Posts tagged with "dog bite injuries"

Should I sue after a dog bite?

Let’s get one thing clear: No case is guaranteed. There is always a risk factor from the human element involving the whims of a judge or jury. That being said, dog bite cases are some of the easiest cases to win and victims have the best odds of prevailing.

In fact, Massachusetts has a strict liability for dog bites: The owner of the dog is responsible for the injury. It’s written right into the general laws. Chapter 140, Section 155 to be exact.

Some people think dogs are entitled to one free bite; they’ve never bitten a person before and the owner couldn’t possibly have known that they would bite someone. That won’t protect you. Your dog bit a person causing a serious injury to someone who was minding their own business and you own that dog, that’s your responsibility.

If you’re an adult and your dog bites someone, you are responsible. If you’re a minor and your dog bites someone, your parents are legally responsible. The damages will usually be covered by homeowners insurance.

That cover the overwhelming majority of dog bite cases. There are two big exceptions, however, spelled out plainly in the law.

 

The Exceptions to the Dog Bite Law

The dog owner is not responsible if you were bitten while being cruel to the dog. The exact words of the law are that you can not be “Teasing, tormenting or abusing” the dog. If that was happening, it’s entirely expected (and possibly justified with adults) for the dog to fight back.

The law also says the dog owner is responsible so long as the bitten person was not “committing a trespass or other tort.”

If you jump my fence and my dog bites you, I have a good defense. You’re on my property. If you’re attacking me and my dog jumps in to protect me, the only thing I expect to pay for is a steak for Fido.

If you have a “Beware Dog” sign it probably won’t protect you from a lawsuit. If you verbally warn a person that your dog bites and they reach out and get bitten, the person would probably be found to be 40 percent responsible for the bite, and you would be 60 percent responsible as the dog’s owner. That’s still a majority of responsibility and you would still be liable for damages.

 

Have You Been Bitten?

If someone from your family has been hurt by a dog, give us a call at 1 (888) 330-6657 or contact us and we can talk to you about your rights and possible next steps.

Boston landlords’ liability for dog-bites inflicted by tenants’ dogs

Under Massachusetts law, a dog owner is strictly liable for any injury caused by their dog, regardless of whether the dog has ever bit anyone before or possesses any violent tendencies. Specifically, the law states that a dog owner is responsible for any “damage to either the body or property of any person,” unless, of course, the person injured was trespassing or tormenting the dog at the time of the attack.

This statute applies evenly to all Boston dog owners, including those who live with their dogs in apartments and other types of rental properties. However, in situations in which the dog owner is a renter, there exists the possibility that another may also be held liable for a dog bite – specifically, the landlord.

Landlord dog-bite liability

Given that no statute exists in Massachusetts on landlord dog-bite liability, common-law principles are applied by Massachusetts courts to determine negligence on the part of the landlord.

This generally means that a dog-bite victim must first be able to show that the landlord knew, or reasonably should have known, that the dog had “dangerous propensities” before they can be held accountable – the mere presence of a dog on property owned by the landlord is not enough as common law generally regards dogs as harmless animals.

A Massachusetts court had an opportunity to apply this test in 2009 when a lawsuit was initiated against a landlord after a dog owned by one of the tenants attacked another tenant. The court noted that the breed of the dog involved in the attack – a bit bull – had been characterized by other courts as a breed “commonly known to be aggressive.”

Ultimately, the court ruled that even though the landlord cannot be held strictly liable based solely on the breed of a tenant’s dog, knowledge of the breed and its propensities may be considered when determining if the landlord was negligent or not.

Dog bites and homeowners insurance

It is important to note that dog bites are often covered under homeowner liability policies. In fact, according to a report issued by the Insurance Information Institute last year, roughly one-third of all homeowners insurance claims paid in 2011 were related to dog bites – nearly $479 million in all. An average dog-bite claim in 2011 was $29,396, up 12.3 percent from 2010.

Consequently, if you or a loved one has been injured by another’s dog, it is important to speak with an experienced dog-bite attorney to ensure your rights are protects and that you obtain the compensation you are entitled to.