Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys
Massachusetts Bar Association 1911
Plymouth County Bar Association
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Dog Bites

The Brockton dog bite lawyers at Sousa & Sousa have established a reputation for excellence in personal injury law. We have successfully handled all types of cases involving dog bites and animal attacks. Our firm is dedicated to defending the rights of injury victims in Brockton, Easton, and other areas of Massachusetts.

There is no substitute for the unconditional love of a canine. History has proved, time and again, that dog is man’s best friend. Unfortunately, owners often use their pets as surrogates for their own fears and rarely know how to “lead.” This results in a fundamental lack of training, restraint, and socialization that are crucial to raising a healthy pet. Although the pet supply business is a billion-dollar industry, the abundance of dog training shows and canine paraphernalia are a testament to how little control owners have over their pets. Let loose, an untrained, aggressive or even excited pet can cause serious injury to others.

According to the American Humane Association, over 4.7 million dog bites occur each year. More than 800,000 victims of dog bites require emergency care. While some states have enacted “breed specific legislation,” this does not cure the problem. In most cases, dog bites are the fault of the owner. Basic principles of negligence require dog owners to exercise reasonable care in training and restraining their pets. The intentional breeding of “fighting” dogs is strictly forbidden. Aggressive dogs constitute a dangerous condition on property. Thus, dog bites are typically governed by premises liability law. The most common causes of dog bites include:

  • Failure to spay or neuter dogs
  • Failure to train or socialize pets
  • Failure to restrain using a leash
  • Petting a dog through the fence
  • Inadequate barriers on property
  • Improperly tying or chaining dogs
  • Approaching an unfamiliar dog
  • Shouting or sudden movements
  • Bites or mauling extremities (arms, hands, legs)

Regulations governing liability for dog bites is codified in Section 155 of the General Laws of Massachusetts. Under this law, the owner or “keeper” of the offending canine is liable in damages to the person injured by the bite. If the person controlling the dog is a minor, the parent or guardian shall be held liable. Liable parties are responsible for “any damage” caused by the animal, including property damage and bodily injury.

The only defense to liability is if the injured party at the time of the damage was committing a trespass or other tort on the property. The dog owner is also not liable if the injured victim was teasing, antagonizing, or otherwise abusing the dog. However, these exceptions do not apply to injured minors under the age of seven. In these cases, it is presumed that the minor did not provoke the attack and the burden shifts to the dog owners or keepers to prove they are not liable.

Dog bites can result in devastating injuries to both the victim and the owner. In many cases, the dog must be euthanized. Pursuant to Massachusetts law, a person who fails to kill or confine an offending dog shall be punished by a fine. A police officer may also kill the dog if it is found outside the enclosure of its owner’s property or not under the owner’s immediate care. If the police or a district court orders the dog restrained and the dog gets out, wounding another person, the owner must pay the injured party treble the amount of damages.

There are many other instances where the owner of a dog who has caused injury will be liable. For example, if a dog chases an individual and that individual falls and is injured, the dog owner may be held liable so long as the injured person was not teasing or tormenting the dog or committing a trespass. A dog owner may also be liable if a dog jumps up onto an individual, especially an elderly person, knocking them to the ground. Another example where an owner of a dog may be liable, is if the dog chases a bicyclist or motorcyclist and causes an accident when the operator attempts to swerve and avoid hitting the dog, or if, the operator collides with the dog. There are also certain situations where a landlord may be liable if their tenant’s dog attacks and causes injury. If the landlord knew or should have known of the dog’s dangerous and vicious propensities and did not take appropriate steps to prevent such an attack, such as insisting that the tenant keep the dog restrained or even possibly taking measures to have the dog removed from the premises or evicting the tenant, then they may be liable. We have represented many people who have been injured by dogs in this manner and have been able to obtain compensation for their injuries. Usually dog bite or attack claims are covered by homeowner’s insurance or a commercial insurance policy of the owner of the dog.

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of a dog bite or attack, you should contact our office so we can conduct a proper and thorough investigation, including documenting your injuries by taking photographs as soon after the attack as possible, research ownership and control of the dog and whether there has been a prior restraint order issued and whether or not this dog has a history of attacking or biting other individuals and also determining if and to what extent there is insurance coverage.

If you were injured or mauled by a dog, the experienced Brockton dog bite attorneys of Sousa & Sousa can help. We have extensive expertise in defending victims of dog bites and other animal attacks. Our firm focuses on premises liability law and has successfully handled complex claims relating to dangerous conditions on property. At Sousa & Sousa, we understand a dog bite injury is traumatic and are here to help you obtain the compensation you deserve. For a free consultation call our Brockton/Easton office at 508-230-5300 or contact us online.