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Who Can I Sue For My Dog Bite Injuries?

lawyer for dog bite injuries in MassachusettsDog bites can pose a serious health hazard to our communities. While most dogs are friendly and well-trained, any dog can bite if provoked or alarmed. Even the cuddliest, sweetest-looking animals can injure you with a hard bite to the leg or arm.

If you’re attacked by a dog, injuries can range from minor to life-threatening. Many dog attack victims wonder who is liable to pay for their medical bills and pain and suffering. Can you sue the dog’s owner or does the property owner share some liability? Here is an overview of liability for dog bite injuries and what you should do if attacked by an animal.

How Common Are Dog Bite Injuries?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that over 4 million people suffer dog bites each year in the U.S. More than 800,000 dog bite victims seek medical attention for their injuries and more than 50% of victims are children. The CDC estimates that 20% of people bitten by dogs each year sustain injuries serious enough to warrant medical attention. Most children who suffer bite injuries are attacked by familiar dogs.

Steps To Take After a Dog Bite Incident

Being attacked by an animal can be a terrifying experience. Even if you do not suffer serious injuries, you may not know what to do after an attack to protect your rights. Follow these steps after a dog bite incident:

  • Collect owner contact information: Write down the dog owner’s name and phone number after the incident. Even if you do not plan to file a claim or seek compensation, you should get the owner’s information. You will need contact details in case you notice an injury a week or two after the incident that requires medical attention.
  • Collect witness contact information: Write down the names and phone numbers of anyone who witnessed the attack. You may need the witness to make an official statement if the owner refutes your version of events.
  • Take photographs: If possible, take a photo of the dog before leaving the scene. However, only take a photo of the animal if it is safe to do so. It is possible that the animal is so agitated that taking a photograph will cause it to attack you again. Take photos of the scene and your injuries if you cannot get a photo of the animal.
  • Seek medical attention: You should seek medical attention if your injuries are serious. Even if you do not think you need medical help, get a physical examination from a doctor.
  • Report the dog bite: You should immediately report the incident to the police and animal control authorities. Reporting the incident is particularly important if you do not know who owns the dog. The authorities may need to check immunization and animal control records to locate the owner and see if the animal has any diseases. Also, check with animal control to see if the dog has previously attacked another individual. You may have more leverage to negotiate with the owner if the dog has a history of bad behavior.

Your safety is the most important factor after a dog bite. Assess the situation and get to a safe location as soon as possible. Do not stay near the animal if it is still showing signs of aggression. Get medical attention as soon as possible and make sure you keep copies of all health documents.

Dog Bite Injuries and Civil Liability

Certain situations allow you to file a civil claim against a dog owner. If your state has enacted a dog-bite statute, the owner may be liable for your injuries. This statute states that dog owners are financially responsible for injuries caused by their animals.

You can also file a civil lawsuit if you can prove that the dog’s owner was aware of the animal’s violent tendencies. The owner must pay for your injuries if they knew their dogs were likely to cause an injury. Lastly, the owner may be civilly liable if you can prove that the dog’s owner was negligent. Examples of owner negligence include ignoring leash lashes or allowing dogs to roam outside unattended.

Civil statutes vary significantly depending on where you reside. Contact a legal professional to see if your case has civil liability.

Dog Owner Defenses to Civil Injury Liability

The dog’s owner can likely avoid some legal responsibility for your injuries if they can prove certain circumstances. The owner’s level of financial responsibility will likely decrease if they can prove that:

  • You were illegally trespassing when you were injured
  • Your injuries resulted from an attack caused by your teasing or provocation
  • Your negligence or recklessness contributed to the attack or worsened your injuries

Some states have strict regulations surrounding civil liability for dog bite injuries. However, these laws do not apply if you were trespassing, or your negligence contributed to your injuries. Explain the situation to your lawyer and let them decide if you have a case before you file a civil lawsuit.

Filing a Claim with the Dog Owner’s Insurance Company 

If you cannot file a civil lawsuit due to your own negligence or you choose not to pursue legal action, you still have options if you need financial compensation for medical bills. You can file a claim with the dog owner’s insurance company. First, determine if the dog owner has home or renter’s insurance. The liability provisions of the owner’s insurance policy may apply if the incident took place on their property.

Consult with a legal professional before you contact the insurance company. Making any incriminating statements about your negligence or responsibility in the incident can hurt your claim. Avoid making any statements of guilt when negotiating with the insurance company.

Please note that you are not obligated to talk to the insurance adjuster once you’ve filed a claim with the insurance company. You have the right to communicate with the adjuster through your attorney.

Speak With a Legal Professional

It is a good idea to contact a personal injury lawyer if you’ve been injured by a dog. An attorney will know whether you have a legal case and how much money you should receive from the insurance company.

An attorney can also help you determine liability. Perhaps the dog’s owner violated a local leash law or ignored the animal’s history of aggression. An attorney can help you understand who is responsible for your injuries and whether you are entitled to financial compensation.

If your dog bit someone and the victim has started legal proceedings, you should consult with an animal law attorney. The victim may attempt to file criminal charges against you or have your dog destroyed. While criminal charges are rare, they can occur if your dog seriously injured or killed someone. You should consult with a criminal defense lawyer if you are facing a criminal charge.

Contact a Dog Bite Lawyer

Were you attacked by a dog and suffered severe injuries? Don’t wait to get the help you need. Jason Stone Injury Lawyers specializes in personal injury law and can help understand if the dog’s owner is liable for your injuries. The team at Jason Stone Injury Lawyers will fight to get you the compensation you deserve so you can focus on recovering. Contact us today to set up an appointment.