4.5 million dog bites occur in the U.S. every year
Dog attacks are some of the most gruesome personal injuries that we see people suffer from, and they are unfortunately all too common: 4.5 million dog bites occur in the United States every year, and about 1 in 5 of those bites will become infected, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
If you or a family member has been bitten by a dog in Massachusetts, you may be eligible to receive compensation for your injuries and other losses, and the Law Offices of George A. Malliaros can help. Our state has a strict liability statute regarding dog bites; it states that the owner of a dog is liable for damages inflicted by the animal if it bites a person who is either in a public place lawfully or who entered the dog owner’s property as an invitee or guest (M.G.L. Ch 140, § 155).
The dog owner is liable regardless of whether the dog had ever been vicious before and regardless of whether the owner had reason to believe it would behave in a vicious manner — a dog does not get “one free bite.”
Children Are at the Greatest Risk
The CDC reports that children are most at risk for dog bites, with children between 5 and 9 carrying the highest risk of all. This means that it’s extremely important to teach our children safe behavior around dogs as well as promote awareness about how to prevent dog bites and what to do in their aftermath.
For example, the CDC recommends that you:
- Remain motionless (e.g., “be still like a tree”) when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
- Curl into a ball with your head tucked and your hands over your ears and neck if a dog knocks you over.
- Immediately let an adult know about stray dogs or dogs that are behaving strangely.
You can see other dog bite prevention tips from the CDC here.
Few Defenses for Owners of Dogs that Bite
The only defenses to the Massachusetts strict liability statute for dog bites arise when the injured party was trespassing or committing some other unlawful action, or was teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog (M.G.L. Ch 140, § 155); this defense only applies if the bite victim is age 7 or older. Massachusetts law places the burden of proof for this defense on the dog owner (M.G.L. Ch 140, § 155).
Unfortunately, you have few legal options if a stray dog bites you. Your municipality is not responsible for the dog, even if you have called your local Animal Control office several times about picking up the stray. This, combined with the fact that stray animals are highly unpredictable, means that it’s extremely important to follow the CDC’s bite prevention guidelines around stray dogs.
Call George A. Malliaros When a Dog Bites
If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, call the Law Offices of George A. Malliaros right away at (978) 452-6641 or fill out our online contact form to speak with an attorney at no cost to you. Your initial consultation is free and we handle personal injury cases on a contingent fee basis, which means that you won’t pay attorney’s fees unless we achieve a monetary award or settlement on your behalf.
Remember that when a dog bites, it’s important to preserve evidence and then contact us quickly. We can move right away to investigate the incident and have physicians or other experts evaluate any injuries.
In addition, you may have a valid claim and be entitled to compensation for your injuries, but you won’t be able to file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations expires, so please don’t delay — contact our offices now to schedule your free consultation.
Preventing dog bites. (n.d.). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/features/dog-bite-prevention/