the justice and financial peace you deserve at this difficult time. To learn more and set up a free case evaluation, contact us today.

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