Disclaimer - By publishing this information on this Web site, the Boston, Massachusetts law firm of Altman & Altman LLP is not claiming to represent any clients or cases mentioned here. The content provided is designed to inform readers and is not intended as legal advice.

Articles Posted in Animal and Dog Bites

According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), dog-related injuries accounted for more than one-third of U.S. homeowners insurance claims in 2014. That adds up to more than $530 million. Further analysis conducted by the I.I.I. revealed that the average per-claim cost had increased by 15 percent compared with the previous year.

“The average cost per claim nationally has risen more than 67 percent from 2003 to 2014, due to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which are still on the upswing,” said III vice president, Loretta Worters.

Shockingly Common

And dog bites are more common than most people think. Each year in the United States, about 800,000 dog bite injuries are serious enough to require medical attention. These attacks range from minor flesh wounds to life-threatening injuries, and even fatalities.

In Massachusetts, there are a number of laws relating to dog bite injuries, and the state’s dog owners and keepers are “strictly liable” for damages caused by dog attacks. If you suffer injuries caused by a dog bite or attack, you may be entitled to compensation.

Statute of limitations in MA

Statutes of limitation are laws that set time limits for filing civil lawsuits. In Massachusetts, most liability claims have to be filed within three years of the date of injury, including cases involving dog bites.

With statutes of limitations, it is important to know when the clock starts ticking, as well as when the time runs out. If you don’t file your claim before the deadline, you will likely be barred from bringing your case to court. The statute of limitations timeline on dog bites begins at the time of injury. A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in a dog attack.

Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute

When it comes to dog attacks, Massachusetts is a strict liability state. This means that the injured victim is not required to prove negligence to collect damages. As long as the victim can show that the injury was caused by the dog, and the injury meets other state requirements, he or she may be eligible to obtain compensation. Further, the injury itself does not necessarily have to have been caused by the actual bite. The victim may file a claim even if the injuries were caused by tripping and falling over the dog, for example, or if the dog ran into the road, causing a bicycle or motor vehicle accident.

Compensation for Injuries

If you are attacked or bitten by a dog, the first thing to do is get medical treatment and make sure that the dog’s shots are up-to-date. As is the case with any personal injury claim, the value of dog bite or dog injury claims depend on multiple factors, including:

  • the severity of the physical injury,
  • the duration of your symptoms,
  • and any potential damages caused by the injury (lost wages, pain and suffering, medical expenses, etc.).

In Massachusetts, dog bite and attack injuries are usually covered by homeowner’s insurance, which should compensate the victim for bodily injury and damages. If the owner/keeper has no insurance coverage, the victim may have to seek direct reimbursement for any damages. A MA personal injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured by another’s dog. Continue reading

If you’ve been bitten or attacked by a dog, who is liable for your injuries? In MA, a dog’s owner may be liable for any damages the dog causes, barring certain circumstances. For example, if the victim was trespassing at the time of the incident, the dog’s owner will likely be off the hook. Read on for more information about dog bite injuries in MA, and how to proceed if you’ve been bitten.

Negligence vs. Strict Liability

When it comes to dog bites, states generally operate under the theory of “negligence” or “strict liability.” MA is a “strict liability” state. This essentially means that the injured person does not need to show that the dog’s owner was negligent. The owner may even be liable if the victim had been informed that the dog was prone to biting before the incident. And the strict liability rule also applies to other injuries and damages caused by dogs. If a dog knocks an elderly person down, for example, the owner may be liable for resulting injuries.

Statute of Limitations

In MA, you have three years from the date of the dog bite within which to file suit. This state of limitations is extremely important; if you fail to file a court case before the specified deadline, your chances of success are almost non-existent. A Boston dog bite injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been bitten or attacked by a dog.

Dog Bite Statistics

The following facts and figures provide insight into the frequency and severity of dog bites in the United States.

