U.S. Dog Bite Fatalities on the Rise

photo_105756_20170708-300x200Each year, over 350,000 dog bite victims visit the emergency room. In 2017, 39 people were killed in the United States by dogs. Spring has finally sprung in Rhode Island and we are all happy to get back outdoors after being cooped up all winter. It’s time for the pets to get some fresh air too. Whether you are a dog owner or not, it’s important to be aware of dogs, even ones you know well, and their potential to cause injury. It is often thought that only certain breeds of dog’s bite, like pit bulls, or only dogs who have been mistreated or neglected will try to hurt a human. But as personal injury attorneys, we known that is not the case. At Tapalian Law, we handle Massachusetts dog bite cases and Rhode Island dog bite cases and see the serious damage that a dog bite can cause to a child or an adult. Attacks don’t only happen by the strange, mangy dog you see roaming around the streets. As a matter of fact, the majority of dog bites occur from a dog owned by a friend or family member. This may mean it’s a dog you’ve interacted with many times before and seemed very sweet, but what happens when a dog suddenly feels threatened by an odd noise or just a movement a person makes? As dog bite lawyers, we know an otherwise docile dog may attack resulting in serious personal injury or even death.

Dog Breeds Most Likely to Hurt or Kill

Of the 39 dog bite related fatalities in the United States in 2017, 29 of them involved pit bulls and U.S. dog bite statistics show that pit bulls are the breed of dog most likely to be involved in dog attack incidents. The next most dangerous breed on the list is rottweilers. In 2016, pit bulls and rottweilers accounted for 77% of the 31 dog bite deaths in the United States. This number has stayed steady over the years. From 2005 to 2016, both breeds accounted for about 76% of all dog bite deaths. About half of dog bite fatalities happened from a family dog. When a pit bull or rottweiler attacks, quite often the victim is severely injured or killed. When another breed of dog attacks, the victim may be hurt but is not as often maimed for life or killed.

Injuries from Dog Attacks

According to hospital admission records, 43% of people hospitalized for dog bites require treatment for skin and underlying tissue infections. This is followed by wounds to the legs and arms, head, neck, and torso. A smaller percentage of patients have bone fractures or blood poisoning. As personal injury lawyers, Tapalian Law has worked with numerous RI dog bite victims and MA dog bite victims whose wounds and injuries require extensive treatment. Often the victims are hurt by a dog belonging to a friend or family member. Young children are more likely to get hurt from dog attacks. Close to half of the 2016 casualties involved children under the age of 9. Dog bite injuries to a child can be even more severe than to an adult and may include severe bite and perforation injuries to the head, neck, and throat, brain injury, and puncture wounds on other parts of the body. Over 50% of dog bites occur on the dog owner’s property. Mail carriers are the occupation most likely to get wounded by a dog bite or dog attack. Attorney David Tapalian is a dog bite lawyer well versed in Massachusetts dog bite law and Rhode Island dog bite laws and can help you if you have been wounded by a dog bite.

Massachusetts Dog Bite Law vs. Rhode Island Dog Bite Law

Dog bite laws vary from state to state. Massachusetts has one of the most comprehensive laws for protecting the victims of dog bites, regardless of breed. Massachusetts is a “strict liability” state so a dog owner or keeper in MA is “strictly liable” for personal injury or property damage caused by their dog unless it can be shown the victim was trespassing, teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog. Children under the age of 7 are presumed to have done none of these things, according to MA dog bite statutes. The burden of proof is on the defendant in such a case.

Rhode Island dog bite law varies from Massachusetts as in RI there is a “strict liability” law and a “one bite” law, which differentiates between injuries to a victim hurt on the dog owner’s property versus elsewhere. Rhode Island “strict liability” law allows an injured person to hold a dog owner liable for injuries of the dog “assaults, bites, or injures” the person or an animal belonging to that person and if the injured person or animal is not on property belonging to the dogs owner when the bite occurs. This law applies not just to dog bites but also injuries caused by a dog, such as getting knocked to the ground causing damage. If a dog owner is held liable more than once for injuries caused by their dog, they may be held liable for double the damages if a subsequent injury occurs by the same dog.

Rhode Island’s “One Bite” law applies to injuries that take place on the dog owner’s property. If a victim is injured on the dog owners’ property, the “one bite” law applies. This states that a dog owner is only held liable for a dog bite injury if the owner knew, or had reason to know, that the dog would act aggressively. If the dog has bitten before, the owner should know it could likely happen again. If the injured person can not prove that the dog owner had this prior knowledge, they likely will not be awarded compensation. Approximately ½ of all dog bites take place on the owner’s property.

In a previous Tapalian Law personal injury blog, we noted ways to protect yourself from a dog attack and action to take if you are attacked by a dog.

Contact a Dog Bite Injury Attorney Serving Rhode Island & Massachusetts Dog Bite Victims

If you or your child has sustained injuries from a dog bite, don’t suffer without getting help. Contact an experienced Massachusetts dog bite attorney or Rhode Island dog bite lawyer right away to determine if the dog owner may be held liable for your injuries. David Tapalian is an experienced RI dog bite injury attorney and MA dog bite lawyer who has helped many victims of dog bites get compensated for their injuries. It is important to take action immediately after a dog attack. Seek immediate medical attention and contact a dog bite injury lawyer firm like Tapalian Law. There is a 3-year statute of limitations for your personal injury claim. This means a victim has 3 years from the date of injury to file a lawsuit. You may be eligible for compensation for pain and suffering, medical bills, physical therapy, reconstructive surgery, and other injury related expenses. Tapalian Law has offices located in Seekonk, MA and Providence, RI. We have helped clients all over Rhode Island and Massachusetts get the compensation they deserve for their dog bites and personal injuries. For a no-fee consultation, call Tapalian Law at


for a free case evaluation. Visit our website for more information about dog bite injuries and what the personal injury attorneys at Tapalian Law can do to assist you.

Contact Information