While last week's story about a dog bite injury involved a celebrity from a reality television show, Worcester residents need look no further than the local news on a given night to find similar stories. When victims of a dog attack find themselves faced with overwhelming medical expenses, physical pain and even emotional pain, they have legal rights to pursue compensation in some situations. It's important, however, to know what the law says here in Massachusetts about this.
One very important principle in Massachusetts is that dog owners bear "strict liability" when their dogs attack and injure others. This means that, in all but a few scenarios, the owner is responsible for any injures and other damages caused by the dog. The major exceptions are if the victim was trespassing or was provoking the animal with taunts or abuse. If a dog owner wants to use those lines of defense against a dog bite claim, it is up to him or her to prove the alleged trespassing or abuse.
Another point is that the dog owner isn't necessarily the only person who might be held liable for a victim's losses. Whoever was caring for the dog at the time -- a sitter or perhaps a boarding facility -- can be held liable. If someone brings a dog onto another person's property, and the property owner knows and agrees to it, the property owner could likewise be responsible in the event of an attack on the property. This also includes landlords who allow their tenants to own dangerous dogs.
It's important to identify all of the potential defendants in a dog bite claim because victims' losses can be significant. A legal professional can help victims protect their rights during this difficult time.
Source: Findlaw.com, "Dog Bites and Animal Attack Overview," accessed on Nov. 21, 2014