  • About 4.5 million dog bites occur in the United States annually.
  • In 2016, dog-related injuries accounted for more than 30 percent of all homeowners insurance liability claims – a total of more than $600 million.
  • More than 6,750 U.S. postal workers were attacked by dogs in 2016.
  • Between 1993 and 2008 there was an 86 percent increase in hospitalizations involving dog bites.

When is the Owner Liable?

In Chapter 140, Section 155 of MA General Laws, a dog’s owner may be liable for injuries under the following circumstances.

  • The dog caused damages or injuries

            and

  • The victim was not trespassing at the time of the incident.
  • The victim was not committing a tort at the time of the incident.
  • The victim did not provoke the dog.

The above statute also applies to other injuries and property damage caused by dogs. If, for example, a dog chews through a neighbor’s fence, the neighbor may sue for property damages. A MA dog bite injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured by a dog.

Owner Defenses

As with most personal injury lawsuits, the individual being sued is likely to present a defense explaining why he or she should not be liable. When it comes to dog bites, the owner will usually present one of two defenses.

  • Trespassing: If the victim was trespassing on private property, homeowner liability is seriously limited.
  • Provocation: If the victim was provoking the dog, the owner may not be liable. The MA dog injury statute specifically states that the owner is not liable if the injury occurs while the injured person is “teasing, tormenting or abusing” the dog.

Continue reading

When it comes to dog bites, Massachusetts is a “strict liability” state. That means that dog owners are liable for injuries caused by their dogs, even if they had no reason to believe the dog would cause such an injury. However, there are some exceptions. If the statute of limitations has passed, or if the victim was provoking the dog at the time the injury occurred, the owner may be off the hook. A Boston dog bite injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been attacked or bitten by a dog.

Dog Bite Laws in MA

In MA, a dog bite victim has three years to file a personal injury claim following the date of the injury. In Chapter 140, Section 155 of the Massachusetts General Laws, a dog’s owner is liable if:

  • The dog causes injury or damage to personal property, and
  • the victim was not provoking the dog or trespassing on private property.

And this law doesn’t only apply to bites; any injury caused by a dog may be covered. For example, if a dog knocks you over and you are injured in the fall, the dog’s owner may be liable. Further, when a dog causes property damage, such as breaking a fence, chewing on other people’s belongings, or injuring livestock, the law also applies.

Dog Bite Statistics

Dog bites can result in serious, long-term injuries, and even death. In the United States, approximately 1,000 people visit the emergency room every day for serious dog bite injuries. About 9,500 dog bite victims are hospitalized annually. The information below provides greater insight into this problem, and how to avoid becoming a statistic.

  • Dog bites are the fifth most frequent cause of ER visits among children.
  • Children, mail carriers, and the elderly account for the majority of dog bite victims.
  • In 2015, dog bites resulted in more than 28,000 reconstructive surgeries.
  • The average cost of dog bite-related hospitalization is $18,200, compared to $12,100 for other injury-related inpatient stays.
  • About 77 percent of dog bite victims are the owner’s family members or friends.

Never approach an unfamiliar dog without first asking the owner if it’s okay to do so. If an unfamiliar dog approaches you, remain motionless. If the dog attacks or knocks you over, curl into a ball, tuck your head into your body, and cover your neck and ears with your hands. Never run from a dog, or disturb a dog that is sleeping or eating. And never allow young children to play with a dog unsupervised. A MA injury lawyer can help you determine how to move forward if you or a loved one has been bitten or attacked by a dog. Continue reading

National Dog Bite Prevention Week, which runs from April 9 to 15, aims to educate the public and dog owners about how to prevent dog bites. According to recent reports, dog bite claims over the past 10 years have skyrocketed. The information below provides insight into why these claims have been on the rise, and provides helpful tips on how to avoid becoming a victim.

