Legal Question in Personal Injury in Massachusetts

Dog bite on child -- Rights / Liability

My 9 year old daughter was out riding her scooter when a dog escaped from its house and made a straight line to her across the street. The dog grabbed onto her arm and would not let go until one of the owners caught up with it. Neither owner has visited us to express concern or responsibility. Infact, they took off shortly after the incident prompting us to call the dog officer to file a complaint and find out vaccination information on the dog. When the officer arrived he looked at the wound, which is a three sided open square with two deeper puncture wounds and moderate depth grooved lines (2 1/2 x 2 1/2). He immediately thought that it required medical attention.

So, now I have a hospital bill (not sure if the responsible party will cooperate), and a little girl that will have a good size scar.

My question is: What are my options and what do I need to have besides photos, hospital bill, and dog officer report (citation was sent to owner)?

She is afraid to go out right now but that is understandable.

Asked on 4/26/06, 1:50 pm

3 Answers from Attorneys

Christopher Earley Law Office of Christopher Earley

Re: Dog bite on child -- Rights / Liability

Dear Sir -

I would recommend you consult with an attorney right away. If you tell me what part of Mass. you are in I can refer you to someone. If you have questions about dog bites please visit my blog at

I wish you nothing but success on this claim.

Christopher F. Earley

Read more
Answered on 4/26/06, 2:06 pm
Janice Toole Cline & Migner

Re: Dog bite on child -- Rights / Liability

It appears that you have a legitmiate personal injury claim for your daugther, and an attorney can assist you and your daughter by filing it and working to obtain compensation for the medical bills, pain and suffering, loss of ability to engage in usual school/sports/social actitivies for days or weeks, and for scarring/disfigurement. Legal notice would be sent to the dog owner/keeper, and he or she would be asked to notify thier homeowners' insurance company, if there was one. Then medical bills and records would be sent to the individual or their insurance adjuster. Scarring and disfigurement would be asessed, and a settlement demand made by an attorney. Liability on the part of the dog owner/keeper would most likely be established in a situation where a child was riding or playing, not aggravating the dog, and the bite was unprovked. Other issues including whether the dog was properly restrained on the owner's property or allowed to roam free would be considered. I can be reached at [email protected] for further information and evaluation.

Read more
Answered on 4/26/06, 3:15 pm
J. Whitfield Larrabee J. Whitfield Larrabee

Re: Dog bite on child -- Rights / Liability

Your daughter has a claim for violation of Massachusetts dog bite statute for her medical bills, scarring, disfigurement, pain, suffering, emotional distress and any other losses she might suffer. Most likely, the claim would be covered by any homeowner's insurance or rentor's insurance that your neighbor may have. I would need to find out more about the circumstances of the attack to advise you as to what other steps you should take. In most cases, the initial first steps to be concerned about involve preserving evidence. This can include taking witness statements and otherwise conducting an investigation. Most lawyers will send a letter to the dog owner notifying the owner of the claim and requesting that the owner notify his insurance carrier of the claim and advise the attorney whether or not he carries insurance.

Under state law, dog bite cases are "strict liability" so long as the child was not teasing the dog and was not trespassing. Strict liability means that you do not have to prove that the owner was negligent or otherwise at fault. I have inserted the dog bite statute below for your information. In one Massachusetts case involving an unprovoked attack on a 7 year old girl, seriously injuring her arm and earlobe, the insurance company paid out about $245,000 in settlement of the claim.

Please contact me if you would like a copy of my free report that will give you useful information on how to protect your daughter's rights.

Massachusetts General Laws provides: "If any dog shall do any damage to either the body or property of any person, the owner or keeper, or if the owner or keeper be a minor, the parent or guardian of such minor, shall be liable for such damage, unless such damage shall have been occasioned to the body or property of a person who, at the time such damage was sustained, was committing a trespass or other tort, or was teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog. If a minor, on whose behalf an action under this section is brought, is under seven years of age at the time the damage was done, it shall be presumed that such minor was not committing a trespass or other tort, or teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog, and the burden of proof thereof shall be upon the defendant in such action."

Read more
Answered on 4/26/06, 3:52 pm

Related Questions & Answers

More Personal Injury Law and Tort Law questions and answers in Massachusetts