If a dog bites you or attacks you in the State of Maryland, seek medical attention immediately, follow the doctor’s instructions, try to obtain the names and contact details of any witnesses, and speak as quickly as you can with a Bethesda personal injury attorney.
If you are attacked by another person’s dog, what recourse do you have? Can you be compensated by the dog’s owner? What are the Maryland laws regarding dog bites? If you’ll continue reading, you’ll learn more about dog bites, the law in Maryland, and your legal rights.
Dogs bite roughly 4.7 million people every year in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 38 dog bite-related fatalities in the U.S. in 2018. Children from ages five to nine are the most frequent dog bite victims. The second largest victim group is the elderly.
If a dog that bites someone has shown rabies symptoms, or if the dog cannot be found, a doctor may require a rabies vaccination. Dog bites can also cause severe tissue and muscle damage, disfigurement, and for many victims – especially children – lasting psychological damage.
Always ask a dog’s owner for permission to pet his or her dog. If you encounter a dog that you do not know, and the dog is unaccompanied by its owner:
1. Do not make eye contact or approach the dog.
2. Stay still and quiet. Do not scream or run.
3. Do not try to pet the dog.
If you are bitten and injured by a dog in Maryland, you may pursue a personal injury claim against the dog’s owner and seek monetary compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and related losses. A dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance usually pays a victim’s compensation.
When a dog bites someone in the State of Maryland, the owner may face “strict liability,” which means the owner may be held liable for the injuries so long as the dog was not provoked and the victim had a legal right to be in the location where the bite occurred.
Maryland is not a “one-bite” state where the dog owner, to be held liable, must have knowledge that the dog has aggressively attacked someone in the past. Under strict liability, an owner may be held liable even when a dog has not been aggressive and has not bitten someone previously.
A dog bite victim can also sue the dog’s owner or caretaker using the negligence argument – that the owner had a “duty of care” to others to ensure that the dog did not cause an injury, and the owner breached that duty of care through negligence.
If a dog’s owner knew that the dog had aggressive tendencies, or if the owner negligently failed to control the dog, the bite victim may pursue a negligence claim against the dog owner.
For example, in Montgomery County, if a dog’s owner violates the dog leash law, and if someone is bitten as a result, the violation of the leash law may be considered strong evidence of negligence, and a personal injury claim against the dog’s owner will probably prevail.
Under the Montgomery County leash law, a dog is “at large” when it is unleashed and outside of the owner’s premises, unless it is a service dog, in a designated dog park, or taking part in a licensed and approved activity such as a dog show.
The common area of a condominium, a cooperative, or a homeowner’s association is not the owner’s premises. If a dog owner is cited for a leash law violation in Montgomery County, the penalty is a $100 fine for the first offense and a $500 fine for any subsequent violations.
If a dog bite victim pursues a claim against the dog’s owner, the owner may choose to dispute the claim by offering one of these defenses:
1. The bite victim provoked the dog.
2. The bite victim was trespassing or in an area that was clearly marked as restricted.
3. The bite victim was negligent or already knew that the dog was aggressive.
These arguments are sometimes successful legal defenses. Never provoke a dog, and teach the same rule to your children. If a dog owner can prove that you provoked the dog or that you were trespassing, your personal injury claim may not prevail.
If you are a dog bite victim and you file an injury claim with the help of a Montgomery County personal injury lawyer, your lawyer will review your claim, explain your rights, and negotiate privately with the owner or the owner’s insurance company for the compensation you need.
However, if no acceptable settlement offer is made in the out-of-court negotiations, your injury attorney can take the case to trial, explain to a jury exactly what happened, and ask that jury to order the payment of your compensation.
It is important to act quickly if you are a dog bite victim. Maryland’s statute of limitations for bringing a personal injury claim arising from a dog bite injury is three years, but you cannot wait three years and then scramble to file a claim at the last minute. Do not even wait three weeks.
As soon as you have received medical treatment for a dog bite, arrange to meet with a Maryland personal injury attorney. The sooner you put the case in a good attorney’s hands, the better. Over time, memories fade and evidence can deteriorate.
If you do not take action quickly, a dog owner’s insurance company may claim that you must not have been very seriously injured by the dog bite.
Don’t think that you cannot afford an attorney’s help with a dog bite claim. A Bethesda personal injury attorney works on a contingent fee basis, which means that you pay no attorney’s fee until – and unless – your attorney wins a settlement or a jury verdict on your behalf.
Your first consultation with a personal injury attorney is provided with no cost or obligation. If a dog injures you, take advantage of that first consultation. You will receive personalized legal advice regarding how the law applies in your own situation.