Recently in Dog Bites Category

May 7, 2013

Dangerous Dog Breeds that Could Raise your Homeowners Insurance Rates

An article on MSN and a recent commercial from Farmers Insurance have brought to light the fact that over 1/3 of all homeowner insurance claims are related to dog bites. The average payout of this large number of claims is $30,000. This amount is not a surprise since victims of dog bites often suffer serious injuries including scarring. Even more frightening is the fact that a large percentage of dog bite victims are children.

Victims of dog bites are entitled to compensation for their personal injuries including medical bills, lost wages (if applicable) and pain and suffering. Damages for pain and suffering, especially if there is a scar can be substantial. Fortunately, as this article points out, most dog bites are covered by homeowners insurance in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Owners of dogs, especially breeds that are known to be dangerous, are responsible for controlling their pets and are, in most cases, liable for damages when their pet attacks someone.

If you are a pet owner, you should take steps to make sure that you have insurance to cover losses if they should bite someone. No matter how well behaved your family pet may be, animals may make mistakes and bite someone. In fact, a lot of attacks on children occur from the family pet. Do not take the risk of being responsible for huge damages. Make sure that your homeowners or renters insurance will cover your pet. If you own one of the ten breeds in this recent MSN article, you may find that you have to pay slightly more for insurance.

a.sffadirshre_terrier.jpg

  • Staffordshire bull Terriers
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Bull Terrier
  • Dobermans
  • Rottweilers
  • Akitas
  • Huskies
  • German Shepherd
  • Cane Corso
  • Mastiffs
It is an important conversation to have with your insurance agent. Be sure that they are aware that you own pets and what type of breed you have. If you are the victim of a dog bite, contact our office for a free consultation. My office has helped many dog bite victims throughout the years, most of whom suffered serious injuries and scars to their face, arms and chest. There is never any fee unless I obtain compensation for you so there is no need to wait. Call today.
February 11, 2013

New Pit Bull Law Proposed in Rhode Island

A controversial new law proposed in the Rhode Island senate seeks to protect the public from dog bites and other injuries caused by pit bulls. The law is controversial and unique in that it focuses solely on one breed, pit bulls. Breed specific laws are not common but those that do exist in other states tend to focus on pit bulls much like this law does.

Thumbnail image for Pit-Bull.jpgMy office has gained a reputation for handling dog bite cases so I am following this law with great interest. We have helped dozens of victims of dog bites in the past year alone, settling most cases for tens of thousands of dollars and more. Dog bite injuries are very serious for a number of reasons:

  • Dog bite injuries almost always result in a scar ranging in size from small teeth marks to large long scars;
  • Dog bites most often occur to minor children;
  • Animal attacks result in a severe mental trauma that is not common to other types of accidents and injuries.

I applaud this bill for a few reasons and am critical for others. I applaud the law because it seeks greater protections for the public from the dangers of dog bites. According to this law, owners of pit bulls would require registration and insurance as well as posting signs and other notices on their personal property. Pit bulls would have to be kept inside at all times and muzzled in public, in addition to other restrictions. I especially applaud the requirement of insurance for ownership of dangerous dog breeds. It is terribly irresponsible to harbor a dangerous animal and lack the required insurance to protect someone injured. Of course, I firmly believe, most dangerous animals are that way because they are owned and raised by immature and irresponsible owners.... but that is the story for another day.

I am critical of the law because I see no reason to single out a particular breed. While statistically pit bulls might cause a higher number of dog bites than other breeds, the laws should focus on protecting the public from any such attack. This, I believe, can be done by educating the public and owners of dogs, particularly potentially dangerous dogs like pit bulls. I would also open up the liability requirement to owners of any dog. From my experience in the cases that I have handled, small unsuspecting dogs are just as likely to bite a person than a pit bull.

Of course, the law in Rhode Island, gives owners of dogs a free pass for one bite UNLESS the owner knows or should know that the breed is dangerous, such as a pit bull or akita. In other words, a dog owner may not be liable if he or she had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous because a) it has never bitten anyone before, or b) it is not a "dangerous breed." Another way we could enhance the protection of the public from dog bites without singling out pit bulls, is to remove this "free pass" for the first bite from Rhode Island law.

