According to Reuters, the American Kennel Club announced on January 31 that the Labrador retriever was the most popular dog breed in the United States for the twenty-third consecutive year. Many Americans find themselves sharing a home with one or more dogs. For example, A recent survey by the Humane Society of the United States estimated that 47 percent of American households have at least one dog. While many pet owners understand some of the responsibilities associated with dog ownership (such as feeding, grooming, and exercising the dog), some pet owners neglect to consider that damage or injuries caused by their canine companions can mean costly legal expenses.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year. Over two million of these dog bite victims are children, and 20 percent of dog bites are serious enough to require surgery. Furthermore, according to the CDC, over 27,000 people underwent reconstructive surgeries as a result of dog bites. Even “family-friendly” dogs, such as Labrador retrievers, have the potential to cause serious injuries to others. A dog’s size, teeth, and nails mean that a dog-related injury victim may suffer cuts, lacerations, crushing wounds, punctures, bruising, and fractured bones. In addition, with any animal-related injury, there is the potential for infection. Because nearly 77 percent of all dog-related injuries occur to the face, these injuries can often be severe.
The Law on Dog Bite Injuries
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 140, Section 155 sets forth the law in Massachusetts regarding dog-related injuries and damages. Under this statute, an owner of a dog (or the parent or guardian of the dog, if the dog is owned by a child) is liable to anyone whose property is damaged and whose person is injured by the dog. In other words, the owner of a dog is civilly responsible for injuries and damages caused by the owner’s dog.
Massachusetts is known as a “strict liability” state when it comes to dog bites. Whereas some states require a dog-related injury victim to show that the dog’s owner somehow knew or should have known about his or her dog’s dangerous tendencies and was negligent or careless, Massachusetts places no such requirement on injury victims. The fact that a dog has never attacked or injured a person before does not bar an injury victim from recovering medical expenses, lost wages, and monetary damages for pain and suffering. An injured party can even recover damages for any property that was damaged by the dog.
It is difficult in Massachusetts for a dog owner to avoid liability for his or her dog’s actions. In fact, under the law, an injury victim is barred from recovery only where the victim was teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog before it attacked, or where the victim was committing a trespass or other civil wrong at the time of the attack.
If you have suffered injuries or property damage because of a dog, you need an experienced personal injury attorney to help you hold the dog’s owner accountable. Contact us at 508-755-7535 for a free consultation.