The Insurance Information Institute, in collaboration with State Farm, released a report earlier this month to call attention to the shocking increase in dog bite claims. According to the report, 18,000 dog bite claims were filed in 2016 alone. This is nearly 3,500 more than were filed in 2006. So, what’s going on? Are there more “vicious” dogs today than there were 10 years ago? Are irresponsible owners to blame?

The real answer may have more to do with the potential payout than with the dogs or owners; the average payout on a dog bite claim has risen by more than $11 thousand in that same period of time. Total payouts for all dog bite claims in 2016 increased by nearly $280 million. This doesn’t mean that people are taking advantage of the system, however. In the past, dog bite claims weren’t taken as seriously as they are today, thus, they usually resulted in a lower payout. As filing a legal claim can be a complex process, it is likely that less people chose to go this route when the potential payout was less substantial.

Dog Bite Facts

But an increase in attacks, and more serious bites, may also play a role in the rise in dog bite claims. According to analysts, there has been an uptick in severe dog bites, especially those involving children. This combination of an increase in attacks and an increase in payouts may be responsible for the nearly 20 percent increase in annual dog bite claims. A Boston injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you have been the victim of a dog bite or attack.

  • According to the CDC, about 4.5 million dog bites occur annually in the United States
  • Of these bites, about 900,000 become infected.
  • In 2016, 41 people died due to dog bites
  • Of those deaths, 31 percent were three to six-day-old infants

Who is Liable?

In most cases, the dog’s owner is liable for any injury caused by their dog. Of course, in some instances it is the victim, not the dog or owner, who is to blame. If an individual is thought to have “provoked” a dog, the owner may not be liable for resulting injuries. An ignored “Beware of Dog” sign could further complicate the issue. A skilled MA personal injury attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured in a dog attack.

How to Prevent Dog Bites

Before we talk about how to prevent dog bites, let’s consider why dogs bite in the first place. In most cases, dogs bite because they are stressed, because they feel threatened, or to protect themselves or their puppies. They may also react aggressively if they are not feeling well.

  • Avoid approaching an animal that you do not know.
  • Avoid running from a dog.
  • If you are approached by an unfamiliar dog, stay completely still and avoid direct eye contact.
  • Avoid disturbing a sleeping dog.
  • Avoid disturbing a dog who is eating.
  • Before attempting to pet an unfamiliar dog, allow the dog to sniff you.
  • If a dog begins to attack, roll into a ball and stay very still. Cover your ears and neck, and avoid eye contact.

Continue reading

The U.S. Postal Service has stopped delivering mail to one New England town, citing an aggressive dog as the reason.

For more than one year, mail carriers have not delivered mail to a neighborhood in Concord, New Hampshire over concern that one of the neighborhood homeowner’s dogs is overly aggressive and poses a significant threat to postal workers. In three separate instances postal workers have been rushed and had to suspend delivery anywhere near the home out of concern that the dog will attack.

Neighbors have also complained that the dog is exceptionally aggressive and that they fear for their own safety, however there have not been reports that the dog has actually attacked and harmed any individuals.

While no one yet has been injured by this dog, the scary truth is that no one knows just what will set off a dog and cause it to attack. In many cases, dog attacks happen to unsuspecting individuals who have done nothing to provoke an attack. Under Massachusetts law, dog attacks are held strictly under liability law-meaning that the dog’s owner is fully responsible for the actions of his or her dog. If a dog attacks someone and causes injury, no matter how severe, then it is the owner (or the owner’s insurance carrier) who is responsible for payment of all medical bills, lost wages, and financial compensation for pain and suffering, and any other costs associated with the injury to the victim and/or his family.
Continue reading

Dog bites can result in devastating scars, nerve damage, disfigurement and even death. In many cases, dog attacks can also leave victims with severe psychological injuries too. Since Massachusetts is a strict liability state, owners can be held liable for their dog’s actions even if there isn’t any negligence or prior history of aggression. If you or a loved one has been attacked by a dog, contact an experienced Boston personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year. Additionally, half of all dog bite victims are children. In 2012, more than 27,000 victims underwent reconstructive surgery for dog bites. Nearly one in five people who are bitten require medical treatment for injuries.
Continue reading

The town of Bridgewater, MA is facing a serious issue following the resignation of the town’s animal control officer and three serious dog attacks since mid-February.

