If you have been bitten or otherwise harmed in any way by another person’s dog, that pet owner may be liable for any injuries you have sustained as a result. Filing a dog bite claim is similar to filing any other personal injury claim, but there are laws specific to dog bite claims that can actually weaken your case if you or your attorney are unaware of them.
At Otway Russo, P.C., our extensive background in all areas of personal injury law allows us to devote personal attention to each case we take on to best assist you, no matter what the circumstances of your claim may be. We’ve underlined key laws regarding liability and negligence in Maryland dog bite claims below, with the hope that understanding these laws will help you strengthen your case in order to receive the maximum amount of compensation possible.
Understanding Liability in Maryland Dog Bite Claims
In Maryland, a dog owner can generally be found liable for injuries caused by their dog in one of two ways—on the grounds of strict liability, and/or on the grounds of negligence. In order to receive compensation for your injuries in a dog bite claim, you must prove that the owner of the dog was responsible for the injuries sustained.
- Strict Liability – Under Maryland law, a dog’s owner will be held strictly liable for any injuries caused by their dog unless they can prove that they were unaware of the dog’s ability to be vicious or dangerous; because of this, an owner can be held liable for a dog bite even if their dog had never bitten anyone before.
Maryland’s strict liability law (with regards to dog bites) was revised in 2014 to apply to all breeds of dog; previously, it had only applied to pit bulls. In addition, this revision shifted the burden of proof on the dog owner, as opposed to the dog bite victim.
- Negligence – In a dog bite case, a bite victim can prove negligence on the part of the owner by establishing that the dog’s owner owed a reasonable duty to protect the victim from harm and failed to do so. Similar to strict liability claims, an owner can still be found to have been negligent even if their dog had never displayed dangerous tendencies in the past.
Maryland’s dog bite laws also include the notion of something known as negligence per se. In these cases, a dog owner can be held liable for a dog bite if they are found to have violated another law or ordinance which resulted in injury. For example, an owner letting their dog run free in a public park (where they may be legally required to keep their dog leashed) could qualify as negligence per se if the dog ends up biting and injuring someone.
Situations Where a Dog Owner May Not Be Liable
Because of Maryland’s contributory negligence statute, certain situations exist in which a dog owner may not be held liable for any injury caused by their dog. If the bite victim is found to have contributed in any way to the injuries they, they will be completely unable to recover any compensation for their injuries.
- Trespassing – A dog owner cannot be held liable for any injuries caused by their dog to a trespasser on their property;
- Committing a crime – The act of committing a crime—or attempting to commit a crime—which results in a dog bite exempts the dog owner from any fault; and
- Teasing, provoking, tormenting or abusing a dog – Any attempt made to agitate a dog to the point of aggression—and any injuries sustained as a result—is the sole responsibility of the dog bite victim.
Even the smallest amount of liability on the part of the victim can disqualify them from receiving compensation in a claim. Notably, however, children under five years old are exempt from any fault in a dog bite claim under any circumstance.
Contact an Experienced Dog Bite Lawyer
Being injured by a dog bite can be a traumatic ordeal for every party involved. Dog owners and their legal team will often attempt do everything in their power to paint you as the responsible one, potentially leaving you in a situation where you receive no compensation for the injuries you sustained, as well as letting a possibly dangerous dog potentially injure more victims in the future. To prevent this from happening, you’ll need a competent legal team of your own.
At Otway Russo, P.C., we are happy to offer legal assistance to dog bite victims with any questions or concerns they may have regarding the claim filing process—as well as how best to prove full liability on the owner’s part—in order to ensure that they can recover compensation for their injuries. If you or a loved one has been injured from a dog bite and wish to know more about filing a dog bite claim, contact us today to discuss the details of your case.