If your dog recently bit someone, you may have questions about your liability as the dog owner. What are the stipulations for a dog bite lawsuit? Do you face criminal or civil charges? Could you face both? As you consider the elements of a dog bite lawsuit in Massachusetts, remember you may benefit from seeking the help of a dog bite attorney. If you are facing financial damages, you want an experienced professional on your side to give you the best chance at a fair conclusion.
What Laws Govern Dog Bite Cases in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts has three essential laws that regulate dog bite cases. These include the Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute, the legal concept of strict liability, and the potential criminal charges. If your dog bites someone, you will benefit from understanding the circumstances under which these laws apply.
Stipulations for the Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute
For the Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute under General Laws Chapter 140, Section 155 to apply, the dog must cause bodily injury or property damage, and the injured person cannot violate personal injury law at the time. Additionally, the dog owner cannot be held liable if the victim provoked the dog or was illegally present on the property at the time of the incident.
The court will not accept the excuse that the dog has never behaved aggressively before to absolve the dog owner of responsibility. Additionally, dog bites are not the only form of attack for which a victim may sue. For example, if your dog jumps on someone, knocking them down and causing an injury, you could be liable for damages.
Strict Liability in Dog Bite Cases
Dog bite law in Massachusetts falls under the strict liability statute. This means that you are responsible for damages even if you took every precaution to restrain your dog and keep them from biting someone. For example, if you had the dog on a leash and it was able to get free and bite someone, you are still liable. You are also still liable if you had the dog free from restraints on your property in a fenced area, but the dog jumped the fence and attacked someone outside your property line.
Criminal Liability for Dog Bites
Criminal charges do not apply to every dog bite case. In Massachusetts, the dog may bite if the owner allowed the attack to happen or encouraged the attack. The victim does not bring criminal lawsuits. Instead, the local or state authorities would bring up the charges through the prosecutor. In this case, they would need to prove you acted criminally beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a much more challenging burden of proof to meet. In a civil case, you would face a penalty of compensating the victim for damages, such as medical expenses and lost income. In a criminal case, you face possible fines, community service, probation, or possible jail time.
What Are the Possible Defenses in a Dog Bite Case?
In Massachusetts, there are three potential defenses against a dog bite claim:
- Trespassing. If the person who suffers an injury is trespassing on the dog owner’s property at the time of the attack, they may not be able to seek damages. However, if the injured person was lawfully present, they may be entitled to damages. Examples of a person lawfully present without an invitation are a postal service worker or a water meter reader.
- Inflicting a personal injury at the time. If the person injured committed another civil wrong at the time of injury, they likely could not receive compensation for their injuries.
- Provoking the dog to attack. Massachusetts law does not permit a person who teased, abused, or tormented the dog at the time of the attack to seek compensation for any damages they suffered.
If the circumstances listed above relate to your dog bite incident, you would likely benefit from speaking with a dog bite attorney about the details of your case.
What Should You Do If Your Dog Bites Someone?
Witnessing a dog biting incident can be traumatizing. You may feel an instant wave of panic and fear. However, how you handle the aftermath is very important. Consider these steps you should take should your dog bite someone:
- Remove the animal from the situation. Inform the victim where you intend to go and take the dog somewhere you can keep them safe from harming others. For example, you may tie them to a tree or post or put them in your car or home if either is nearby. Be sure to warn others to stand back during the process, so no one else suffers an injury.
- Determine the severity of the bite. Doctors may measure the scale of a dog bite injury based on the level of damage. For example, a level 1 injury includes aggressive behavior that could inflict mental or emotional damage without an actual bite. Levels 2-5 go from teeth-to-skin contact resulting in a scratch to multiple bites resulting in numerous punctures. Level 6 is the worst-case scenario in which the attack resulted in deadly injuries.
- Help administer proper first aid. If the wound bleeds, you can apply pressure using a paper towel or clean rag to stop the bleeding.
- Call for emergency medical services. If the victim suffers a severe puncture wound or more, you may want to help them seek medical attention.
- Exchange information with the victim. Ask for their name and contact information if you do not know the victim.
- Speak with a dog bite attorney. Even if the victim appears to be okay and the wound is superficial, you may want to prepare for the possibility of a lawsuit, especially if you do not know them personally. Speak with an attorney immediately to better understand the incident’s possible legal ramifications.
Not all dog bite incidents are the result of an unfortunate accident. If the victim is an aggressor, such as someone attempting to cause you or the dog harm or someone trespassing on your property, you want to contact the police and document the incident immediately.
How Can a Dog Bite Personal Injury Attorney Help You?
Because of dog bites, people can suffer severe head, neck, legs, arms, hands, and feet injuries. These injuries range from minor scrapes to severe puncture wounds with a high risk of infection or nerve damage. If your dog bites someone in Massachusetts, you could face a lawsuit where the plaintiff may seek compensation for medical bills related to their injuries as well as the emotional trauma the incident caused. However, a dog bite attorney could help you build a case if your claim falls under one of the possible defenses in a Massachusetts dog bite case.
The dog bite attorneys at Jason Stone Injury lawyers have experience working on both sides of dog bites cases. We understand the financial risks you face because of this unfortunate event and how important it is for you to have legal representation you can trust to help you reach a fair outcome in this case. We commit to providing our clients with excellent customer service and the best possible legal aid. Contact Jason Stone Injury Lawyers today to speak to an attorney about the details of your case and find out how we can help you.