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How To Find A Dog Bite Attorney Near Me?

Dog bite lawyer near meIf you have suffered a dog bite or own a dog who has bitten someone, it is important to retain experienced legal counsel as soon as possible. Whether you are a dog owner whose animal has injured someone or a dog bite victim, the best way to locate a qualified dog bite attorney is to do an Internet search for your area. Once you have located a few candidate firms, do some research on their attorneys. Things to consider when choosing legal representation:

  • Practice areas—dog bite cases fall under personal injury, so be sure they have lawyers experienced in tort litigation.
  • Track record—how many cases have they won for their clients, and how big were the settlements?
  • Fees—does the firm require a retainer up front, or will they take your case on a contingency basis?

Keeping these simple guidelines in mind should enable you to quickly locate the right counsel who can best represent your interests.

What You Should Know About Dog Bite Injuries

Dog bite liability laws differ from one jurisdiction to another. However, the basis of a dog bite lawsuit rests on one of two basic rules. In some states, the dog is allowed one “free bite”; liability exists only if the dog’s owner knew, or should have known, that the animal posed a danger to others. However, this “one bite rule” does not exist in Massachusetts. Under the principle of strict liability, a dog owner is held responsible for any injury the animal causes, whether its actions were predictable or not. The only time the dog’s owner might escape liability is if it can be proven that the dog was provoked in some way, or the bite victim was trespassing on the owner’s property.

Understanding Dog Behavior

The latest research suggests that the dog has been a companion animal for humans for at least 26,000 years. There are a number of different theories as to why wild wolves decided to throw their lot in with homo sapiens. The most widely accepted one suggests that wolves—who are frequently scavengers—found abundant food sources among the scraps from animals early humans hunted for eating.

Domestic dogs were not strictly companion animals before the advent of industrialization (the word “dog” itself originally referred to a tool or implement). Dogs have long been servants, working alongside hunters and herders—and a number of breeds still fill such occupations.

The reason it is important to know something about the natural history of the domestic canine is because it is key to understanding canine behavior. Like wolves, domestic dogs are highly social, with a desire to run in a pack with others of their kind. Dogs also share wolves’ territorial instincts and can become very aggressive when defending their turf.

Unlike wolves, domestic dogs have been selectively bred over the course of many centuries to fulfill certain tasks. As mentioned earlier, many types of dogs have been bred for hunting and herding. When they are playing fetch and running about like a crazy animal, these dogs are simply engaging in the behaviors that have been bred into them. Sometimes, a dog will injure someone without meaning to; for example, a dog who rears up and jumps on someone is simply offering a friendly greeting. However, this can pose a hazard when the dog weighs between 50 and 100 pounds.

Most dogs are not naturally aggressive unless they feel threatened or have been mistreated. Occasionally, however, a dog may attack, maul and even kill someone for no apparent reason.

Rights and Responsibilities in Massachusetts

Under state law, the person controlling the dog—whether the owner or caretaker—is held liable if the animal injures or kills another person. Because this goes to strict liability, the victim need not prove that the dog owner or caretaker is at fault. They only have to prove they did nothing to provoke the dog, such as teasing it or invading its territory. Section 155 contains a special provision in this regard: if a child victim is under the age of seven at the time of the attack, the law presumes they offered no provocation. In this case, the burden of proof is on the dog’s handler.

Section 155 extends to injuries beyond bites. For example, if an overly-exuberant and friendly dog jumps on a person and causes them to fall over and break a limb, the owner or handler would also bear liability.

A dog’s owner and/or handler can face liability if the dog causes property damage. A person whose clothing, furniture or other household item was damaged by a dog’s actions would also have a case against the owner/handler.

If You Are a Dog Bite Victim

As the victim of a dog attack or other unrestrained physical behavior, you can recover damages as long as (A) you can prove that the dog caused your injury or damaged your property, and (B) you were not trespassing on the dog owner’s property or provoking the dog in any way. Provocation also includes unintentional actions; for example, if the plaintiff accidentally stumbles over or steps on the animal, causing it to respond aggressively, the dog’s owner would have a legitimate defense. (Keep in mind that an animal cannot know the difference between a deliberate attack and being stepped on or kicked accidentally.)

As is the case with most personal injury actions, you can recover damages for the following:

  • present and future medical bills
  • scarring and disfigurement (including costs of cosmetic surgery)
  • loss of wages and earning capacity
  • property loss
  • ongoing therapy and rehabilitation
  • pain and suffering emotional distress (including psychological counseling)

Massachusetts law places a three-year statute of limitations on personal injury claims, so it is in your best interest to contact a personal injury attorney at the earliest opportunity. In the meantime, you should seek medical attention immediately. Not only is there a serious danger of infection and other complications from a dog bite; such medical records will also help your case.

Advice for Dog Owners

If you own a dog or plan on adopting one, you should speak with your insurance carrier. Most homeowners’ and renters’ policies will cover legal expenses and liability associated with a dog bite lawsuit up to the stated limits on the declarations sheet. Generally, this is between $100,000 and $300,000, so if a judgment comes in over that figure, you would be responsible for the additional amount.

Why Choose Jason Stone Injury Lawyers?

At Jason Stone Injury Lawyers, it costs you nothing up front to have a member of the team represent you—we get our fee only if we win your case. Under our Stone Cold Guarantee, one of our attorneys will get back to you within 24 hours, or lunch is on us. We promise to walk you through what can be a stressful and complicated process, and you can expect to get current information and updates on your case every two weeks while we work for you. If you require an in-person meeting with your lawyer, we will schedule one within 24 hours of your request.

Chances are that you will need to deal with the dog owner’s insurance company. Our lawyers know how insurers operate and will fight to get you the biggest possible settlement. Most injury lawsuits are settled out-of-court, but if their initial settlement offer is unsatisfactory, you have the option of going to trial within six months of their offer.

Jason Stone Injury Lawyers has won more than $60 million for clients since 2004. Call today for your free initial consultation and case evaluation. “There’s No Obligation, Just Information ®.”