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Articles Posted in Dog Bites

Massachusetts, like many states, has a “dog bite” law that holds people strictly liable for any injuries their dogs cause innocent people to suffer. While the dog bite law does not require an injured party to establish negligence to recover damages, it does require proof of other elements, like ownership. In a recent opinion, a Massachusetts court analyzed whether a property owner could be held liable under the dog bite law for harm caused by one of its tenant’s dogs. If you suffered injuries due to a dog bite, you should speak to a trusted Massachusetts personal injury lawyer to assess what damages you may be owed.

The Facts Surrounding the Plaintiff’s Harm

Allegedly, the plaintiff rode his bicycle past a residential rental property that the defendant owned. The tenant that lived at the property owned a dog that broke loose and chased the plaintiff. It then bit him, causing him to fall off his bike and suffer injuries. The plaintiff then filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging that pursuant to the dog bite law, he was strictly liable for the plaintiff’s harm. The parties engaged in discovery, after which the defendant moved for via summary judgment, asking the court to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims. The court ruled in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed.

Liability Under the Dog Bite Law

The appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling. It explained that despite the plaintiff’s arguments to the contrary, the dog bite law did not apply to the plaintiff’s claims against the defendant. Specifically, the defendant was not the dog’s owner or keeper, and therefore, could not be deemed strictly liable for the harm caused by the dog under the statute. Continue Reading ›

Landowners and those who own businesses can be held liable for injuries on their property in many instances. Similarly, those who own animals – dogs in particular (although not exclusively) – can also be held accountable for injuries inflicted on others under certain circumstances.

Of course, not every encounter between humans and animals will result in a finding of negligence against the owner of the dog or other animal in a Cape Cod personal injury lawsuit. It all depends upon the particular encounter and whether the pet owner’s negligence contributed to harm to the plaintiff.

In cases in which an animal’s owner is held liable for a person’s injuries from a bite or other harm, the injured individual may be entitled to substantial money damages. This can include medical expenses, lost earnings, and compensation for pain and suffering, among other things.

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Those who own animals that cause serious injury to others by biting them or otherwise attacking them can be held liable for medical expenses, lost earnings, and other damages. Of course, there are some limitations on this general rule. For instance, if the bite or attack came as a result of the plaintiff provoking the animal in some manner, the owner may not be liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. Often, Cape Cod dog bite cases come down to a factual dispute that must be resolved by the trier of fact. Sometimes, however, dog bite cases can be handled though the pre-trial summary judgment process.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent (unreported) case was a man who was bitten by a dog owned by the defendant. Seeking monetary compensation for serious injuries he allegedly received in the incident, the plaintiff filed suit against the defendant pursuant to Massachusetts General Law ch. 140, § 155. In his suit, the plaintiff stated claims for both negligence and strict liability, alleging that, at the time that he was bitten, he was not “teasing, tormenting, or abusing” the dog but, rather, had merely leaned down to pet the animal. The defendant’s unsigned answers to interrogatories asserted that the plaintiff had awoken the dog from sleep, stepped on its tail, and swung a heavy medallion at the dog.

The trial court granted summary judgment to the plaintiff. The defendant sought reconsideration, but the trial court did not change its earlier ruling in the plaintiff’s favor. The defendant appealed.

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In a Cape Cod dog bite injury lawsuit, there can be a wide variety of issues. As always, the burden of proof lies on the party asserting the claim.

Insurance coverage can be an issue in some cases. Depending on the facts, it may be the plaintiff, or it may be the defendant who is seeking a declaration from the court to the effect that the plaintiff’s claim (if it is ultimately proven) is covered by a particular policy of insurance.

As in other cases in which an insurance company seeks to avoid liability for one reason or the other, proving that there is insurance coverage can be just as difficult a battle – if not even more so – than proving the elements of the underlying case.

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A liability insurance policy is, at its essence, a contract. In determining whether to enter into the agreement, an insurance company is entitled to rely on certain representations made by the would-be insured and to price its product accordingly.

Once the agreement is made, the insured has the right to demand that the insurance company defend him or her against any claims that are covered under the policy and pay any judgments (up to the policy limits) resulting from such claims.

A recent case explored the issue of whether a particular misrepresentation by the insureds during the application process was sufficient for the insurance company to later void the policy and deny coverage of a claim that would otherwise be covered.

