How Much Is a Dog Bite Claim Worth in Massachusetts?

Dog bites are a common occurrence in the U.S. and Massachusetts with some 4.5 million incidents reported and estimated each year. Although not every bite is a serious one, a dog bite or attack can cause serious injuries and death. The most vulnerable are children, seniors and disabled persons who are unable to fend off an attack or take measures to protect themselves from further injury after the initial attack.

Unlike auto accidents, Massachusetts has a strict liability law that governs dog bite claims. You need not have to prove negligence on the part of the dog owner but only demonstrate:

  • You were attacked or bit and suffered an injury
  • The defendant was the owner of the animal

Once these conditions are met, you only have to prove your damages. There are some defenses available to dog owners whose animal bit or attacked someone:

  1. The victim had provoked, tormented, or taunted the dog prior to the attack
  2. The victim was not trespassing on the owner’s property where the dog attack occurred
  3. The victim had not or was not in the act of committing a crime or tort at the time such as burglarizing the owner’s home, robbing the owner, or stealing the owner’s property

Also, you need not prove that the dog had known dangerous propensities or had previously bit or attacked someone. This was once the law in Massachusetts and in most other states. 

Further, the attack or bite can have occurred on public property or on property owned by someone other than the dog’s owner such as in a park or while the dog and owner were visiting the victim at her or someone else’s home or property. 

How Much is a Dog Bite Claim Worth?

Like any other personal injury claim, the amount you may expect to recover depends on the seriousness of your injury and other factors including:

  • Medical expenses
  • Wage losses
  • Loss of income capacity
  • Emotional distress
  • Permanent disfigurement and if the scarring is visible and extensive
  • Permanent impairment
  • Diminished quality of life

On average, a dog bite claim typically settles for an amount ranging from $30,000 to $50,000, although each case is unique in the degree of severity, the emotional impact, if it resulted in serious and permanent disfigurement or impairment, and if a death resulted. 

Insurance and Other Sources of Compensation

Many dog owners possess homeowner’s insurance that covers accidents including dog bites that occur on the owner’s property or anywhere else where the dog attacks someone. Most have liability limits of $100,000 to $300,00 and up to $1 million or more. Also, there are pet owner insurance policies that dog owners should consider purchasing especially if their renter’s or homeowner’s policy will not cover certain breeds. A pet owner’s liability policy will cover any breed and may offer more liability limits than a typical homeowner’s policy. 

In some cases, a city or municipality may be at fault if the dog had previously attacked someone and the city had been on notice of a serious attack but failed to warn or punish the owner or did not euthanize the dog if it had attacked someone and caused catastrophic or fatal injuries. If the dog had been fenced in or on a chain that was defective and allowed the dog to escape the restraint and attack and injure or kill someone, the manufacturer of the fence, gate, or chain may have responsibility to some degree for the victim’s injuries and damages.

Bringing a Dog Bite Claim

A minor injury will likely result in small settlement of a few thousand dollars. But insurers will carefully scrutinize your claim and damages before making a reasonable offer. We highly recommend that you consult with a personal injury attorney from Burns and Jain who has extensive experience in such claims and who can advise you and handle your claim. 

Since Massachusetts has a strict liability law on dog bite claims, most cases are focused on the victim’s damages, the reasonableness and necessity of their treatment, and how their injuries have affected their daily living and social activities. For example, claimants with a highly visible and long scar on their forearm, face, or thigh will likely be embarrassed if they display such scarring in public and have a serious effect on their social activities. An attack can also cause significant emotional damage whereby a victim will cower in the presence of a dog or who will no longer go to parks or visit people who have dogs. This can have a substantial impact on a jury who decides how much compensation a claimant is entitled to.

Only a highly experienced personal injury attorney can adequately demonstrate and prove your damages so that you have the best opportunity to recover the most compensation for your claim. 

Retain a Personal Injury Attorney from Burns and Jain 

Handling a dog bite or any other personal injury claim can take substantial time, effort and expense on your part. You may also miss other possible responsible parties who can contribute to your claim. If the owner asserts you were trespassing or had been taunting the dog before the attack, your personal injury attorney can investigate the defense and see if it has any credibility. Call us at (617) 227-7423 for a free consultation about your injury claim. We only collect our fees if we succeed in obtaining compensation for you.