If you’ve been bitten or attacked by a dog, who is liable for your injuries? In MA, a dog’s owner may be liable for any damages the dog causes, barring certain circumstances. For example, if the victim was trespassing at the time of the incident, the dog’s owner will likely be off the hook. Read on for more information about dog bite injuries in MA, and how to proceed if you’ve been bitten.
Negligence vs. Strict Liability
When it comes to dog bites, states generally operate under the theory of “negligence” or “strict liability.” MA is a “strict liability” state. This essentially means that the injured person does not need to show that the dog’s owner was negligent. The owner may even be liable if the victim had been informed that the dog was prone to biting before the incident. And the strict liability rule also applies to other injuries and damages caused by dogs. If a dog knocks an elderly person down, for example, the owner may be liable for resulting injuries.
Statute of Limitations
In MA, you have three years from the date of the dog bite within which to file suit. This state of limitations is extremely important; if you fail to file a court case before the specified deadline, your chances of success are almost non-existent. A Boston dog bite injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been bitten or attacked by a dog.
Dog Bite Statistics
The following facts and figures provide insight into the frequency and severity of dog bites in the United States.
- About 4.5 million dog bites occur in the United States annually.
- In 2016, dog-related injuries accounted for more than 30 percent of all homeowners insurance liability claims – a total of more than $600 million.
- More than 6,750 U.S. postal workers were attacked by dogs in 2016.
- Between 1993 and 2008 there was an 86 percent increase in hospitalizations involving dog bites.
When is the Owner Liable?
In Chapter 140, Section 155 of MA General Laws, a dog’s owner may be liable for injuries under the following circumstances.
- The dog caused damages or injuries
- The victim was not trespassing at the time of the incident.
- The victim was not committing a tort at the time of the incident.
- The victim did not provoke the dog.
The above statute also applies to other injuries and property damage caused by dogs. If, for example, a dog chews through a neighbor’s fence, the neighbor may sue for property damages. A MA dog bite injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured by a dog.
As with most personal injury lawsuits, the individual being sued is likely to present a defense explaining why he or she should not be liable. When it comes to dog bites, the owner will usually present one of two defenses.
- Trespassing: If the victim was trespassing on private property, homeowner liability is seriously limited.
- Provocation: If the victim was provoking the dog, the owner may not be liable. The MA dog injury statute specifically states that the owner is not liable if the injury occurs while the injured person is “teasing, tormenting or abusing” the dog.