Massachusetts Dog Bite Law
A dog bite victim in Massachusetts can recover compensation under a special statute and the doctrines of negligence, negligence per se, scienter, and intentional tort.
Massachusetts has one of the best laws for the protection of dog bite victims, especially young children. Massachusetts dog laws owner or keeper is strictly liable for dog bites unless the victim was trespassing, teasing, tormenting or abusing the dog, or was committing another tort. A child under the age of 7 is presumed to have done none of those things, but the presumption is rebuttable.
Massachusetts has very strict dog bite laws. If a dog bites, attacks, or hurts someone in this state, it may be labeled as a dangerous or nuisance dog. Then, both my dog bit someone, and its owner may face strict penalties. A dog can only be labeled as dangerous or a nuisance if it actually hurts someone. It can’t get these labels due to its breed or just from growling or looking mean. If my dog bites someone will it be put down, however, here’s what happens?
Due Process for Attack Dogs
If someone is attacked by a dog, they have three years to bring forward a complaint, and at that time, the case goes to a public hearing. That gives the victim as well as the dog owner the chance to present evidence and testimony related to the dog’s attack.
Based on that information, the hearing authority can choose one of the following three options:
- Dismiss the complaint
- Label the dog as a nuisance
- Label the dog as dangerous
Note that this is essentially the criminal hearing. If someone has been attacked by a dog, they can also bring forward a civil suit. A civil suit is where the victim works with a dog bite attorney to get compensated for the damages associated with the dog attack.
Nuisance Dogs in Massachusetts
If a dog is determined to be a nuisance, the owner usually has to take action to reduce the unwanted behavior. For instance, the courts may require the dog to go to obedience classes, or they may create other requirements.
Penalties for Dangerous Dogs
When a dog bites someone, they are typically going to be labeled as dangerous, and in that situation, their owner may be required to do one or several of the following:
- Keep the dog restrained
- Confine the dog to secure premises, such as a locked pen or dog run with a roof
- Put a muzzle or a short leash on the dog for outings
- Ensure the dog for at least $100,000 as a safeguard against future injuries or property damage
- Create a permanent and reliable way for the state to identify that dog in the future, such as a microchip, photographs, veterinary records, etc.
- Neuter or spay the animal
- Euthanize the dog
Owners Who Break the Rules
If the owner doesn’t follow all the requirements for their nuisance or dangerous dog, the city may be able to take the dog and impound it. If the dog is ordered to be euthanized after being impounded, the owner usually must pay all the fees related to the impoundment and the euthanization. If the owner fails to pay, the city can place a lien on their property or increase the amount of their vehicle excise tax. Additionally, the dog owner will be banned from owning another dog for at least five years.
Civil Penalties for Dog Owners
After biting someone, the dog can face any or all the penalties listed above, but the owner may face additional civil penalties. When it comes to dog bite law, Massachusetts is a strict liability state. That means that the owner is always liable if their dog attacks. The only exceptions are if the victim was criminally trespassing, attacking, or provoking the dog, but these exceptions don’t apply to children under the age of seven. If a child is involved, the dog owner is always liable.
The owner may have to pay for the victim’s injuries as well as other costs related to their recovery or any disabilities that arise due to the injuries. Additionally, the owner may have to pay for pain and suffering, loss of consortium, or wrongful death if applicable.
Criminal Penalties for Dog Attacks
In some cases, the owner may also face criminal penalties. For instance, if an owner sets their dog loose and tells them to attack, that is akin to assaulting someone with a deadly weapon, and that dog owner may face assault charges.
If you have been bitten by a dog, you have a right to justice. You may also have a right to compensation, but that’s not the only reason you should come forward. If you don’t act, the dog may continue its behavior and other people could get hurt.
What to do when your dog bites someone?
- 1. The Facts
- 2. What type(s) of the lawsuit(s) will you face if your dog has bitten or injured someone?
- 3. What is the Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute?
- a) What is strict liability?
- 4. What is the text of the Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute?
- 5. What kind of damages will I have to pay if my dog injures someone in Massachusetts?
- 6. How long does a person have to file a claim under the Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute?
- 7. Talk to a Rhode Island and Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney
- RELATED PERSONAL INJURY TOPICS
What happens when your dog bites someone?
