You were just attacked by a dog. Now what? The first step in handling a dog bite in Maryland is to know the law. Dog bite law in Maryland is different than it is in other states. It is important to understand those differences. In this article, I’ll briefly explain the key areas of dog bite law in Maryland.
Dog Bite Liability
In Maryland, there are two ways an owner can be liable for injuries caused by his or her dog: strict liability and negligence. Strict liability is the hardest to defend against, and only requires the bite victim to prove two things: (1) that a dog caused their injury, and (2) that the dog owner knew that their dog was dangerous.
According to dog bite law in Maryland as declared by the Court of Appeals, ‘Pure bred’ pit bulls are automatically considered a dangerous dog. A dog is also said to be dangerous if it has bitten someone before. This is known as the one bite rule. According to the one bite rule, once your dog bites someone you are held strictly liable for all subsequent bites. However, you may still win your dog bite case even if you cannot prove that the dog that attacked you had bitten before.
Unlike many states, Maryland does not have a specific dog bite statute. However, Maryland courts use the fact that a dog has bitten before as evidence of the dog’s known dangerousness.
The second way a dog owner is held responsible is if he or she acted negligently. Negligence is basically any failure of the dog owner to take reasonable care. A common example is where an owner fails to control his or her dog. For example, if a dog owner does not obey local leash laws, it can be used to support a claim for negligence. If you are bit by a dog that is off of its leash chances are you will be able to show that the owner of the dog was negligent. To prevail in a negligence claim in a dog bite case, the victim need only show that the owner reasonably should have known that the dog could attack. This may be proven in a number of ways.
Defenses to Dog Bite Liability
Trespass and contributory negligence are two defenses dog owners in Maryland can use to escape liability. If the dog owner can prove that the victim was bit as a result of trespassing on his or her property, the victim will often not be able to recover damages. Likewise, contributory negligence prevents a victim from recovering if the owner can prove that the victim was at least partially responsible for the dog bite. For example, the owner is not liable if the victim intentionally provoked the dog or knowingly assumed the risk of being bitten.
Since dog bite laws in Maryland depend on the facts, it is critical to consult with an attorney before pursuing a claim. A lawyer who is skillful with dog bite laws in Maryland will be able to fully review your case and offer the best advice on how to proceed.
If you’d like to read court decisions on dog bite laws in Maryland, links to several important decisions are provided below.
Baltimore & O. R.R. Co. v. State, 29 Md. 252 (1868)