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Dog Bites in Massachusetts – What Can I Do?

 

The Center for Disease Control reported 4.5 million dog bites in the United States between 2001 and 2003.  Annually, over 350,000 people visit the emergency room and 850,000 people need some sort of medical attention as a result of dog bites.  The losses from the injuries total over $1 billion every year.  Though there are millions of dog bites annually, only 15,000 to 16,000 of these victims receive compensation from homeowners insurance and renters insurance companies every year.  The average insurance payment for a dog bite case is just under $30,000.  If you are have been bitten by a dog or are the owner of a dog, you need to be aware of liability laws particular to your state and the compensation that you may be entitled to.

There are several laws in Massachusetts that are relevant to dog bite lawsuits.  First is the statute of limitations for filing personal injury lawsuits.  In Massachusetts, the statue of limitations is three years.  This means, a person has three years from the date of their injury to file a personal injury lawsuit.  This statute of limitations must be adhered to if you wish to bring your case to court.  If you fail to file before the three-year deadline, you will likely not be able to bring your case to trial.  In addition to the general statute of limitations, Massachusetts has a specific statute regarding dog bite injuries.  The law can be found in Chapter 140, Section 155 of the Massachusetts General Laws.  This statute states the liability dog owners have.  According to this statute, a dog’s “owner or keeper” is liable if the dog causes personal injury or property damage, and the injured person was not trespassing, committing another tort, or provoking the dog.  This liability not only applies to dog bites, but also to any injury caused by a dog.  For example, if while you are walking down the street, a neighbor’s dog runs up and jumps on you, causing you to fall over and sustain an injury, the owner can be found liable.  Note the law applies to property damage as well, including damage to livestock or damage from a dog chewing on other people’s belongings.

The way dog bite cases are handled differs depending on the state.  Most states are considered either “negligence” or “strict liability” states.  Massachusetts is a “strict liability” dog bite state.  This means that dog owners are still held liable for bites and damage caused by their dogs even if the owner had no knowledge that the dog would cause injury or property damage.  The victim does not need to prove the owner of the dog is at fault for the injury or damage under this law.  Again, this law does not only apply to dog bites, but any injury sustained or damage to property.

Most dog owners have insurance coverage through their homeowner’s policy to cover them in case their dog attacks someone. The insurance coverage generally covers medical payments to the victim and with payment for any pain and suffering that the dog bite caused. If you have been bit by a dog and are not sure if you can or should pursue a claim give one of our experienced Boston injury layers a call to discuss your options. 617-493-3000.

 

“Dog Bite Statistics.” Dog Bite Law. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 July 2016.

Ryskamp, Dani Alexis. “Massachusetts Dog Bite Injury Laws & Owner Liability Rules – AllLaw.com.” AllLaw.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 July 2016.