Regardless of the answer, if you own a dog, reading this article could save you from serious legal consequences concerning your beloved companion. This post explains the Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute and how to reduce your liability if your dog injures someone or someone’s property. Before reading further, you should know that dog bites are a strict liability offense. Meaning, the law is not concerned with whether you intended for your dog to bite someone, took steps to prevent a dog bite, or were unaware a dog bite occurred, rather, in the eyes of the law, if someone is bitten by your dog, you will be held responsible.
According to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 140, Section 155 states:
“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.” M.G.L. Ch.140, §155.”
The statute begins by stating that if you are a dog owner or are the parent/guardian of a minor dog owner (such as a dog owned by your child); you will be responsible for the damages caused by your dog to another person or their property. But here’s where your defense comes in. The statute goes on to state that if the person who was bitten or whose property was damaged, was trespassing, teasing, tormenting, abusing, or committing a tort involving the dog, you, the responsible dog owner, will likely not be liable.
The final segment of the statute states that if the dog bite victim was under seven (7) years of age when the incident occurred, it is presumed that the child was not trespassing, teasing, tormenting, abusing, or committing a tort involving the dog. This means that until you raise evidence to the contrary, it will be considered factual that the victim child was not trespassing, teasing, tormenting, abusing, or committing a tort involving the dog.
When it comes to owning a dog, great companionship brings great responsibility. To further protect yourself from the legal ramifications of your rambunctious pup, be sure to find out if your homeowner’s insurance policy covers dog bites. Massachusetts’ homeowner’s insurance policies generally cover most of, if not all of the damages resulting from your dog’s devious behavior. Constantly knowing the whereabouts of your dog is difficult, but familiarizing yourself with the rights and responsibilities associated with owning a dog is effortless and invaluable.
If you have any questions or if you need guidance, please call the attorneys at Wynn & Wynn, P.C. at 1.800.852.5211 or request a free consultation.