If you or a family member has been the victim of a dog bite, contact my office for a free consultation. You may be entitled to compensation for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, damages for scarring, mental anguish, and pain and suffering. There is never any fee unless I recover damages for you. Call the firm specializing in dog bite attacks in Rhode Island.

January 25, 2012

Fatal Maulings and Dog Attacks Are Rising Exponentially

A comprehensive thirty year examination of dog maulings and fatal dog attacks has shown an exponential increase in attacks. The study focused primarily on pitbulls who are notorious for the frequency and severity of their bites and attacks. The facts and numbers are indisputable.

During the first ten years of the study there was a total of 103 reported pit bull attacks in the United States. Fast forward to 2002 in which there were 86 attacks in that year alone (almost as much as an entire decade in the 80's). Ten years later, in the our most recent year of 2011 there was a total of 295 attacks, roughly three times as many dog attacks as there were only ten years earlier. Amazingly, 26% of all attacks during this thirty year study occurred in the last two years alone! 41% of all disfigurements caused by pitbull attack occurred in the last four years of the study.

Consistent with other reports on dog bites and maulings, the majority of these attacks occur to children. Approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of all animal attacks, again confirmed in this report, occur to children. In 2011, 102 children were attacked and/or maimed by a pit bull.

The most serious pitbull attacks can lead to death. Roughly ten percent of all reported dog attacks were fatal. Interestingly, in the first decade of the study from 1982 to 1992 there were only 18 reported fatalities, whereas in 2011 there were 23 reported deaths from dog attack. That is five more in a single year than in an entire decade thirty years ago. In fact 65% of all pitbull fatalities occured in the last ten years of the study.

I know many animal rights activist will take issue with such studies and cite other studies which show that animals are not inherently dangerous animals but are only raised that way. In fact, a very close friend of mine is a pitbull breeder. The numbers, however, seem to paint a very different picture.

Victims of dog bite attacks are entitled to:

  • Past and future medical bills
  • Lost wages and/or loss of earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Compensation for scarring and disfigurement
  • Compensation for embarrassment and emotional distress caused by the scars
  • Loss of consortium

Most dog bite cases in Rhode Island and Massachusetts will be covered by the owner's homeowner insurance.

My office has represented many dog bite victims with tremendous success. Clients have included those with minor scars and wounds to arm maulings that required extensive reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. If you or a friend or family member contact an experienced dog bite attorney. Call my office for a free no pressure consultation.

September 12, 2011

Rhode Island Supreme Court Upholds Dog Bite Law

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has upheld the contentious "One Bite" law that Rhode Island still adheres to regarding dog bites. Although the majority of other States have switched to strict liability regarding dog bites (i.e. the owner always must take responsibility for the actions of his dog) Rhode Island still continues to allow owners one "chance" before they are necessarily responsible to a dog bite victim. Dog bites often cause serious injury and under Rhode Island law, determining fault can be quite difficult so it is important to discuss your case with an experienced dog bite attorney.

In the opinion, Chief Justice Suttell explains the current law well:

If injuries are suffered within an owner's enclosed area, the strict-liability statute does not apply, but rather the common law continues to apply and dictates that the plaintiff first must prove that the defendant knew about the dog's vicious propensities, a ... requirement commonly known as the 'one-bite rule'....

In Rhode Island, a dog owner is always responsible for biting a victim IF AND ONLY IF the dog is outside of the home or his "enclosure". In those cases, the owner of the animal will be responsible for your medical bills, lost wages and pain suffering including the scar, if any. If, however, the accident happens inside the home or the animals "enclosure" then the common law applies. Rhode Island State law defines an "enclosure" as "a fence, physical obstruction or any other condition that gives reasonable notice to third parties that the area is private." This means that in order to collect damages you must be able to show that the dog owner KNEW the animal was dangerous and was negligent in allowing the dog around people it could potentially attack. Under Rhode Island law, the owner of the dog knows it is dangerous if it has ever bitten someone in the past (hence the name of the "One Bite" rule), or if it is of a particularly dangerous breed such as a pit bull or akita.

In this case, a State inspector went to the backyard of the homeowner to look at a pigeon coop. While in the backyard the homeowners dog attacked the inspector seriously injuring him. The defense moved to have the case dismissed citing that the dog had never previously attacked anyone. The defense motion was granted and the Supreme Court has upheld the decision pointing to the Rhode Island "One Bite" law. Justice Suttell pointed out that Rhode Island's dog bite laws are well settled and that any changes to the law should come from the State assembly rather than the Courts. (I always feel that when Judges include that language in their opinions that they believe the law might be wrong and are secretly nudging the State Assembly to make changes.)