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Statistics concerning dog bite cases are fairly alarming, especially for people with kids.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (the “CDC”), half of the almost 4.5 million Americans bitten by dogs each year are children.  In fact, children are more likely to require medical treatment after a dog bite than adults.  Statistics also indicate that, among children, kids between the ages of five and nine are most likely to be victims of a dog bite.

In 2012, over 27,000 people underwent reconstructive surgery as a result of being bitten by dogs. Because dog bite injuries can be serious and can cause a variety of lasting problems, victims may be entitled to compensation for their suffering and losses.  Victims of dog bites are encouraged to contact an experienced, Cape Cod injury attorney who has the requisite background the handle the case.

Among adults and children, having a dog in the household is associated with a higher incidence of dog bites.  If you have children and are considering bringing a new pet into the home, there are ways to protect your kids from dog bites.  The CDC suggests speaking with staff at a local animal shelter who can help you to identify a breed that will work well with your family and home life.  Also, a veterinarian can guide new dog owners in a variety of ways concerning pet care, especially by recommending a reputable dog trainer.  Another suggestion is to be aware of your child’s comfort around dogs, namely, whether he or she has a fear of dogs, in order to determine the right time to get a new pet. Continue Reading ›

Pet ownership brings joy to many people and families.  But unfortunately, there are also many reports of dogs hurting and injuring people, strangers and family members alike. Statistics maintained by the website,, indicate that each day, approximately 1,000 people in the United States require emergency care treatment for a dog bite injury. This translates to a one in 50 chance of being bitten by a dog.  People who have been the victim of a dog bite may suffer physical and psychological injuries to varying degrees.  The good news is, the injured person may be entitled to compensation for their suffering and losses.  It is important for those who have bitten by a dog to contact a local Cape Cod injury attorney with experience handling such cases.

Notably, according to the above-referenced website, between 2005 and 2012, two dog breeds accounted for 73% of the attacks that resulted in death: pit bull and rottweiler.  And just recently, in the town of Wakefield, Massachusetts, a dog attack by a Pit Bull has garnered a great deal of attention by members of the community and local government.  In what has been described as a terrifying encounter with two aggressive and vicious dogs, a grandfather was walking his dog while pushing his grandson in a stroller when the two animals charged at them at full speed.

In an effort to protect the child and his dog from the attacking animals, the grandfather picked up, and raised the dog over his head and stood in front of the child in the stroller. After doing so, the dogs began jumping, trying to bite at his dog.  The grandfather described the pit bull as being the more aggressive dog. He received seven puncture wounds on his upper and lower body.  Fortunately, a neighbor walking by and was able to bring them into the development’s clubhouse.  The grandfather was taken to a nearby hospital where he received stitches.

Many people in Cape Cod have pets.  The American Veterinary Medical Association (the “AVMA”) compiles statistics on pet ownership throughout the United States.  According to the data, 50.4% of households in Massachusetts own a pet; of that number, 23.6% have a dog.  While dogs bring much pleasure to the families who own them, there are certainly risks associated with pet ownership. One of the main risks is that sometimes dogs bite people.

A dog bite can cause moderate to serious injuries, ranging from cuts and scratches to more significant damages. In Massachusetts, dog owners are strictly liable for bites.  Essentially, this means that when a person’s dog bites someone else, the owner is legally responsible even if the dog has never attacked another person in the past. If you or someone you know has been bitten by a dog, you are most likely entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses. In order to maximize your recovery, it is important to contact a local injury attorney who is experienced handling dog bite cases.

A recent Massachusetts Supreme Court decision addressed the extent of insurance coverage for a dog bite claim.  In this case, the insured couple purchased a homeowner’s insurance policy with a $500,000 personal liability limit.  The policy included an Animal Liability Endorsement that limited coverage to $25,000 for each animal bite claim.  Interestingly enough, both the insured and the insured’s agent stated that they mistakenly believed that the policy did NOT contain this limitation of liability, but neither one mentioned it to the other. In fact, the parties did not discuss coverage for dog or animal bite claims. Continue Reading ›

According to the Cape Cod Today, the Provincetown Police Blotter reported several animal calls for the two weeks ending at July 22, 2013.During that time period, the local police responded to one dog bite incident and several loose and lost dogs, among other matters. In all likelihood, there were many more unreported dog bite cases throughout Cape Cod during the past month. A dog bite can be a very serious matter.  Victims may suffer life-long physical and psychological damages.  If a dog has bitten you or a loved one, you are encouraged to contact a local injury attorney as soon as possible after the incident.