Police say they are without backup when it comes to animal-related emergency calls since Eric Badger, Bridgewater’s Health Agent and part-time animal control officer, resigned from his positions back in February of this year.

“Right now, there’s nowhere to turn,” Police Lieutenant Tom Schlatz said. Without an Animal Control officer in town, “there’s a certain follow-up that’s not being done.”

According to the town’s officials, Bridgewater police has responded to three separate dog attacks over the last six weeks.

On April 9, a woman was attacked while walking her own dog when a 4-year old boxer, lunged at the woman’s dog. The boxer bit the woman in the leg, leaving puncture wounds on her calf. One week after that incident, on April 16, an 11-year old was bitten by a dog at a residence and taken to the hospital for injuries on her arms and wrists. On May 12, a Shaw Road resident called police after his 6-year old daughter was bitten by an American bull dog while playing with her friends.

In all three cases, police stated that they left messages with Badger, who later said he would not respond to the messages because he had already resigned from his post as animal control officer. Badger said that the animal control officer would step in in these incidents only if the dogs had not been vaccinated. All three of the dogs in these cases had been vaccinated, and will remain in their homes.

Badger, who received only a $100 stipend each week for responding to animal-related calls on an on-call basis, said he didn’t have a real budget to work with. He stated that he did not even have a crate to keep animals quarantined and in one instance, had to call upon the help of a neighboring town’s animal control unit for assistance.
Continue reading

A 14-year-old boy is in critical condition today after being attacked by two Rottweilers Thursday night.

Officers responded last Thursday, March 21, to a fenced-in backyard on Squire Road, in Revere, after the boy’s friend, 12, placed the frantic call to police. The boys had apparently scaled the fence and jumped in the yard to play with the dogs.

Police could not immediately respond to the boy when they arrived because the chain-link fence surrounding the yard was padlocked and topped with barbed wire.

Officer Mike Mullen, who is credited with saving the boy’s life, had to scale the fence while firefighters worked on cutting the gate’s padlock. He shot one of the dogs in the leg, forcing it to retreat from the boy, as firefighters sprayed the other dog with water. Mullen then picked up the bleeding boy, and ran to the boy to firefighters, who then rushed him to an ambulance.

Detective Sergeant Steven Pisano said that if Mullen had not acted so quickly, the boy would have probably died because his injuries were so severe.

According to neighbors, the boy was not a stranger to the dogs, and frequently spent time at that location. Pisano said the property’s owner kept guard dogs in the yard for two decades but had never had any complaints about them.
Continue reading

A 3-year-old, 48-pound pointer-hound mix will now be euthanized after he was involved in a second Mansfield, MA dog attack involving a child. Milo first came to the attention of authorities when he bit a 6-year-old boy in January. The child, who was being babysat by the dog’s owner, required over 400 stitches.

Now, Milo has again bitten another child, this time sending a 16-year-old girl to the hospital. His owners have since surrendered him to Mansfield Animal Control.

Dog Bites

Three pit bull terriers have been placed under quarantine after a Pittsfield, Massachusetts dog attack that sent a 9-year-old boy to the hospital. Perrin and his mother Jessyca Petell were entering their multi-family residence on Monday night when the dogs ran at him in a common area. The pit bulls belong to another resident.

Perrin sustained 35 nail and teeth puncture wounds to his face, head, and arms, and a portion of his scalp (about 3-inches by 3-inches in size) was torn off. Per state law, Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn declared the dogs vicious and said they must be “disposed of.” The pit bulls’ owner has 10 days to appeal.

Massachusetts Dog Attacks