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Suffered from a Dog Bite?
Not all dogs are cute and fluffy. In fact, you may have had a scary encounter with a dog that resulted in you being injured. After seeking medical care, the next step you may be wondering is: how do I hold the dog owner responsible for my injuries and medical bills? If you are the dog owner that just injured your neighbor, you may be wondering, what happens now? A knowledgeable lawyer can help.
In Maryland, the dog bite laws are not necessarily straightforward and can be tricky to navigate. However, the attorneys at Krum, Gergely & Oates, LLC, who are experienced with these types of claims, can help and will guide you through this process every step of the way.
Dog Bite Law in Maryland
Despite some myths that have persisted, it is no longer the case in Maryland that certain specified breeds are “automatically” deemed dangerous. Presently, there is no presumption that any breed should be considered dangerous or violent.
Dog owners can be held responsible for their dog’s actions under two concepts in Maryland:
- Strict Liability
Maryland adheres to the concept of “strict liability.” Strict liability means that the dog owner is held responsible for the dog’s actions and any damages that arise from the dog’s actions. Under strict liability, the owner is responsible even if:
- The owner did not otherwise know the dog would become aggressive and
- The owner took reasonable steps to prevent the dog from causing injuries
Maryland Code, Courts & Judicial Proceedings, section 3-1901, the strict liability statute, states specifically that “the owner of a dog is liable for any injury, death, or loss to person or property that is caused the dog when the dog is running at large.”
If you have been injured because of a dog’s behavior, you may also be able to bring a claim under Maryland’s negligence law.
Under Maryland’s negligence law, the dog owner may be held responsible if there was a breach of the owner’s duty of care. The injured person would need to prove that the dog owner owed a duty to use reasonable care in the circumstances; failed to exercise that care, and the failure to adhere to the duty of care led to the injury. It is not always easy to determine the duty owed and whether any breach led to the specific injury alleged. The duty of care owed by the owner can vary and it also depends on the nature of the circumstances of the interaction. You should have the guidance of an experienced attorney to assist you with navigating all the elements to get you any recovery that you may be entitled to.
In Maryland, a dog owner may also be held criminally liable if the dog injures or kills another. Criminal liability may arise if the dog is considered a “dangerous dog” as defined under Maryland Code, Courts &
Judicial Proceedings, Section 10-619. The owner who violates this statute and the requirements for owning a “dangerous dog” may be guilty of a misdemeanor and face a penalty of a fine of up to $2,500.
Your dog may be considered a “dangerous dog” under the law if your dog:
· “without provocation has killed or inflicted severe injury on a person”, or
· has been classified as a “dangerous dog” by an appropriate agency after a determination that the dog bit a person; killed or inflicted severe injury on a pet, or attacked without provocation.
Criminal charges of any kind are serious, and there are many collateral consequences that come merely from having an accusation pending against you. It is critical to have the guidance of a lawyer if you face criminal liability because of your dog’s actions.
There are certain defined exceptions to the strict liability rule. Meaning, the owner may not be held liable if the person making the complaint was: trespassing or attempting to trespass on the property; committing or attempting to commit another crime; committing or attempting to commit a criminal offense against another person; or provoking, abusing, teasing, or tormenting the dog. In addition, the owner may be absolved of responsibility based on the actions of the injured person under a concept known as contributory negligence (meaning your own negligence also led to the injury). If there is a finding that you were contributorily negligent, you may be completely barred from getting any financial recovery. It is critical to have the representation of a lawyer with you to defeat any of these raised defenses.