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Massachusetts Personal Injury Law: Dog Bite Liability

It’s hard to imagine many scenarios scarier than being attacked by an angry dog. Especially for children, but for anyone, the balance of physical power almost always tilts in favor of the dog, with human flesh being very vulnerable to the animal’s powerful jaws and sharp teeth. Dog bites can cause very serious injuries and occasionally even death.

While pit bulls and Rottweilers account for a high proportion of dog bites, a dog of any breed or size is capable of inflicting a dangerous bite, depending on the circumstances. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many traits and factors impact a dog’s likelihood of biting a person like the dog’s gender (male dogs bite more); whether the dog is chained (more likely than if unchained); whether a dog has been neutered (less likely than if not neutered); and more.

Safety tips

One factor the CDC presents that impacts the risk of being bitten is “victim behavior.” Of course, a dog may bite in self-defense or as a way of communicating that the person should stay away.

Children should be taught how to behave safely around dogs and adults should set the example. For instance, a person should not touch or hug a dog; should not approach it while no other people, especially the dog owner, are present; should not tease or provoke a dog; should not try to take away a dog’s food, toy or bone; should not move quickly, yell or scream around a dog; and so on.

Some common dog-bite outcomes:

  • Scarring: scars and disfiguration, especially in the facial area, can be lifelong, require extensive plastic surgery and negatively impact self-esteem.
  • Trauma: Especially for children, dog attacks can leave victims with chronic anxiety and fear, even developing into post-traumatic stress syndrome or PTSD that can require extensive therapy and medication.

Massachusetts dog bite law

In Massachusetts, a dog owner or keeper is strictly liable by statute if the dog inflicts a dog bite on another person or on property. The exception to strict liability is when the victim was trespassing or committing another tort, or was “teasing, tormenting or abusing” the animal. Kids under seven are presumed not to have done any of these negative things.

If the dog had been officially found to be dangerous before the attack, the owner would be responsible for triple damages for the harm caused by the bite.

A person other than the owner or keeper may be liable if that person’s negligence caused the dog bite. Such a potentially liable party may include a landlord or property owner on whose premises the attack occurred.

Get legal advice

If a dog bites you or a loved one in Massachusetts, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney with knowledge of commonwealth dog bite law governing your rights and potential legal remedies. Your dog bite lawyer can launch an investigation on your behalf to gather evidence to support a lawsuit for damages like medical expenses, lost wages and more. In addition, legal counsel will be able to assist in negotiating with involved insurance companies.

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