DOG BITE LAWSUIT DEFENSE
Defending dog owners when there is no insurance
When your dog bites someone or bites a dog, you can expect that the victim or their owner is thinking about suing you. Some pet owners have homeowners’ or renters’ insurance which might provide liability coverage. We represent uninsured owners, owners whose coverage was denied and also owners with insurance coverage.
At BDL we know that we investigate dog bite claims better than insurers do in one particular area: why the dog attacked. There are dozens to hundreds of reasons and facts as to why a dog bite someone or their dog. These factors must be considered when determining liability and the amount of damages, if any, to be paid. We have the team of investigators, trainers, behaviorists, veterinarians and claims adjusters who seek to find out the truth. While many personal injury attorneys call us to tell us about strict liability, we do not accept that. There are many defenses to a dog bite and if one exists for you, we will pursue it. Innocent victims of dog bites should absolutely be compensated for their injuries. Those who contributed somehow to the attack, should receive less compensation and perhaps none at all. We look at the history of the dog and the victim. We look at the location, the time, the weather, the clothing the leash, fence or other dog involved. There is so much to find out before determining whether to pay out on a dog bite lawsuit and we put in the time necessary to investigate.
We do not manufacture defenses, we just rely on the fact and combine them with the law to point out to our clients and opposing counsel why compensation should be paid, and why it shouldn’t. A lawyer can never guarantee results but here we know for certain that if our opponents win, it will only happen after a very difficult battle and they will certainly remember their experience with the Boston Dog Lawyers.
DEFENSE OPTIONS: TRESPASSING AND PROVOCATION
Never let anyone tell you that there are no defenses when a dog attacks. In Massachusetts the most often utilized defense is that of trespass and provocation.
If the injured person was on the private property of the owner without permission the owner may not be liable for the injuries that occurred. In addition, if the injured person was provoking the dog in any manner such as teasing, tormenting or abusing the dog the owner may not be liable because these actions likely caused the dog to react in an aggressive manner.
If a person goes into an area where there is a “beware of dog” sign, we believe there may be a defense to a bite. At BDL we argue that “Beware” is a verb requiring diligence and care on the part of the person who is about to be the victim of an attack. We want to know why they were there and what steps they took to avoid the incident.
Of course, unforeseeable incidents happen but as a pet owner follow some of these guidelines in order to avoid dog bites to the best of your ability:
· Do not leave dogs outside when no one is home
· Keep your dog restrained with equipment and fencing to prevent an escape
· Install a gate inside the house at the front door so your dog will not race out when you answer the door
· Do not use retractable leashes
· Train your dog to be obedient to simple commands such as “sit, stay, heal and come”
· Take pictures immediately of the scene, your dog and the other person’s dog or injuries
We receive calls from dog owners who have insurance because they do not want to go through their carrier. Sometimes the reason is to avoid higher premiums or avoid being non-renewed. Other times it is because they believe the incident was not very significant and can be negotiated by an attorney. It is important to know that when it comes to dog bites, many of the injuries appear minor and do not require stitches. Oftentimes doctors do not stitch up dog bites for fear of infection. The "value" in a dog bite case comes from the scarring and there are many factors based on location of the bite and the age of the victim. Usually a claim is made for emotional distress as well. Another reason to hire your own lawyer is to have him or her act as a consultant to your insurance company on the claim to make sure that all defenses are raised and considered. There are hundreds of reasons why dogs bite and a careful analysis of the facts is necessary. Do not feel bullied by a personal injury attorney who tells you that for all dog bites the owner is strictly liable! And
if you ever settle a claim on your own, make sure you get a written release from all future claims and have an attorney review it.
If you do make the claim through your insurer, they will ask you for a written and possibly recorded statement. They will appoint an attorney to work with you at their expense and if there is any money to be paid out, they will do so. You will not have to pay them back. If you are not renewed, you can still try and obtain insurance for your residence and seek out separate liability insurance for your dog. There are several agents now writing solely for liability coverage of a dog. It is an even better idea to get this coverage prior to any activity.
If you receive a claim and do not have insurance coverage you can seek out an attorney to assist. If you google "dog attorney" you will get plenty of lawyers who represent bite victims but virtually none who handle the defense side. Boston Dog Lawyers is part of a nationwide network of attorneys who may be able to assist you. You need a civil defense attorney who understands the laws and facts surrounding dog bites.
If your dog is 100% at fault and the victim is another dog, it is always a good gesture to offer to pay the reasonable veterinary bills. However, make sure you get to see the bills and notes first. You want to avoid paying for items that are unrelated to the attack but were performed at the veterinary facility. For instance, some pets get their vaccinations or immunizations while they are there and the owner of the attacking dog should not have to pay for that. You always want to get a written release when making any type of payment for the actions of your dog and should make sure to contact an attorney to draft one. Whether you have an insurer covering the claim or not, you should not make payments of your own to a victim without first getting the advice of an attorney.
Free initial discussion with knowledgeable staff to help you determine your rights or obligations based on the facts you present.
Did you get a letter from a lawyer representing a dog bite victim who is claiming your dog bit them?
Did you present the claim to your homeowner or rental insurer? Is there coverage?
You don't have insurance but were sued in court and served by a sheriff for a minor dog bite?
Were you told that when it comes to owning a dog who bit there is strict liability and you must pay and there are no defenses (not true)?
Did your insurer deny coverage or tell you that the loss amount will exceed your policy limits?
Was the alleged dog bite victim even supposed to be on your property?
Had you warned the dog bite victim not to pet your dog or not to come near your dog?
Are you being asked to pay for vet bills or "out-of-pocket" medical expenses because of a dog bite? Did you get a release of all other claims before you paid?
We can help. Contact Boston Dog Lawyers by email or by phone to schedule a free initial consultation. We offer flexible office hours to accommodate the needs of our clients, scheduling evening and weekend appointments upon request.
Lawyers for the dog world because It's Time To Bark Back!