1. The Facts
What happens if your dog bites someone? Consider the following example: You are walking your dog around your neighborhood when a neighbor jogs by you. While jogging by you, your dog bites your neighbor’s left leg. The impact on the neighbor’s leg caused her to fall onto the pavement, which resulted in her getting a scar on her leg, a broken ankle, and a bruised thigh. After the attack, your neighbor goes to Beth Israel Hospital and gets a cast on the injured ankle. As a result of the attack, your neighbor received medical bills in excess of $30,000.
So, what happens if your dog bites someone in Massachusetts?
2. What type(s) of the lawsuit(s) will you face if your dog has bitten or injured someone?
You will likely be sued for breaking or violating the Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute (Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 140, Section 155). Under this law, the owners of dogs are strictly liable for any harm done by their dogs to “either the body or property of any person.” There is no requirement that the injury comes from a dog bite. Let’s take a look at dog bite statute.
3. What is the Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute?
The Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute (Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 140, Section 155) is the law that holds a dog owner responsible for any personal injury or property damage caused by his or her dog. Under this law, a person can recover monetary damages if the following two things are established:
- The dog caused personal injury or damaged a person’s property; and
- The person was not committing a trespass, teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog when it caused the personal injury or property damage.
The Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute is a pretty good law for dog bite victims because it imposes strict liability on the dog’s owner for any damage caused by their dog. Also, the dog bite statute does not require the injury or property damage result from a dog bite.
a) What is strict liability?
Strict liability basically means a dog owner can be held responsible for his or her dog’s bite even if the owner did not know that the dog would cause any personal injury or damage. Hence, there is no “One Bite Rule” in Massachusetts. Consider the following example. Let’s say your dog had never bitten or injured another person prior to this attack. Even though this is the dog’s first time causing an injury, you will still be liable or responsible for any injuries or damages caused by your dog.
4. What is the text of the Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute?
Section 155: Liability for damage caused by dog; minors; presumption and burden of proof
Section 155. If any dog shall do any damage to either the body or property of any person, the owner or keeper, or if the owner or keeper be a minor, the parent or guardian of such minor, shall be liable for such damage, unless such damage shall have been occasioned to the body or property of a person who, at the time such damage was sustained, was committing a trespass or other tort, or was teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog. If a minor, on whose behalf an action under this section is brought, is under seven years of age at the time the damage was done, it shall be presumed that such minor was not committing a trespass or other tort, or teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog, and the burden of proof thereof shall be upon the defendant in such action.
5. What kind of damages will I have to pay if my dog injures someone in Massachusetts?
Under the Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute, an injured person can sue for pain-and-suffering damages, lost wages, past medical bills, or future medical bills.
6. How long does a person have to file a claim under the Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute?
Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 260, Section 2A, a person has three years, from the date their injury, to file a lawsuit under the Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute. If the person does not file their claim within that 3 year period he or she will not be allowed to recover any damages for their injury.
7. Talk to a Rhode Island and Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney
If you have a question about your personal injury claim or criminal arrest, contact Attorney Jones and he will help you find the answer. Attorney Jones is a Massachusetts personal injury attorney, Rhode Island personal injury attorney, and Massachusetts criminal defense attorney with over 10 years of legal experience in personal injury law and criminal defense. Call him at 401-834-7747, email (attorneyjacksonj[email protected]), or contact him through this website to set up your free consultation regarding your Rhode Island personal injury case or your Attleboro, Fall River, New Bedford, Taunton, Bristol County, Massachusetts or Brockton, Plymouth County, Massachusetts personal injury case or criminal case.
Check out his personal injury FAQ page if you have any more questions about your personal injury claim.
You should Google “Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 140, Section 155” if you would like to read the full Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute.
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Please feel free to read some of my other personal injury-related blogs, including:
- Is my Rhode Island or Massachusetts car accident or slip and fall settlement taxable?
- What To Do At the Scene of a Car Accident, Motorcycle Accident or Pedestrian Accident in Massachusetts or Rhode Island.
- What To Do At the Scene of a Slip and Fall Accident in Massachusetts or Rhode Island.
- I’ve been in a car accident & I want to file a personal injury lawsuit. What should I bring to my first meeting with the lawyer?
- What Will Happen At Your First Meeting With A Massachusetts Or Rhode Island Personal Injury Attorney.