According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the U.S. Almost one in five of those who are bitten (a total of 885,000) require medical attention for dog bite-related injuries. Dog attacks represent some of the most gruesome personal injuries that are suffered, particularly because children or the elderly are often involved. In all dog bite injury cases, it is imperative to identify the attacking dog and ascertain the name of the dog's owner, collect names, addresses, and telephone numbers of any witnesses to the incident, and take photos of the scene of the attack and your injuries. Dolan & Dolan Attorneys at Law can send an investigator to the scene of the attack, as well as ensure your doctor preserves all evidence of your injuries.
Dog attacks represent some of the most gruesome personal injuries that are suffered, particularly where a child is involved (as is often the case). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the U.S. Almost one in five of those who are bitten (a total of 885,000) require medical attention for dog bite-related injuries. Children are especially at risk for dog attacks. It is important to teach children to be safe around dogs to prevent these catastrophic events from occurring.
Massachusetts has a strict liability dog bite statute that states that the owner of a dog is liable for damages inflicted by his/her dog if it bites a person who is either in a public place or lawfully on the dog owner's property (invitee or guest). M.G.L. Ch 140, § 155
. The dog owner is liable regardless of whether the dog had ever been vicious before and regardless of whether the owner had reason to believe it would behave in a vicious manner. The dog does not get "one free bite," as is the case in some states. The only defenses to the strict liability statute arise where the injured party was committing a trespass or other tort, was teasing, tormenting or abusing the dog (M.G.L. Ch 140, § 155M.G.L. Ch 140, § 155)
, or where the injured person is a minor under the age of seven, in which case it shall be presumed that the minor was not committing a tort or teasing, tormenting, or provoking the dog. In that case, the burden of proof will be on the dog owner to prove otherwise. M.G.L. Ch 140, § 155)
. In essence, absent proof that the plaintiff provoked the dog, the dog's owner is an insurer of the dog.
In addition, the old common law approach is also available for injured plaintiffs. Under the traditional approach, if the owner knows or has reason to know of the dog's violent propensities, the owner of the dog is liable for damages caused by the dog. See Splaine v. Eastern Dog Club, Inc., 306 Mass. 381 (1940). Due to the enactment of the strict liability statute, this type of theory is not normally employed in dog bite injury cases.
If a stray bites you, you have little legal recourse because you must file your claim against a dog's owner or keeper. In addition, your municipality is not responsible for the dog, even if you have called the animal warden several times to pick up the stray.