If you are bitten by a stray dog and don’t know who owns the dog that bit you, do you have legal recourse? How can you recover financial compensation for the medical bills and other damages you’ve incurred as a result of the bite? Here’s what you need to know.
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 experience as dog bite attorneys and today we are going to be talking about what to do if you don’t know who owns the dog that bit you. Robert and Kevin, welcome.
Robert Mazow: Thank you, John.
Kevin McCullough: Thank you, John.
What Should You Do If The Dog That Bit You Is a Stray?
John: What should a dog bite victim do if they aren’t sure who owns the dog that attacked?
Robert: This can be a very difficult and challenging situation. Sometimes we’ve seen people walking in their town and the dog is loose and does an attack and then the dog takes off. The first and foremost issue obviously is to seek medical attention, but if possible, snap a picture of the dog.
Certainly go to the local police department or contact the local police department to explain what happened, to explain as best as possible what the dog looked like. It’s possible this is [a dangerous dog] that’s known to the local authorities.
We’ve seen people who have been bitten go back to the scene at a later date to see if possibly the dog could return or perhaps the owner returns with the dog.
John: Maybe they stay in that certain area.
Robert: It’s possible but, certainly it’s a very difficult situation if a person is been bitten or attacked by a dog and then there is no identification for the owner or who the keeper of the dog is.
Will a Dog Bite Victim Need a Rabies Shot If Records Can’t Be Verified?
John: If you can’t find the dog, does that mean that rabies shots might be necessary, if the dog’s owner can’t be located?
Robert: Those are challenging situations if you’ve been bitten by a dog, and certainly you need to go seek medical attention. If you cannot identify that animal, the hospital or the doctor is going to have to administer the rabies situation just out of precaution.
John: Right, right. Because there’s no way to know and you can’t wait until you start to see the symptoms, [because then] it’s too late.
Robert: That’s absolutely correct.
Can a Dog Bite Claim Be Brought Forward if You Don’t Know the Owner?
John: Is it possible to bring forward a claim then if the owner of the dog remains unknown? How does that happen?
Kevin: Unfortunately, John it is not possible to bring a claim if you do not know who the dog owner or the dog keeper was. That is something to keep in mind knowing that in Massachusetts, you not only have an action against the dog owner, but also the keeper of the dog.
So as Robert had mentioned, if you’re in the unfortunate situation of a dog bite or a dog attack, to the extent that you can, try to obtain any witness information from anybody that anybody that may have been present.
That person may know who the dog belongs to, who the dog owner was, or may have seen the dog with someone a few moments ago and be able to provide a description to the responding police officer.
So be extremely mindful of any witnesses on the scene, and if you have the ability, take a picture of the dog itself or of any people near the dog to show to the police.
Sometimes dogs get lost and you’ll see a picture of a dog owner on the telephone pole, and if you do a proper investigation and you get lucky, you may find or track down that dog owner or that dog keeper. But in Massachusetts, if you don’t know who that dog owner or dog keeper was, you do not have the ability to present the claim.
Who Pays for the Medical Bills If You Don’t Know the Owner of the Dog That Bit You?
John: If I end up with a lot of medical bills because of a dog bite and I don’t know that dog and I can’t find them, do I have any kind of ability to pay for my bills? Is it just my medical insurance that’s going to cover that?
Robert: That’s correct John. In that situation, if you do have private health insurance, they would process medical bills according to your health plan. You would be subject to those core pays or deductibles and those would come out of pocket to you.
If you do not have health insurance, when you’re getting the medical treatment at the hospital or medical provider’s office, you should make some inquiries in regards to free care or signing up for mass health, things of that nature.
If you are in a situation like that, you don’t have any dog information and you do not have health insurance, communicate that to the medical staff and let them know. They will do what they can to try to help you to mitigate those medical bills or find a source to try to help pay them for you.
John: All right. That’s really great advice. Robert and Kevin, Thank you for speaking with me today.
Robert: Thank you John.
Kevin: Thank you, John.
John: For more information on dog bite cases or other, personal injury case, visit the firm’s website at helpinginjured.com or call 855-693-9084.