Dog Bites: What to Do When a Family Pet Causes Injury
Your legal rights if you find yourself on the receiving end of a pet's aggression
While dogs may be referred to as “man’s best friend” with good reason, they are, at their core, still animals. So although they generally make us laugh with their hilarious antics and fill us with joy with their unrequited love and devotion, it’s important to remember that they can be unpredictable and even downright dangerous. A healthy, well-behaved dog requires countless hours of training and patience from its owner. Unfortunately, some owners simply do not provide this sort of discipline, while others abuse their dogs, which potentially creates insecurity and aggression. Sadly, innocent people can end up on the receiving end of this aggression. If you or someone in your family is bitten by a dog, you need to know what to do and what your rights are as a victim.
The laws regarding liability when someone is bitten or hurt by a dog vary from state to state in the U.S. Here in Massachusetts, our law is what’s referred to as a “strict liability” statute. This means that a dog owner can be held responsible for an injury caused by his or her pet, even if the owner did not know – or had no reason to know – that the dog might bite or injure someone. The law provides that a dog's "owner or keeper" is liable if the dog causes an injury or property damage, provided that the injured person was not otherwise at fault (by, for example, provoking the dog or trespassing on property). In other words, someone who has been injured by a dog does not need to show the dog owner was necessarily aware that their dog might hurt someone. The injured party just needs to show that the dog caused the injury and that they were not engaged in any unlawful or wrongful conduct at the time of incident.
The other important fact to keep in mind if you or someone in your family has been injured by a dog is that there is a time limit that applies if you are considering bringing a legal claim against a dog’s owner. This restriction, called a “statute of limitations,” basically sets out that if you don’t file a lawsuit within the time provided by law, you cannot file suit at all. In Massachusetts, the law requires that you bring a claim within three years from when you are injured. For that reason, it’s of critical importance that you seek legal advice as soon as possible after an injury occurs.
For over 50 years, our firm provided our clients with guidance on all types of legal matters. Though the above content shouldn’t be considered legal advice, you can contact the team at Glickman, Sugarman, Kneeland & Gribouski to discuss your options together.
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