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What Are My Rights If I Get Bitten By a Dog in Massachusetts?

Every state has its own set of rules surrounding dog bites. Laws in certain states show more favor to the victim, while others show more favor to the dog’s owner. Some states are considered “strict liability” states, meaning the dog’s owner is strictly liable for injuries caused by their dog. On the other side of the spectrum, “one bite” states often forgive the first occurrence. Massachusetts has some of the best dog bite laws in the country, if you happen to be the victim.

Strict Liability

As a “strict liability” state, Massachusetts holds a dog’s owner liable for any harm the dog causes, including property damage or physical injury, with certain exceptions. If the alleged victim was trespassing at the time of the attack, the dog owner will not be liable. Similarly, if the alleged victim was teasing, tormenting, or abusing the animal, the dog’s owner will not be liable. However, if the victim is a child under the age of seven years, it will be presumed that none of the above exceptions apply. In cases involving a minor of less than seven years, the burden of proof will be on the dog’s owner.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dogs bite over 4.7 million people annually. Half of those bitten are children. Over 380,000 dog bite victims require emergency room treatment for their injuries. Small children, postal workers, and the elderly are most at risk for dog bites (in that order). However, young children (ages five to nine) are by far the most at risk, and the majority of their injuries occur on the face and neck.

Who Pays For Dog Bite Damages?

Although the dog’s owner is liable for injuries caused by his or her dog, the damages are usually paid by an insurance carrier. Depending on the circumstances of the incident, the damages may be paid under a renter’s or homeowner’s policy, a landlord’s property insurance coverage, a workers’ compensation policy, or an auto insurance policy. The exceptions to this rule occur when the owner has no insurance coverage, or the coverage isn’t adequate. In these situations, the owner may be forced to pay out of pocket damages. If the dog’s owner has coverage but it is determined that he or she acted maliciously and with an utter disregard for the victim’s injury, out of pocket damages may be established as punishment.

How Can I Help Prevent Dog Bites?

Never leave a young child unsupervised with a dog.Allow an unfamiliar dog to sniff you before petting it.

  • If an unfamiliar dog is approaching you, remain still and avoid making eye contact.
  • Do not run from an aggressive dog.
  • If you are being attacked, drop to the ground, roll into a ball, and cover your head and face.
  • If you are bitten, seek immediate medical attention.

Altman & Altman, LLP – Boston’s Dog Bite Attorneys

If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, the MA Law Firm of Altman & Altman will advocate for the compensation you deserve. You may be entitled to compensation for medical bills (including future expenses, such as scar reduction surgery), lost wages, property damages, and pain and suffering. Our team of skilled, compassionate personal injury attorneys has been representing victims of accidents and injuries for almost 50 years. We understand the physical, emotional, and financial burden that these injuries can cause.

Our legal team will help you understand your rights and options, and will be with you every step of the way.  Contact the Greater Boston Law Firm of Altman & Altman LLP for a free consultation about your case.