Before commencing an action to recover damages from a dog owner, it is essential to educate yourself on the Maryland law regulating dog owners’ liability. In this article, we’ll summarize what makes a person liable for a canine attack.
We’ll look at the strict liability rule and when the law holds a person criminally liable for a dog bite. It is prudent to consult a Maryland dog bite attorney if you or anyone you know has been attacked by a dog.
Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Code Annotated Section 3-1901
Under the Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Code Annotated Section 3-1901, a dog owner is liable for any injury, death, or loss to a person or property caused by a dog running at large. It means that the owner who leaves a dog without supervision is answerable for any harm caused by it.
However, since all general rules have exceptions, an owner would not be liable for a dog’s attack if one of the following happens:
- You trespassed or attempted to infringe on the owner’s property.
- You were committing or attempting to commit an offense other than trespass on the owner’s property.
- You were committing or trying to commit a crime against any other person.
- You provoked, abused, teased, or tormented the dog.
The law also covers acts by a dog aside from a bite that might lead to an injury. It means that an owner would be liable if the canine suddenly jumps on a person in a public place, and the act results in a broken arm or other bodily injuries.
The Strict Liability Rule
Section 3-1901 is a strict liability rule, making the dog owner solely responsible for the harm caused by a dog’s actions. Even if the owner had no knowledge of the dog’s violent nature or that it would attack a person, the law expects them to exercise reasonable care to prevent the canine from causing injuries.
Maryland law made room for a rebuttable presumption. It states that if a dog has killed or injured a person in the past, the owner “knew or should have known” the animal is dangerous. It means that once there’s evidence of past violent attacks by the dog, the court would hold the owner liable unless they provide contradictory evidence.
If a dog in Maryland injures you, your personal injury lawyer should institute a claim under the strict liability rule. The attorney should claim negligence on the owner’s part and that the negligent behavior led to your injuries.
A Dog Owner’s Criminal Liability Under Maryland Law
Under Maryland law, a dog owner can simultaneously face criminal and civil lawsuits for harm caused by a canine considered by statute as a “Dangerous dog.” Code of Maryland section 10-619 classifies a dangerous dog as one who:
- Without provocation killed or inflicted severe injury on a person; or
- Was ranked as a “Potentially dangerous dog,”; bit a person, killed, or injured a domestic animal while off its owner’s property, or attacked without provocation.
Owners of dogs are expected to keep the canine on their property and restrain them whenever they are out in public places. Violation of these rules is a misdemeanor.
Additionally, if the dog injures or kills a person while in a public place, the owner would face more charges. Depending on the severity of the criminal charge, and upon a guilty verdict, the owner faces possible imprisonment or fines.
Dog Bites and Contributory Negligence
Like in other civil lawsuits, contributory negligence can nip your claim in the bud or significantly reduce your compensation. Maryland statute allows a dog owner to raise this defense.
The person would have to show that the claimant was partly or wholly responsible for the injuries suffered. In Maryland, if the defendant can show contributory negligence, it signifies the end of your case, and you won’t get any compensation.
Maryland Statutes of Limitation for Dog Bite Claims
In Maryland, you must commence every claim for a dog bite injury within three years from the date of the occurrence. The statute of limitations applies only to civil cases, and failure to file amounts to a forfeiture of damages.
Have You Suffered a Dog Bite? Get Help at Pinder Plotkin LLC
Seeking redress in a court of law for a wrong suffered is your right, and you can get the maximum compensation with the help of an attorney. At Pinder Plotkin LLC, our personal injury lawyers are experts of the Maryland laws regulating dog bites and have experience in getting compensation for victims. Contact us today for a free case review.