Massachusetts and New Hampshire are both strict liability states, meaning that a dog owner is wholly responsible for any damages caused by their dog during an attack. Usually, compensation is pursued by the victim and/or their family in civil court. But can a negligent or careless dog owner be held criminally responsible for the bite, too? Here’s what to know and how a veteran dog bite attorney can help you.
Circumstances That May Warrant Criminal Charges
Not all dog attacks can be brought to criminal court and civil court. However, if the dog’s owner was egregiously negligent or purposely caused their animal to attack you, you may have enough cause to pursue pressing charges against the dog owner. For example, you may have a criminal case if:
- The dog had a known history of violence and was allowed to roam
- The injuries to the victim were made worse by the owner during the attack (e.g., if the owner could have called the dog off but didn’t)
- The owner purposely instructed their dog to attack or bite the victim
- The dog was a dangerous breed that the owner was not allowed to have
If you can demonstrate that the owner knew or should have known that the dog was dangerous and failed to take proper precautions to prevent it from harming someone, regardless of individual circumstances, the owner may be criminally charged.
Criminal Charges vs. Civil Lawsuits
Whether or not the dog’s owner is criminally liable has no bearing on the physical injuries, emotional trauma, and other damages caused by the attack. Victims still incur these costs, which in many cases, can last a lifetime. Dog bite victims and their families should explore the possibility of filing a civil lawsuit against the owner of the dog, which could help obtain financial compensation for costs related to the incident, like if you needed emergency care or reconstructive surgery. Families of deceased victims can sue the owner for funeral costs as well.
The victim, or survivors in the case of a fatality, may also seek damages for emotional and psychological suffering, and in cases where an owner was particularly negligent or willfully caused their dog to attack, courts may award victims punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish the dog owner for their negligence and deter others from engaging in similar conduct, and can increase the total settlement payout by hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.
Things To Keep In Mind When Filing a Dog Bite Claim
Getting the settlement and justice you deserve after a dog bite is a long and complicated process, especially when the owner is likely to be criminally charged as well. Here are a few things to keep in mind when preparing to file a police report, insurance claim, or lawsuit after a dog attack:
- Get medical attention as soon as possible after the attack. This will not only ensure that you’re okay but will also provide documentation of the attack. If you wait, this can be used against you to say that your injuries weren’t serious.
- Get as much hard evidence and documentable information as you can. Evidence is critical when proving damages for a civil case or culpability in a criminal case. This includes photos, witness statements, voice or video recordings, and any other proof you may have that the owner was negligent or purposely sicced their dog on you.
- Work with an experienced attorney. Not all personal injury lawyers are equipped to handle dog bites and not all of those attorneys can help with the criminal part of the case. Make sure to select a lawyer whose past cases align with your current one.
Get Legal Help After a Dog Attack Today
Being injured by a dog or seeing a family member be attacked can be a devastating and life-changing experience. If you incurred damages as a result of the attack, and the incident was the result of negligence or purposeful action, you need comprehensive legal support.
At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we have the expertise and skills needed to advocate for the maximum settlement award for your family, including compensation for wage and job loss, emergency medical care, rehab and plastic surgery, and the emotional turmoil of having been attacked and potentially being scarred for life. If the dog owner is at fault, we can help you navigate the process of having the owner criminally charged. Contact our office today to consult with our veteran legal team at (978) 744-8000 or toll free at (855) 693-9084 to learn more or schedule a free consultation. Serving all of Massachusetts and New Hampshire with offices in Salem, MA.