Like gun violence litigation’s proverbial saying “guns don’t kill people; people kill people,” dog bite litigation has its similarities in determining who is at fault. While most people default blame to the owner of a dog, or the specific breed, if it causes injury to another, the reality is that it is the owner that can be held responsible if their dog does something to harm someone.
Dog Bites and Strict Liability
A dog owner (or the person in control of the dog at the time of the incident) will be held strictly liable for injuries inflicted on another, unless the injured person was taunting, teasing, trespassing on the owner’s land, or committing another tort (wrongdoing). Strict liability is a legal term that does not consider intention, desire, or other circumstances; the simple fact that your dog injured someone, unless one of the enumerated exceptions applies, is enough to prove that you are responsible.
Children are disproportionately affected by dog bite injuries, which is why children are afforded additional protections under Massachusetts law. If a minor under the age of seven is injured by a dog, it is presumed that the minor was not trespassing, teasing, tormenting, abusing, or otherwise committing a tort. This is a unique characteristic of this area of the law. When a person who is injured, called the plaintiff, brings a case in most civil lawsuits, they have the burden of proving to the judge or jury that they were harmed. An adult, for example, may have to show that they were not trespassing or teasing the dog. This law, however, “shifts” the burden to the wrongdoer (dog owner), so the dog owner would have to prove that the minor was trespassing, teasing, etc. in order to be successful in their defense.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that dogs bite an average of 4.5 million people per year. Half of these victims are children. These statistics might not be surprising, given the fact that there are an estimated 83.3 million pet dogs in America at any given time, but should still raise a few eyebrows in that these incidents disproportionately affect youth. It is important to teach your child safety tips when commingling with animals, and also to ensure you train your dog so as to not harm visitors. Strict liability offenses such as these do not have much, if any, leniency—if your dog harms another person, you will likely be held responsible for its actions, even if it has never harmed anyone before.
Boston, Massachusetts Dog Bite Attorneys
If you or anyone you know has been injured by an animal, you have legal rights that may be able to compensate you for your injuries. Experienced Boston dog bite attorney John J. Sheehan knows how to navigate these types of cases to ensure the most favorable outcome for you. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, reimbursement for medical bills, pain and suffering, and wage loss reimbursement. Dog owners have an obligation to keep their animals from causing harm to others and you have a right to hold them to this responsibility. We are always available to hear your side of the story, take your side, and work with you toward a resolution; contact us today.