Dog bites can be severe, leading to injuries or even death, and leave lasting trauma on their victims. Out of millions of dog bites reported annually, almost a million dog bite victims require medical treatment, half of which are children. Massachusetts law recognizes your right to compensation if a dog bite injures you.
The Massachusetts statute concerning dog bite cases imposes strict liability on a dog-owner whose dog causes damage to a person or property who was lawfully present. Under common law, owners must know the animal's dangerous propensities.
Four elements are required to impose liability under the statute.
- An injury occurred.
- Defendant was the owner of the dog that caused the injury.
- The plaintiff did not commit trespass or another tort and was not teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog.
- The dog approximately caused the injury.
This statute is not just for dog bites. It applies to any situation where a dog causes damage to a person or property. So, for example, this statute is applicable if a dog tackles someone causing injury or damaging something in your home.
States are either negligence states or strict liability states regarding dog bites. The Massachusetts statute imposes strict liability, meaning no proof that the owner was not exercising due care is necessary to warrant recovery. However, the owner could have exercised the utmost care and still be liable for an injury caused by their dog. Notably, the statute is especially harsh when the victim is under seven years old. Damage caused by a dog bite could also be brought under a theory of negligence. This would require the plaintiff to prove that the dog owner failed to exercise reasonable care.
In some situations, charges can extend beyond tort law and into criminal charges. For example, if the owner facilitated the dog in its attack by “setting” the dog on someone. This may result in an assault with a deadly weapon charge.
Damages for dog bites may include medical expenses, future medical expenses, lost wages, damages for pain and suffering, and possibly more. The statute of limitations for dog bites is three years from the time of the injury. Time is of the essence, and your charge could be thrown out entirely if you do not act soon. After seeking the necessary medical attention, gather as much information as possible about the incident, and call our experienced lawyers at CASTEL & HALL, LLP.
Our goal is never to punish an animal or its owner; it is simply to help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries. We always conduct our practice in a manner that does not create unnecessary conflict or hostility. Whether you or your loved one has been bitten, we can help.