How to Sue for a Dog Bite Injury in Massachusetts
Lots of people keep dogs as pets. At least one family on every street in Massachusetts probably has a dog in their home. While dogs can be very loyal and loving companions, they are also animals that need to be trained. Not every dog is ready to be taken in by an owner, and some owners neglect to properly train their dogs. In these situations, innocent people could be the victim of dog bites. Some bites can be minor, but other times they can be very severe and cause serious injuries.
To recover damages for your dog bite injuries, you must sue the dog’s owner. Dog owners are held strictly liable for the injuries caused by their pets, so it does not matter what the owner was thinking or doing when the dog attacked. You can also sue the owner of the property where the dog bite occurred. Under premises liability laws, the property owner may have owed you a duty of care to ensure the property was safe. This includes removing a potentially dangerous animal.
People are sometimes hesitant to sue after a dog bite because they want to give dog owners the benefit of the doubt. However, dog owners need to be held accountable for failing to train their pets. Also, this kind of negligence must be deterred to help prevent future cases of dog bites. Our Boston dog bite injury lawyers are here to help. Set up a free, private legal consultation at the Law Office of John J. Sheehan. Call our offices at (617) 925-6407 to get help today.
Dog Bites and Strict Liability in Massachusetts
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 the owner’s dog injured someone, unless one of the enumerated exceptions applies, is enough to prove that they are responsible for your injuries.
Children are disproportionately affected by dog bite injuries, which is why children are afforded additional protections under Mass. Gen. Laws. Ch. 140 § 155. 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 an injured person who 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, would 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.
Strict liability offenses such as these do not have much, if any, leniency—if a dog harms another person, the owner will likely be held responsible for its actions, even if it has never harmed anyone before. Call our Somerville dog bite injury attorneys today for help with your case.
Damages from Dog Bites in Boston
When filing your lawsuit, you will be asked about something called “damages.” Damages is a legal term that refers to any losses you suffered as the result of the dog bite. These losses can be financial, physical, or non-tangible. For example, the costs of medical treatment and your physical and emotional pain and suffering are all considered part of your total damages.
Damages in dog bite cases almost always involve medical costs. Dog bites are often very serious, and victims are left with severe wounds. Surgery, stitches, and rabies shots are all commonly associated with dog bites. These treatments are also very expensive. It is crucial that you save all records pertaining to your medical treatment so we can get a more accurate assessment of your damages.
Damages can also include other financial losses. For example, if your dog bite was so severe that you cannot return to work while you recover, you can include lost wages in your damages calculations. Depending on the severity of your attack, you might not be able to return to work indefinitely. For example, a severe dog attack that leaves a victim unable to walk could also mean the victim must quit their job. If that is the case, the victim can include lost future earnings in their damages.
Some damages are difficult to calculate because they do not actually come with a financial loss. These non-economic or non-tangible damages include things like pain and suffering. A dog bite can be a very painful experience, both physically and mentally. The bite itself and the following medical treatments can be excruciating. Additionally, the emotional trauma of the attack can linger for years. The dog’s owner should be held accountable for all your suffering, even if that suffering did not cost money.
For help with your case or calculating damages, contact our Cambridge dog bite injury lawyers today.
Dog Bites and Premises Liability in Massachusetts
A dog owner may be held strictly liable for your injuries as long as you were not trespassing or taunting the dog. However, a property owner could also be held liable for a dog bite injury that takes place on their property. Property owners may be held liable for such injuries through premises liability law. These laws hold that property owners owe a duty of care to guests and visitors to make the premises safe.
Premises liability is not strict liability. The duty of care owed to a dog bite injury victim will depend on their relationship to the property owner. In Massachusetts, lawful entrants, including social guests and other invited visitors, are owed a greater duty of care. In such cases, a property owner must take steps to remedy any known hazards on their property in addition to inspecting for any possible unknown hazards. This can include making sure any dogs on their property are safe, even if they do not own the dog.
An example of a premises liability case involving a dog bite would be if the dog’s owner and the property owner were two different people. Suppose that you visit your neighbor’s house as a social guest. Also suppose that your neighbor is dog-sitting for a friend. If the dog bites you, you could sue the dog owner under strict liability, and you could sue your neighbor under premises liability.
For help understanding who you can sue and why, call our Massachusetts dog bite injury lawyers.
Trespassers in Boston Who Suffer Dog Bites
In both premises liability cases and strict liability cases involving dog bites, you might not have a valid claim if you were a trespasser when the dog bite happened. A trespasser is someone who enters the property of another without permission. Trespassers often enter someone else’s property to commit a crime, like burglary, but this is not necessarily required to establish trespassing.
For example, you might be walking down the street and you see a dog on a stranger’s front porch. You decide to approach the dog to pet them, but they become angry and bite you, seriously injuring you. Because you entered the dog owner’s property without permission, even though you did not intend to commit a crime, you would be considered a trespasser.
Under premises liability laws, trespassers are owed no duty of care, which means the property owner is not responsible if you are injured on their property. Similarly, the dog’s owner would not be liable under strict liability because you were considered a trespasser.
The line between invited guest and trespasser is not always clear. A guest can become a trespasser if they enter a specific area that is off limits or they refuse to leave after being asked to do so. If you are unsure whether you were trespassing when your dog bite injury happened, call our Massachusetts dog bite injury lawyers for assistance.
Boston, Massachusetts Dog Bite Attorneys
If you have been injured by an animal, you may be entitled to compensation you for your injuries. Boston dog bite attorney John J. Sheehan will work for the most favorable outcome for you. Contact our Somerville dog bite lawyers for a free consultation at the Law Office of John J. Sheehan. Call our offices at (617) 925-6407 to get help.