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March 9, 2016

The law on Massachusetts dog bites: strict liability

In most personal injury cases, the question is on who was negligent. For example, in a car accident, it is the driver who was speeding, texting, driving drunk or otherwise not paying attention to the road who is responsible for covering the costs if anyone is injured.

This is true also for premises liability, or “slip and fall” cases. The person injured must show that the entity responsible for maintaining the premises, such as the store owner, landlord or homeowner, did not act reasonably to prevent injuries by maintaining the property in a safe condition.

This is not the case when a dog attacks and injures someone. In such a situation, Massachusetts holds to a theory known as “strict liability.” Strict liability means that a person is responsible for covering the costs associated with an accident or injury regardless of fault.

In a dog bite case, the questions are straightforward. The injured victim must show that:

  • A dog caused the injury at issue
  • The owner of the dog is the one being sued
  • The victim was not trespassing or engaged in illegal activity or taunting the dog

The rationale behind strict liability for dog bites is to ensure that dog owners are extremely careful about dog attacks. Whether the dog had a history of violence, was on a leash, or has been through extensive training makes no difference in legal liability. However, owners who properly care and train their pets have a lower likelihood of their animal attacking someone.

Any animal may end up biting or attacking someone, particularly if they lack care and training. That is why owners in Massachusetts are responsible for the actions of their pets.

Dog attacks can result in serious injuries

Dog bites and dog attacks can result in significant injuries, including punctures, fractured bones, scars and infections. Significant emotional issues, like post-traumatic stress disorder, may also arise.

Under Massachusetts law, if you have been bitten or attacked by a dog, you may be able to obtain compensation for your medical costs and lost wages.

Attorney Peter M. Goldberg is the founder of and managing partner at Goldberg & Weigand, LLP, and has been in private practice since 1986. He takes pride in the fact he deals directly with his clients on a daily basis working to get their cases resolved to the fullest extent of their rights. Peter practices personal injury law and workers compensation law in Massachusetts.

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