The third week of May is National Dog Bite Prevention Week. As Massachusetts dog bite injury attorneys we thought you may be interested in the following facts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.), approximately 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year. Of that amount, more than 2.3 million are children under the age of 12.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, insurance companies paid out $478.9 million in dog bite claims last year; and $412.6 million in 2010. That averages out to approximately $30,000 per claim.
Massachusetts has a Dog Bite Statute (M.G.L. c. 140 § 155) that allows an individual bitten or attacked by a dog to pursue a claim against the homeowner’s insurance policy of the owner or keeper of the dog. This also includes any property damage.The Massachusetts Dog Bite Statute is a strict liability statute because a dog bite is an inherently dangerous act. Strict liability means that the dog owner is automatically liable, regardless of fault (even if the dog never bit anyone before). One caveat to this rule is whether the injured person was trespassing or was teasing, tormenting or abusing the dog (i.e. the victim was bitten as a result of his/her own negligence). If the victim is a child under the age of seven, then the caveat is set aside, and the dog owner is automatically liable.
According to M.G.L. c. 140 § 147A, Massachusetts allows any city or town to enact its own ordinances and by-laws regarding the regulation of dogs. This includes leash laws. For instance, the City of Fall River has an ordinance requiring all dogs be leashed, whether on your own property, private property, or public property, including parks, playgrounds, or cemeteries.
In addition, Massachusetts has a state-wide law that requires all dogs to be licensed beginning at the age of six months. Licensing occurs annually. In order for a dog to be licensed, updated rabies vaccination records must also be provided. However, each city or town may have promulgated an earlier time frame for licensing, such as Fall River, which requires the licensing of dogs at four months, rather than the state’s six month rule.