Dog bites often occur from dogs that the victim knows or has come into contact with in the past, like a neighbor’s dog. However, it can be difficult to know what steps to take if a friend’s or neighbor’s dog bites you. Here’s how you should react.
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 are going to be talking about how to react when you’re bitten by a friend or a neighbor’s dog.
Robert and Kevin welcome.
Kevin McCullough: Thank you, John.
Robert Mazow: Thank you, John.
John: What should a person do if they are bitten by a friend or a neighbor’s dog? Obviously, there’s not just some stranger, you want to react in a certain way that doesn’t go overboard. You still have to live next to these people and you want to have a good relationship with your neighbors obviously, for obvious reasons.
What’s the reaction that you ought to have?
Kevin: There is some sensitivity here with this particular scenario, and you want to be mindful of the relationship that you or your child may have with that friend or neighbor. In the same respect, the friend or neighbor who owns the dog, if an attack or bite occurs, [that person] needs to be considerate for the person who was bitten.
Kevin: Any reaction should be proportionate to the type of incident or the extent of severity of the incident. Certainly, the communication should be open if it’s a friend or neighbor.
If in fact, if the friend or neighbor is unwilling to share information, that may [indicate] that there were some prior incidents in the past that they worried about coming to light and what may happen with the dog.
You do want to be careful and considerate as a victim of a dog bite or dog attack when dealing with a friend or a neighbor. But you’d also want to obtain as much information as you can, specifically in regards to whether or not the dog is up to date its rabies shots, tetanus shots, and things of that nature with the trial or the victim.
Just to make sure the injuries could be treated properly, the medical bills that are incurred can be paid for appropriately, whether it’s through the homeowners insurance for the dog owner, the friend or neighbor, or the health insurance coverage for person that may be bit.
John: Will the owner then have to pay the settlement out of their own pocket?
Kevin: It really depends in the proximity or the location where the bite occurred. Homeowners’ coverage for the dog owner may provide coverage to a limited extent for medical bills if the attack or bite occurs on their property.
If the bite or attack occurs off of their property, that homeowners’ coverage wouldn’t be applicable for that. So the homeowner would then hope that the homeowners’ insurance coverage, their liability coverage may come and deploy to help with those medical bills.
If the dog owner or property owner where the bite occurs does not have homeowners’ coverage, it may, in fact, lead to out-of-pocket expenses paid to the dog bite victim, being presented to that person personally and they would have to pay out of pocket.
John: Right. That’s something to certainly think about, because if you have a good relationship with your neighbor, it’s difficult to think about making them pay thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in damages.
On the other hand, if that’s what happened and your child is injured or something like that, you obviously need to get those expenses reimbursed somehow.
Kevin: Yes. We do see this very frequently and that’s why with our office in our handling of this particular cases we are extremely mindful of the dynamic of the relationship between the dog owner and the dog bite victim.
We are not the type of a law firm that would immediately rush to file a lawsuit because while you can file a lawsuit, it’s a type of thing that we investigate the claim including the damages involved as well as the insurance information for the dog owner.
Oftentimes the dog owner does have insurance and it can be resolved amicably with the insurance company, with presenting the claim and presenting the claim properly. However, if, in fact, there is either a denial of coverage or an issue regarding the value of the case or a claim or the extent of the injuries or damages, we would file that lawsuit.
We would do that by communicating with the client, keeping them informed and it would be a decision they would make, ultimately whether or not to file a lawsuit or pursue that claim, based upon their relationship with the dog owner.
John: Right. What could happen to the dog who bit me or who bit my child?
Kevin: That is really an issue up to the local town or city and the animal control officer within that town or city. Oftentimes, we do receive telephone calls with inquiries regarding what could happen to the dog.
That’s not really a decision that can be made by the dog victim alone, or our office for that matter. That’s something that it really depends upon the history of the dog.
Whether or not they have prior incidents in the past and whether or not they’ve attacked or bitten in the past. The type of dog involved [matters], and each town and city has different requirements or laws in place in regards to what they may allow a dog owner to get away with or to have for a type of dog and how many incidents can occur before they may take action.
John: Right, right. Robert anything to add in terms of dealing with neighbors in these types of cases?
Robert: As Kevin said, we’re sensitive to the issue. Most of the cases that we see, however, if the owner’s dog has caused some damage to their friend or neighbor’s child or the friend or neighbor themselves, we tend to see a willingness on the part of the dog owners to do what they need to do to make it right. If that is hopefully through some sort of a homeowners insurance coverage, great.
If it turns out that there are medical bills that are owed, we tend to see most people step up and do what they need to do and make sure that the victim is not [paying] significant medical bills out-of-pocket.
John: Right. It’s probably a good idea to go into a situation like that, assuming the best out of people and that people are probably going to do what they’re supposed to do and only take action if you need to.
Robert: Right. If they’re a true friend, they’re going to tend to do the right thing to do.
John: All right that’s great advice, Robert and Kevin, thanks for speaking with me today.
Kevin: Thank you, John.
Robert: Thanks, John.
John: For more information on dog bite cases or other personal injury cases, visit the law firm’s website at helpinginjured.com, or call 855-693-9084.