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 Liable

Dog 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

This applies even if the dog was at large or unleashed off the owner’s property when they bit the individual.

Another thing that may get the owner off the hook is the contributory negligence rule. Maryland is one of the few states that practice this rule. It bars victims from getting compensation if they contributed to the incident in any way. This system is harsh so you will need an experienced dog bite lawyer in Maryland to help you prove that you had no role to play. Notably, the contributory negligence rule doesn’t apply to children under the age of five. If your young child was the victim of a dog attack, they won’t be blamed.

How Maryland’s Dog Bite Laws Have Changed Over the Years

As 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

The law changed in 2012. However, this was only as it related to pit bulls and landlords who rented properties to tenants with pit bulls. Maryland’s Court of Appeals ruled that pit bull owners would be held strictly liable. That is, if a pit bull injured someone, the owner was responsible even if they didn’t know the dog was dangerous. This liability also applied to landlords who rented to these owners.

Animal groups and victims’ advocates argued that this law discriminated against pit bulls. They suggested that it should be changed to include all breeds. That led to the General Assembly passing the law which is currently in force. While it doesn’t apply strict liability to all breeds of dogs, victims no longer have to prove the owner knew the dog was dangerous. This law came into effect in 2014. The current law once again makes it hard to hold a landlord responsible.

Contact Pinder Plotkin LLC Today to Discuss Your Dog Bite Case

If a dog bit you or otherwise harmed you, you may be entitled to compensation. If you want the best chance of recovering your medical expenses, lost wages and other damages, reach out to a personal injury law firm in Maryland. At Pinder Plotkin LLC, we will review your case and determine whether you’re eligible for compensation or not. We offer free consultations and we work on a contingency basis, so it costs nothing to call us. Benefit from our advice today!

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