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Massachusetts Dog Bite Lawyer: What are You Legal Rights?

In Massachusetts the Dog Bite Statute is G.L c.140, § 155. However, this statute applies to all injuries to person and property caused by dogs. This law is a strict lability law which means that whenever you are bitten by a dog, the dog owner is civilly liable for any damage even if the owner took reasonable care to train or restrain the dog. The dog owner is still strictly liable for the property damage or personal injury even if the dog has never acted aggressively before.

dog bites map

In addition to the statute, a person injured by a dog may also bring a negligence claim.

What Penalties do Dangerous Dog Owners Face?

If your dog attacks someone and you are found strictly liable under G.L c.140, § 155 or negligent, your dog will likely be labeled “dangerous.” As the owner you may then be required to keep your dog restrained, buy a fence or another apparatus to restrain your dog, buy a muzzle or a shorter leash for your dog, microchip your dog, neuter/spay the dog, or euthanize the dog.

If the owner of a “dangerous” dog does not follow the civil penalties imposed on them, their dog may be taken by the local government and impounded. The dog may be ordered to be euthanized and the dog owner would have to pay for the impoundment and euthanization of a dog.

Minors

If the owner of the dog is a minor, then the parent of the minor is liable for such injuries to the person harmed by the dog.

Additionally, if a minor, under the age of 7, is bitten by a dog, it is assumed that the minor was not trespassing on the property or abusing or teasing the dog. In this case, the dog owner is liable for the dog if a minor is injured by a dog.

Negligence

As mentioned above, a person injured by a dog may also bring a claim of negligence. Negligence is harder to prove than the strict liability, and therefore negligence claims are not filed as often. To prove negligence, an injured person must prove that they were injured by a lack of reasonable care by the owner.

Time Limits

The statute of limitations, meaning the amount of time that you have to file a lawsuit after the event occurs, is three years.

Criminal Liability

When your dog injures someone it is likely that you will be found strictly liable through the statute or negligent. However, if the harm caused by the dog is great enough, your dog may be deemed a deadly weapon and you will be criminally liable. For example, if a dog is being used for intimidation or attack, they may be deemed a dangerous weapon. In this situation, the charges would be brought against you by the state or local government not by the injured person.

Defenses When Your Dog Bites Someone

The exceptions G.L c.140, § 155 serve as the dog owner’s defenses to their dog injuring person or property. If the person harmed by the dog committed a tort, like trespassing on the property which the dog lives. Moreover, the owner is not liable for any injuries that the dog has committed if the person harmed was tormenting, teasing, or abusing the dog.

trespassing and provocation
1. Trespassing

As mentioned earlier, when someone trespasses on your property, you are not strictly liable for any injury they endure from your dog, unless the trespasser is a minor. Trespassing occurs when someone is on your private property without your permission.

In addition to trespassing, a person who commits a different tort when the dog injures them, may not seek civil damages.

2. Provocation

Baiting, teasing, tormenting, or abusing someone’s dog erases the dog owner’s strict liability. The rationale for this is that if you do any of the above, you are provoking the dog to bite or attack you.

For more information on how to proceed when you are attacked by a dog or your dog has injured someone, contact Attorney DelSignore at 781-686-5924.

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