Tort law is the umbrella term for any case involving bodily harm, including dog bite accidents. The attorneys representing dog bite victims are personal injury lawyers who have specific knowledge of the state-mandated laws governing these cases. If you have questions about how to access compensation following a devastating dog attack, you can turn to a dog bite lawyer for answers and guidance, starting with understanding how the state handles liability in these cases.
What Is the Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute?
Massachusetts sets clear guidelines for dog attack accidents in the state’s general laws. The legal principles of the Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute adopted by the state fall within the same standards of strict liability. Under this law, dog owners are nearly always liable in dog bite cases. The court does not consider the dog’s history. Therefore, it does not matter if the dog did or did not act aggressively in the past. Additionally, for this statute to apply, the dog must cause damage to the victim’s property or bodily harm. Further, the injured person’s actions must not be one of the acceptable defenses according to Massachusetts law.
Acceptable Defenses in a Dog Bite Case
As the plaintiff in your case, you are responsible for proving that the dog owner acted negligently, resulting in the accident that caused your injuries. Under strict liability, there are only three accepted claims that dog owners can make that will relieve them of responsibility:
- The injured person committed a tort at the time of the attack. For example, if you attacked the dog owner, causing the dog to attack, you would be liable for your injuries.
- The injured person was trespassing when the dog attacked. If you were not lawfully present on the property at the time of the attack, the dog owner would not be liable for your losses.
- The injured person provoked the dog. For example, if you teased or abused the dog, causing it to act in self-defense, you are liable for the attack and your injuries.
These laws apply to more than bite injuries. Dogs can cause bodily harm in multiple ways. For example, a large dog could jump on someone, causing them to fall and suffer an injury. Likewise, a dog chasing someone could cause them to trip and fall. The best way to combat claims of your involvement in the accident is to take the appropriate steps to protect your rights.
What Can You Do After a Dog Bite Incident to Protect Your Right to Compensation?
Dog attacks can have significant consequences, including severe injuries and property damage. To protect your right to compensation for those losses, there are a few steps you can take in the aftermath of the attack:
- See a doctor right away. Even the tiniest bite wound could cause scarring or infection. Having a medical professional clean and treat it is best for your health and provides you with a medical record of the injuries.
- Report the attack to local animal control. If the dog attacked you, it could be a danger to others. Report the incident to animal control to keep a record of aggressive behavior.
- Document the accident and your injuries. You can take photographs of your injuries at the scene and post-treatment. Write down precisely what happened in the moments leading up to, during, and after the attack. You can even report it to the police to have another official record.
- Identify witnesses. Write down the names and contact information of anyone present during the attack, including the dog owner.
- File a claim. If the dog owner has homeowners or renters insurance, you should be able to file a claim under their policy.
Finally, talk to a personal injury attorney about your question, especially if you have any questions or circumstances that may complicate the case.
When Do You Need To Hire a Dog Bite Injury Lawyer?
A common misconception about hiring a dog bite lawyer is that you only need one if you intend to sue. In reality, not all dog attack cases result in a lawsuit, but you could still benefit from legal representation. Some reasons you may want to hire an attorney include:
- You suffered substantial injuries and faced significant financial repercussions due to medical bills and lost wages.
- You have an active relationship with the dog owner and fear seeking compensation will damage it. An attorney often acts as a buffer and may even be able to limit communication with the insurance company, leaving the dog owner out of it.
- The dog owner does not have insurance, and you need to explore other options for compensation.
- You are approaching the three-year statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit for personal injury in Massachusetts.
- The insurance company is uncooperative. Insurance companies are known to impose bad faith tactics, such as delaying an investigation into your claim, sending a denial without reason, or changing the policy’s language to work in their favor.
- You think you could be at least partially at fault.
Personal injury cases require evidence of negligence. Because of strict liability, this is typically straightforward. However, if you are sure you are at least partially responsible for the accident, you may need an attorney to help you build your case for partial recovery of compensation.
Massachusetts applies the modified comparative negligence rule in cases of personal injury. According to this concept, you could still receive a percentage of the total damages as long as you are less than 51% responsible for the accident. While this is rare in a dog bite case, you should consider contacting an attorney if you suspect the dog owner could claim partial liability.
What Are the Advantages of Hiring a Dog Bite Injury Lawyer?
Despite the straightforward approach of strict liability, dog bite cases can become complex under many circumstances. If this happens, you may need an experienced lawyer to guide you through the process and ensure you get the compensation you need. Some advantages of having a dog bite injury lawyer to represent you include:
- They act in your place during discussions with the insurance company or defense team.
- They know where to look for recoverable damages to ensure you receive a fair settlement.
- They can identify the evidence needed to prove negligence and the damages you suffered.
- They can access resources, such as dog injury and training experts, to provide testimonies in support of your claim.
- They will build a case for trial should the insurer refuse to pay a settlement that accurately reflects your losses.
- They help you understand your rights and the legal process.
Personal injury victims are more likely to settle for a fair amount when they have legal representation. If you have questions about your case and what legal options are available, consider speaking with a dog bite injury lawyer today. At Jason Stone Injury Lawyers, we understand the physical and financial burdens that dog bite victims face in the wake of the accident. To help alleviate some of that burden, we commit to our clients without charging upfront fees. The first element of the Stone Cold Guarantee states that we only get paid when you get paid. Contact Jason Stone Injury Lawyers to schedule your free consultation. Our team of dog bite injury lawyers will answer your questions and help you better understand your legal options.