In Massachusetts nearly 1 in 4 households owns at least one dog. Dog-related injuries are not just comprised of bites or attacks but also falls or fractures caused by a jumping or running dog, transmission of disease and other types of incidents. More commonly, however, are dog bites that sometimes happen even with the most well-behaved pooches. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 4.5 million dog bites are reported each year in the United States.  Last year alone, an excess of $600 million was paid out through homeowners insurance policies for dog-related injury claims.

Claims for dog-related injuries continue to rise nationwide. In Massachusetts, there are two avenues under which one can pursue these claims:  the common law and M.G.L. c. 140, §155.  Under the common law, a plaintiff must prove the owner or keeper of the dog had knowledge of a dog’s dangerous propensities, and those behaviors caused the injury. On the statutory side, M.G.L. c. 140, §155 holds a dog owner or keeper strictly liable for any injuries caused by a dog — regardless if that person was negligent — or knew or had reason to know, that the dog had aggressive tendencies. The injured party has the burden to show that at the time of the incident he or she was not trespassing, teasing, or abusing the dog. If the injured party is a minor under the age of seven at the time of the incident, the burden shifts to the owner to prove the child was trespassing, teasing, or abusing the dog.

Even the friendliest dogs can cause serious injuries, so it is important to be alert when interacting with them. If you have been attacked by a dog, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Here are basic tips to prevent dog-related injuries:

1.  If you are approached by a unknown dog, do not panic, run, or make loud noises, and avoid eye contact with the dog.

2.  Do not approach an unfamiliar dog, especially if it’s sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.

3.  Do not allow small children to play with a dog unsupervised.

4.  Do not pet a dog without asking its owner for permission first.

5.  Before petting a dog, let the dog see and sniff you first. Never approach a dog off-guard.

SUGARMAN has a team of dedicated personal injury attorneys who represent those who have been injured in dog-related incidents.  If you have been hurt and wish to speak to one of our attorneys regarding liability, please fill out a ContactForm, call us at 617-542-1000 or e-mail for a consultation.