Massachusetts law provides for strict liability for most dog bite cases, and for cases where someone is attacked by a dog. This includes situations where a dog causes damage either to a person’s body or to their property. The owner or keeper of a dog that bites or attacks another person is “strictly liable,” which means that you do not have to prove that the owner or keeper was negligent (failed to use reasonable care) in order to be compensated for your injuries. Even a dog walker can be held liable. In some cases, more than one person will be held responsible.
All of my clients have been people who were attacked by a dog when they were just going about their business. Examples include a grandfather carrying his granddaughter through a park allowing unleashed dogs, a delivery man making a home delivery, and a student attempting to rent a van. All received significant compensation for serious injuries and scarring. It was important that they worked with an attorney. Insurance companies and businesses settle with unrepresented victims for far less compensation than those who are represented by an experienced personal injury attorney.
Liability for dog bite cases
Exceptions to the strict liability rule are when the victim was trespassing or committing another tort, or was teasing, tormenting or abusing the dog. Minors under seven years old are presumed unable to commit trespass or to have been teasing, tormenting or abusing the dog.
It doesn’t matter that the dog that attacked you was a dog without aggressive or dangerous propensities like a Rottweiler or Pit Bull. The owner or keeper of even a lovable family pet is still responsible. In some instances a dog bite case does need to be pursued under a negligence theory, in which case the aggressive and dangerous propensities of the dog would be considered.
Homeowners insurance can compensate dog bite victims
Hopefully the owner or keeper of the dog that attacked you has a homeowner’s policy that can compensate you for your injuries and expenses. Dog bite cases can result in hefty medical bills and lost time from work or school, as well as significant pain and suffering, fear of infection and rabies, scarring, and emotional distress. Many dog bite victims no longer feel comfortable around dogs, and it may take some time to work past that fear.
If the dog owner has insurance, you may think that you should try to settle the case on your own. It is not advisable to settle an insurance injury case without an attorney. You should focus on getting the medical attention you need and on healing, and not on having to deal with collecting and culling through paperwork and trying to figure out how the insurance industry settles cases.