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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.