Dog bite laws in Boston

Have you ever been bit by a dog in Massachusetts (or anywhere else)?

If you’ve been bitten by a dog owned by someone else, the owner of the animal may be held responsible. If you own a dog in Massachusetts, you’re strictly liable for any injuries caused by the dog. First thing you should do if you’ve been bitten by a dog is to find out who owned the animal. A quick investigation can help determine if there was negligence on the owner’s part.

If you or someone close to you has been bitten by a pet, it is important to contact a lawyer immediately to learn more about your legal options.

Laws Protecting Massachusetts Dog Bite Victims

image of a dog bit defense attorneyLuckily, Massachusetts has one of America’s best laws for protecting dog bite victims, especially children. The Massachusetts General Law states that if someone is bitten by a dog, they must take the dog to a vet immediately.

The dog bite statute in Massachusetts General Laws of Massachuetts, Chapter 140: Section 145 states that if you own a dog and it bites someone, you’re liable for damages Dog owners are liable for any damage caused by their dogs. Minors are not responsible for their own actions. Presumption of negligence means that the owner

Section 155. 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. See: M.G.L. Chapter 140 Section 155 Liability for a Dog Attack In other words, this law holds a dog’s “owner or keeper” is liable if:

1) the dog causes personal injury or property damage, and 2) the injured person was not trespassing, committing another tort, or provoking the dog.

Special Rules Regarding Children

Massachusetts law creates a special rule regarding child bites. If the owner or keeper of the dog believes the child is not trespassing on his property, teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog, then he has no reason to take action against the child. It also allows the court to require substantial evidence of the owner or keeper’s responsibility for the animal. Most people who injure children under seven years old will not be able to defend themselves.

Massachusetts’ law applies to any injury caused by a dog, regardless of whether it was inflicted intentionally or unintentionally. Suppose you’re standing on the sidewalk when your neighbor’s dog runs up, jumps on you, knocks you down, and causes injury. If you’re bitten by a dog in Massachusetts, then the Massachusetts dog bite statute would also apply. The law also applies if a dog causes damage to property. For example, if a dog injures livestock or damages fences, or chews on items belonging to others, the owner may be liable for the damage.

Only dogs can be liable for dog bites under Massachusetts law. Different rules apply for other types of pets, domesti­cated animals or kept wild animals.

Liability Is Not Limited To The Owners

Liability for dog bites is not limited to the owners. It also extends to the keeper of the dog. A “keeper” is someone who “harbors” a dog with an assumption of custody, management, and control of the dog. Ferioli,49 Mass. App. Ct. 485 (2000). A veterinarian or a dog walker might be liable for a dog’s personal injuries if the dog bites someone.

Different states handle dog bite cases differently, so be sure to check out the laws in your state before filing a claim. Most states are either “negligence” or “strict liability” states. Massachusetts is one of the few states where if someone gets bitten by a dog, they don’t need to prove negligence on the part of the owner. Even though dog owners are not liable for injuries caused by their dogs in “strict liability states,” they are still responsible for any injuries their dogs cause. To put it simply, if someone has been injured by a person’s dog, they don’t need to prove that the owner was at fault. Remember, Massachusetts’s strict liability law applies to both dog bites (and other injuries caused by dogs) and other injuries caused by animals. If a dog bites someone without causing any other harm, then the owner is liable for the damage caused by the dog.

If the owner of a dog claims that he was injured by another person’s dog, the owner generally has either two possible defenses: trespasser or provocation.

If the person who was bitten was trespassing or committing some other tort (or civil wrong), then the Massachusetts dog bite law doesn’t apply. When someone enters your property without permission, and an injury results from that trespass, homeowners’ insurance usually covers only some of the damages.

If you’re not liable for injuries caused by your dog, then you’re not liable for any injuries caused by your dog when someone else is teasing, tormenting, or abusing him. All these behaviors are likely to provoke a dog into biting or attacking if it wouldn’t otherwise do so. If a person is bitten by a dog after repeatedly poking the dog with a stick, then the dog’s owner may be held responsible for the bite.

For an interesting case on the standard of recover under the Dog Bite Statute see Burgoyne v. Owen,1991 Mass.App.Div. 192 (1991).
 
In this case, the Plaintiff was involved in breaking up a fight between two dogs. Striking the dog to terminate the altercation did not amount to abuse.
 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can dog bite cases be covered by homeowner’s insurance?

If you own a dog, you’re probably covered by a homeowner’s insurance policy. Some insurance companies exclude certain breeds (such as Pit Bulls) from this coverage. If the dog owner has personal liability for his dog’s actions (i.e., if he is responsible for his dog’s actions), then s/he could potentially be sued for any damages that the dog causes (e.g., damages resulting from a bite).

What is the Statute of Limitations for Dog Bite Claims?

A statute of limitations is a legal term that refers to the amount of time after an event has occurred before someone can bring a lawsuit against the person who caused the injury. After this time period has expired, victims of dog bites cannot file a claim for compensation. Because of the statute-of-limitations law, dog bite victims should contact an attorney immediately after they’ve been bitten by a dog. If you were injured by a dog bite within three years of the date of your injury, you may be able to sue the owner of the dog. You need to know when the statute of limitations begins to run in your case so that you can file your lawsuit before the deadline expires. You must file a court case by the deadline if you want to bring your case to court.

What Damages Can I Recover If I Am a Victim of a Dog Bite?

Dog bite victims may claim damages including medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and emotional distress. Such as

  • Medical costs, including current and future medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Physical pain and emotional distress

WHY CHOOSE ATTORNEY MICHAEL S. PAROUSIS FOR YOUR FAMILY LAW CASE?

The Massachusetts dog bite law/ statute may seem simple but interesting and complex issues can often arise. It is therefore important for a victim who has been injured by a dog to seek legal advice from an experienced personal injury lawyer. Michael Parousis is an expert Boston divorce lawyer as well as personal injury lawyer.