When Are Dog Owners Liable for Injuries Caused by Their Animals?
Anyone who gets bitten by a dog would like to get compensation from the owner. Dog bites can be painful, dangerous, and even fatal. Generally, the law in Maryland is on the side of victims. This makes it easier for victims to recover their losses. However, dog owners aren't always liable for injuries. They can be held responsible in two ways: negligence and strict liability. To prove an owner was negligent, you’ll need to show that they knew the animal was dangerous prior to the attack. The law makes a presumption that the owner was aware. However, they will likely claim otherwise. That’s why you need to work with a Maryland dog bite lawyer to build a strong case against the owner. They will look for evidence in police reports, insurance claims, and veterinarian records. They may also speak to neighbors about whether the dog ever showed signs of aggression. Meanwhile, dog owners are strictly liable if their dog causes injuries while running loose. This means the dog is off the owner’s property and not on a leash. If you were walking through your neighborhood and a dog jumped over a fence and bit you, you wouldn’t have to prove the owner was negligent.
When Dog Owners May Not be Held LiableDog owners may not be held responsible for their pets’ actions in all circumstances. These include situations in which the victim was:
- Trespassing on the owner’s property
- Teasing, tormenting, abusing or provoking the dog
- Committing a crime or attempting to commit a crime
How Maryland’s Dog Bite Laws Have Changed Over the YearsAs noted earlier, victims tend to get favorable treatment under the state’s dog bite laws. This is thanks to an evolution in the legislation. Up until 2012, victims could only get compensation if they could prove the owner knew the dog was vicious. This is known as the one bite rule because the victim pretty much needed proof that the dog bit someone before. It was also difficult to hold a landlord responsible for injuries caused by a tenant’s dog. The victim would have to show that the landlord:
- Had a no-pets rule or some other type of control regarding dogs on the premises
- Knew the tenant had a dog and the dog was dangerous
- Had an opportunity to rectify the situation by not renting the property to the tenant again