Attorney: Owners liable for dogs’ damage

June 21, 2013
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Owners and keepers of dogs are liable for any injuries or property damage their dogs may cause, whether off- or on-leash, according to personal injury lawyer David White.

“In Massachusetts, there is strict liability,” White told the Gazette, which means total legal responsibility without proof of fault. White has 30 years of experience in handling dog bite and other personal injury cases. He is a partner with the Boston-based firm of Breakstone, White & Gluck.

Owners or “keepers”—that is, a person responsible for a dog at the time, like a neighbor caring for a pet while its owners are away—can be sued for damages that could reach to the hundreds of thousands of dollars, White said.

Damages vary widely depending on location and severity of the attack or property damages, White explained, noting that attacks that leave facial scarring on women and children tend to be considered the most severe. He added that he had just settled a case for $180,000 for facial scarring on a dog bite victim. He also said his firm deals with five to 10 dog-caused injury or damage cases a year.

Liability also applies if the dog is leashed, White said. The only exceptions to the owners’ liability are if the dog was being teased or tormented at the time of the attack, or if the victim was trespassing.

White added that dog owners should check their homeowner’s insurance to make sure they would be covered in case their dog attacks someone. If the policy restricts liability in case of dog attacks, the owner should find a new company immediately, he advised.