Who pays for injuries caused by aggressive dogs?

On Behalf of | Nov 9, 2023 | Premises Liability

Most dogs in Massachusetts are friendly household companions. Dogs of all sizes and breeds can motivate people to exercise regularly and make them feel more comfortable in their homes. However, it only takes a moment for an animal to become an aggressive threat. Some dogs have training that makes them dangerous to the public if people want them to act as guard dogs. Others may have previously unrecognized issues, possibly caused by owner neglect or inbreeding, that makes them more likely to turn aggressive with minimal provocation.

A dog attacking a human could cause painful injuries that leave disfiguring scars. Their bite wounds could cause significant infections. A dog bite attack can also cause broken bones or brain injuries if the animal knocks someone over or is particularly strong. People often have thousands of dollars in expenses when a dog attacks a member of their family. Who is usually responsible for the injuries caused by an aggressive animal?

Massachusetts has a strict liability statute

Owning a dog, like driving a car, is a personal decision that comes with a degree of risk. If a dog becomes aggressive and attacks someone, the animal’s owner will have legal and financial responsibility for the damages that result. State law imposes strict liability on animal owners for the injuries caused by aggressive dogs.

The law does provide an exception for cases in which people instigate an attack by taunting a dog or breaking the law immediately before an animal attacks them. Someone bitten while trespassing on another person’s property, for example, would typically not have any right to hold the animal’s owner accountable for the injuries they suffered.

Dog owners are responsible for medical costs and other losses generated by a bite incident. Thankfully, the average dog owner will not have to directly absorb those expenses. Most homeowners insurance policies have coverage that applies to dog bite incidents and other forms of premises liability. Rental insurance typically also provides coverage for those injured by an aggressive dog.

Those injured by an animal attack may be able to claim compensation for medical expenses and lost wages, as well as any property damage caused by the aggressive canine. Filing a civil lawsuit is often a necessary step for those hurt by an aggressive dog in Massachusetts, and a successful lawsuit often results in an insurance payout rather than personal financial liability for the animal’s owner.