A dog bite has the potential to cause serious injuries, and in some rare cases, death.  A city in the San Francisco Bay area has reportedly settled a lawsuit with the family of a man who was bitten by a city police dog and later died. In 2011, the 89-year-old victim was bitten as the dog was searching for an armed robbery suspect.

According to the family’s complaint, the police had lifted the dog over a security wall at a mobile home park where the victim lived.  The officers instructed the dog to continue searching for the robbery suspect.  Instead of pursuing the suspect, the dog mistakenly bit the elderly man.  As a result of the bite, the man had to have part of his leg amputated. He died weeks after the incident. Although the city has denied responsibility for the man’s death, it nonetheless agreed to settle the lawsuit with the victim’s family for $1.5 million.  Reports indicate that the city will be required to pay $250,000 of the settlement, and insurance proceeds will cover the remaining amount.

People should pay close attention to the kinds of behavior that can provoke a dog to bite, and ways to protect oneself should a dog attack. Dogs often exhibit warning signs that indicate when the pet is feeling anxious, leading it to protect or defend itself by biting.  Some of these signs include the following: barking or whining, lip licking or tongue flicking, crouching or tucking in tail, turning head or entire body away from a situation, tightly closing mouth, yawning, ears pinned back to head, body is still or in a “freeze,” and something referred to as a “half moon eye,” which happens when the whites of a dog’s eyes are exposed.

If you think a dog is about to attack, the Humane Society provides the following recommendations: 1) resist the urge to scream and run away; 2) stay motionless, with your hands at your sides, and be sure to avoid eye contact with the dog; 3) when the dog loses interest in you, slowly back away until he is out of sight (do not turn and run away); and 4) if the dog does attack, give him your purse, jacket, bicycle, or any item that you can put between you and the dog. If a dog has bitten you or someone in your family, it is important to contact a local dog bite attorney who can help to protect your rights to a fair and just recovery. Continue Reading ›

Many people in Cape Cod are victims of unanticipated dog bites. Often, children are bitten because of the way they approach and play with unfamiliar dogs.  There are many ways to avoid a dog bite and there are certain behaviors to look for to understand when a dog may feel threatened enough to bite a person.  In Massachusetts, the pet’s owner is liable when a dog bites someone and causes injuries and suffering.  There is no real defense.  The victim may also be entitled to compensation for their injuries. If you or someone you love has been injured as a result of a dog bite, it is important to contact a local injury attorney who routinely handles dog bite cases.

A dog bite can cause a wide variety of injuries, ranging from a mild wound to a more serious bite to the face and neck.  In an extreme case, it has been reported that a woman lost three limbs after her own dog bit her.  According to the CBC news in Canada, a single mother raising four children in Ottawa was playing tug-of-war with her dogs when one of them nipped her on the hand. Afterward, that dog backed away and the other dogs licked her hand.  The woman forgot about the incident; however, three days later she was taken to the hospital and doctors put her into a coma for a month and a half.

It turns out that the woman’s wound became infected with a bacterium that is commonly found in a dog’s saliva: Capnocytophaga canimorsus. In what is considered to be a rare occurrence, the bacterial infection caused her body to go into septic shock.  In fact, the article suggests that there have been only 200 such cases worldwide in the past 25 years. But health officials could not pinpoint whether the infection stemmed from the initial bite or from the other dogs licking her wound. But once the infection took hold, her body went into septic shock, thereby restricting the blood flow to her extremities.

The victim has warned others to seek treatment after getting bitten by a dog if they feel that something is wrong.  Penicillin can be used to treat this kind of an infection and may have prevented the tragic consequences.  While this is a rare and tragic case of a person who has been bitten by their own pet, many people suffer serious and life altering injuries from a bite by another person’s dog.

When seeking redress against the dog’s owner, one can often receive an award from that party’s insurance company.  In addition to physical injuries, some people experience devastating psychological effects. In those cases, victims can bring claims for counseling and psychotherapy, especially when the person injured is a child. Dog bite attacks can also cause nerve injuries, crush injuries and scarring, all of which should be included in the victim’s claim. An experienced, local injury attorney who handles dog bite cases on a regular basis will know precisely how to approach and handle your case to achieve the best possible settlement. Continue Reading ›

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