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Dog Bite Injuries and The Law in Massachusetts

Dog Bites: An Injury Worthy of Legal Representation

About five million Americans suffer dog bite injuries every year. Dogs of any breed and size, whether unfamiliar animals or family pets, can bite and cause injuries. Dog bite injuries can cause life-long and life-altering injuries as well as psychological trauma. Victims of dog bites have a path to seek compensation through the legal system.

Massachusetts Law on Dog Bites

Massachusetts law maintains “strict liability” with regard to dog bite injuries. Even if the owner was exercising due caution (such as by having the dog on a leash), and even if the dog has never bit anyone before, the owner is liable for the injury. Massachusetts law also provides legal recourse for people who are injured by dogs by means other than biting. This can be something as innocent as an over-excited Labrador retriever jumping on an elderly visitor and knocking him over.

The law in Massachusetts does exclude the possibility of compensation for dog-related injuries if the injured person was provoking or taunting the dog, or if the injured party was trespassing or committing some other sort of offense.

A Potentially Life-Altering Injury

Most dog bite victims are children. Not only are children less likely to be cautious around a dog and ignore the dog’s cues, but children are smaller and more easily injured overall. Children’s continued growth and development can also require years of repeated surgery, physical therapy, and/or other treatments.

Adults also can suffer major injuries because of dog bites. The average insurance claim for a dog bite in 2014 was over $32,000. In addition to medical costs, in the case of a serious injury a victim may also be unable to work, either in the short or long term.

Psychological Consequences

In addition to the physical pain and limitations caused by dog bites, there are definite and serious psychological impacts. A dog bite is a trauma; it calls back to the primordial human fear of being attacked by a predator—in this case a predator that happens to be a popular pet, easily encountered during daily life and a possible source of anxiety going forward.

Additionally, the scars left behind by a bite or reconstructive surgeries, particularly if they are on typically-visible parts of the body such as the face or arms, can provoke shame, self-consciousness, and a reluctance to join in social activities. This is true of both adults and children.

In calculating the true financial cost of a dog bite injury, a skilled personal defense attorney will factor in these intangible costs as well as the cost of mental healthcare.

Potential Compensation for Dog Bites in Massachusetts

Although the average insurance claim for a dog bite in 2014 was over $32,000, a complicating factor when seeking compensation for a dog bite injury is that many times the animal in question is a loved one’s beloved pet. As most dog bite injuries are paid through a homeowner’s liability policy, it is often possible to achieve an out-of-court settlement that minimizes the harm done to personal relationships. Call our office to discuss how to get you the compensation you need.

Steven M. Houde

Steven M. Houde

Attorney Houde is a top rated personal injury lawyer serving the Greater Boston region. With law offices in Medway, Attelboro, Needham, and Wellesley, Massachusetts, he will travel to meet clients at their home, hospital, or work. He is skilled at handling all facets of a successful injury claim, from proving liability to looking into all possible sources of insurance coverage to dealing with insurers and defense counsel.

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