Interestingly, Justice Robinson, who dissented from Justice Suttell's opinion, pointed out that the dog in question was almost three feet tall and that the jury could conclude the owner should have known that such a large dog was inherently dangerous by his size alone. In so doing, Judge Robinson was not trying to change Rhode Island law but instead offered that even under current law, the case could go to a jury. Instead, the case was thrown out because the dog in question, who has since been euthanized, had never previously attacked anyone.

Continue reading "Rhode Island Supreme Court Upholds Dog Bite Law" »

March 7, 2011

The Majority of Dog Bite Victims are Children

Dog bites are very common in the United States. On average, over four million people are bitten by dogs each year. Nearly a million of those people suffered injury severe enough to require medical attention. Most concerning, however, is that roughy 80% of dog bite victims are children under 10. In fact, dog bites are one of the most common causes for visits to the emergency room by children.

There are a number of reasons why a child is more prone to attack from a dog. Children are at the animals eye level and are seen by the dog as less of a threat than an adult. Also, children, unaware of the danger, are more likely to taunt or tease animals which results in an attack.

A dog bite can have serious and permanent consequences. As dogs are prone to attack the face, it is quite common for a child to suffer facial scarring and/or injury to the eyes. In fact, one study indicated that when very young children (under 4) are attacked by dogs, injury to the eyes occurs in about 15% of cases.

It is imperative to exercise caution when your child is around dogs. It does not matter if it is a strange or familiar dog as statistics suggest that children are most often attacked by the family pet. The laws in Rhode Island and Massachusetts are strongly in favor of the dog attack victim and the owner of the pet may be responsible if your child is attacked. Like other personal injury claims, the victim of a dog attack is entitled to:

  • Past and future medical expenses;
  • Lost wages or loss of earning capactity;
  • Money for scarring or permanent disfigurement;
  • Pain and suffering.

Continue reading "The Majority of Dog Bite Victims are Children" »

July 30, 2010

When is a Dog Owner Responsible for A Dog Bite?

A dog bite can range from a minor scratch to a fatal mauling. No matter how serious the severity of the dog bite, any animal attack can be a traumatic experience. The law surrounding dog bites and negligence may be unclear and some may wonder how you can be compensated for an animal attack.

Rhode Island State Law is quite clear on the matter. If a dog bite occurs outside of a pet's enclosure (i.e. outside the home in a public park or on a sidewalk) then the owner of the pet is strictly liable for any and all injury that the dog causes. Strict liability means that the circumstances as to why the attack occurred are irrelevant - the owner is always responsible!

If the attack occurred inside the home (the pet's enclosure) then the homeowner is not necessarily liable. This may be a surprise to many people who think that a homeowner is obligated to control his pet at all times. However, if the pet is inside his enclosure and the owner has no reason to believe that the pet is a danger to anyone (i.e. the dog is not a pit bull, akita, or other dangerous breed, and the dog has never attacked anyone in the past) then the owner is not liable for the attack. If, however, the dog is a dangerous breed, or if the dog has bitten a victim in the past, then the homeowner is on notice that the dog is dangerous and is responsible for any injury suffered no matter where it occurs.

Massachusetts, also has very favorable laws for victims of dog bites. The owner of a dog is strictly liable for any attack on a person unless that person was teasing, tormenting, or otherwise harassing the animal.

In Massachusetts, the law also says that a child under 7 can not be responsible for tormenting or teasing the dog. Therefore, in Mass, a homeowner is always responsible for injuries inflicted on a child under 7. Tragically, children are the most common victims of dog bites. This may be attributed to the fact that children are on the same height level as dogs and because children do not yet understand the danger that some dogs may present.

The vast majority of homeowner's policies will cover dog bite attacks and pay the customary personal injury debts including: medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

The amount paid to a victim for pain and suffering also includes compensation for scarring which is, unfortunately, a common result of a dog bite. The value of a scar depends on many variables, including but not limited to, the location on the body and the severity and length of the scar.

Continue reading "When is a Dog Owner Responsible for A Dog Bite?" »