March 21, 2016
Dog attacks child
Dogs can be wonderful pets, and many dog owners take responsibility for training and attending to their dogs in public settings. However, dogs are still animals and they can be unpredictable, if a dog attacks a child unprovoked the owners may be held responsible for the actions of their pets.
Dog bites are a serious crime that can cause traumatic personal injuries to the victim and their families.
Earlier this year, an eighteen-month old child from Saugus, Massachusetts was attacked by a dog inside the city’s town hall.
According to reports, the dog was licensed, vaccinated, and, surprisingly, on a leash at the time of the attack.
This goes to show how unpredictable animals can be; even a leashed animal that appears safe can act out of character and harm a human being. This story is not uncommon, as thousands of dog bite cases occur every year. In fact, nearly 1,000 people are hospitalized for dog bites in the U.S. every single day.
Dog attacks child – Massachusetts Law
Massachusetts has a specific law covering dog bite injuries, which states that a dog owner or keeper is liable for damage caused by the dog if the dog causes personal injury or property damage. A dog “keeper” is someone responsible for the dog, even if they are not the owner, so if a dog attacks you while a pet sitter is walking it, the pet sitter can be held liable for damages.
If a person is attacked by a dog but was trespassing or tormenting or abusing the dog, the dog owner is not liable for damages. For example, if a person was breaking into someone’s home, or tormenting the dog, such as throwing things at the dog, and was attacked, the dog owner would not be responsible for any injuries or damage. It is presumed that any person under the age of seven injured by a dog was not trespassing or abusing the dog. In the case above, this means that the eighteen-month old child is presumed to be innocent of provoking the dog and causing the attack.
Massachusetts law also says that if a dog injures someone even without biting (e.g. a dog jumping on an elderly person and causing them to fall and break a bone), the owner is liable for the damage caused by the animal.
Massachusetts has a “strict liability” rule on dog bite cases. This means that a dog owner is responsible for the damage caused by the dog even if the owner had no prior knowledge that the dog would be aggressive or harm another person. Again, this applies whether the dog causes an injury from a bite or causes injury from any other means.
Statute of Limitations
In Massachusetts, a victim has three years from the date of the event or injury to file a lawsuit against the dog owner.
Protecting Yourself From Dog Bites
Of course, it is ultimately the dog owner’s responsibility to ensure that their pet does not attack and harm someone, but there are steps you can take to help protect yourself.
· If you see a dog that is off-leash, especially if it is one of the breeds most likely to attack, do your best to stay away from the animal. If that means changing your path, crossing the street, or getting back into your car, then you should attempt to do so.
· Stay calm. This can be a frightening situation, however adding to the commotion could cause the animal to become more disturbed and worsen the attack.
· Avoid making eye contact with the animal. In many breeds, this can be taken as a sign of aggression.
· Call for help. 911 is always available, but do not be afraid to ask bystanders for help in distracting or restraining the animal if possible.
What To Do If You Have Been Attacked by a Dog
If you or a family member have been bitten or attacked by a dog, the first thing you must do is seek medical attention. Once you have been treated for your injuries, consult an experienced personal injury attorney to help you understand what damages you may be able to claim. Call New Bedford attorney Paul Santos at 508-996-0941 or contact me online for a free initial consultation.