What Is Contributory Negligence in Maryland Dog Bite Cases?

When it comes to a dog bite case in Maryland, the strict liability law reigns supreme. It means that a dog owner is responsible for all intent and purposes when their dog bites a person. In addition, the law infers that the dog owner acted negligently and as such is liable for any injury or death. However, as dog bite lawyers in Maryland, we’ve seen several people try to put up a defense against the strict liability rule.

One of such defenses is the doctrine of contributory negligence. This article looks at whether contributory negligence frees a dog owner from liability. If you or anyone you know suffer a bite injury from a dog, contact us at Pinder Plotkin, LLC. We will examine the case facts and ensure you get maximum compensation.

What Is Contributory Negligence Under Maryland Law? 

The states in the U.S. are divided into contributory and comparative negligence states. The two are viable defenses in personal injury claims. However, while contributory negligence is a complete defense, comparative negligence is partial. It is partial because it does not absolve a person totally of guilt.

Instead, the fault party would still pay compensation if the victim shares a minor degree of fault. Maryland is one of the four states in the U.S. that practice contributory negligence. Unlike comparative negligence, contributory negligence bars you from getting compensation if you shared any fault in the accident that caused your injury.

The preceding is why contributory negligence is a total defense. Under Maryland law, the court will not grant damages to a victim who is also at fault for an accident, even if their liability is 1%. This is because contributory negligence relates to your behavior that created an unreasonable risk.

Generally, the tort doctrine of negligence mandates individuals to act reasonably for their safety and others. Thus, if you behave unreasonably and suffer physical harm, you are partially responsible. It doesn’t matter if the defendant’s (fault party) is exceedingly more significant than yours.

Does Contributory Negligence Affect Dog Bite Cases in Maryland? 

The short and straightforward answer is yes. Firstly, the doctrine of contributory negligence applies to personal injury cases, one of which is dog bite cases. So if you instigate a dog in any way and it bites you, the owner will successfully use contributory negligence as a defense.

So, suppose a dog owner chains their dog in a public place, and you go and start taunting it. If the dog breaks free from the leash and attacks you, you can’t hold the owner liable for your injuries. This is because even if the dog were in a public place, it would not have attacked you if you had not taunted it. Therefore, your action here amounts to contributory negligence.

Negligence of Parents as a Defense

A parent’s negligence would be a viable defense if their action “constituted an independent and superseding cause of the child’s injuries” in any “extraordinary situation.”

Negligence of a Child Above Under Five Years Old

A child under 5-years-old cannot be held contributorily negligent for their injuries from a dog bite. However, suppose the child is five and above. In that case, they will be contributorily negligent if they fail to exercise the degree of care of reasonable persons of that age, intelligence, and experiences under similar circumstances.

What Other Defenses Are There to Dog Bite Cases in Maryland? 

Maryland law allows three defenses to the strict liability law. These restrictions or exceptions became effective on April 8th, 2014. They include:

  • Under subsection (a) of Courts and Judicial Proceedings Section 3-1901, the law imposes strict liability unless the dog owner can prove that they were unaware nor should they have been aware that their dog has vicious or dangerous propensities.
  • Under subsection (c) of Courts and Judicial Proceedings Section 3-1901, the law imposes strict liability unless the victim is a trespasser, committed a crime against any person, or provoked the dog. Here, an attempt to trespass or commit a crime is equivalent to trespassing or committing the crime.
  • Under subsection (d) of Courts and Judicial Proceedings Section 3-1901, the law imposes strict liability unless the defendant bases his defense on any other common law or statutory defense or immunity. This is because the victim can base his claim against the dog owner on negligence, negligence per se, and under any common law or statutory causes of action.

Let Experienced Dog Bite Lawyers Help You!

At Pinder Plotkin, LLC, our dog bite lawyers have the knowledge and expertise to prove your claim and get you compensation. We will also put up an excellent defense to any counterclaim by the dog owner. So, call today to fix a free case review.

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