If you have been bitten by an off-leash dog, you are probably wondering whether the circumstances of the attack will threaten your case in any way. In fact, quite the opposite is true. For the most part, Maryland dog bite law strictly prosecutes owners who allow their dogs to run off-leash and threaten the public safety. Read on for more details about this unique situation, and guidance about how to best handle your Maryland dog bite case.
Who Is Liable If You Are Bitten By An Off-Leash Dog?
Under current Maryland law, dog owners are automatically held responsible for dog attacks in Maryland if their dog was running at large at the time. The phrase “running at large” simply means that the dog was not on a leash.
According to the General Assembly of Maryland, a dog owner is liable “for any injury, death, or loss to person or property that is caused by the dog, while the dog is running at large.” In other words, the owner of the dog is strictly liable for damages for their dog who is running at large unless one of the narrow exceptions apply. So if you were bitten by an off-leash dog, the owner is likely responsible.
Was The Owner Negligent?
Before this new statutory law was enacted, dog owners were often held to be negligent after a person was bitten by an off-leash dog. Dog owners could be convicted of negligence per se simply by virtue of violating a law or local ordinance that could have prevented the dog attack. When a person is bitten by an off-leash dog, the violation of certain laws or ordinances constitutes negligence and may be a basis for liability.
Every jurisdiction in Maryland has a law or ordinance that prevents dogs from running at large. The new ruling on off-leash dogs is simply a permanent codification of one of the most common local ordinance violations that leads to dog attacks.
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However, it’s important to remember that there are some important exceptions to these rules. They are listed below:
- If the victim of the bite was attempting to trespass or commit another crime on the dog owner’s property
- If the victim of the bite was attempting to commit a crime against anyone
- If the victim was “teasing, tormenting, abusing, or provoking” the dog
These exceptions are extremely narrow and challenging to prove, and thus apply only in some cases. An experienced dog bite attorney can help you determine whether your case meets any of these definitions.
If you were bitten by an off-leash dog, it could still present a danger to others. It is important that you contact Animal Control and the local police and make sure that they have all of the information about the circumstances of the dog bite and specifically that the dog bite was by a dog that was running at large. Your next step is to contact an attorney who is knowledgeable about Maryland dog bite law, and can help you determine your next steps. Contact the attorneys at Zirkin and Schmerling Law at 410-753-4611 for a free consultation.