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How Do I Get Compensation For an Injury Caused By a Dog?

Recovery for an injury from a dog depends upon the existence of homeowners insurance coverage on the owner or keeper of the dog. Any injury that occurs as a result of a dog is compensable. The injury need not be an actual bite but could occur as a result of a bump, a trip, or even if a dog causes you to fall from a bicycle. The law in Massachusetts is M.G.L. c. 140, s. 155, “Liability For Damage Caused By Dog.”

The most notable feature of this statute is that the damage need only to have occurred. In comparison, almost all personal injury law requires a showing of negligence. As I emphatically state in the video blog, that is not the case in the dog statute. There is a finding based on what we call “strict liability.” As a result, a dog’s dangerous propensities are not relevant. Leash laws are likewise not relevant. The statute does include the fact that there will not be recovery if the 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.” I haven’t had a client sue who was found to have been teasing, tormenting or abusing the dog who caused the damage.

Homeowners insurance will cover the owner or keeper. There are some dogs who are excluded from an insurance policy. They are blacklisted from coverage. If that is the case, hopefully the homeowner did indeed find an insurance company offering coverage.

It seems that most of the dog attack cases that I have encountered are bites. Not only that, they involve facial scarring. To proceed with those cases involves the usual work in a personal injury case. At least that work does not include any concern over whether I can establish liability because the statute speaks very clearly in the plaintiff’s (the person suing) favor. If the dog isn’t man’s best friend, the statute is.

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