What Are My Rights if I Get Bit By a Dog?

What Are My Rights if I Get Bit By a Dog?

what are my rights if i get bit by a dog
what are my rights if i get bit by a dog

Two-thirds of all US households include pets, with 65.1 million homes owning dogs. Half of pet owners consider their pets a part of the family.

But what happens when these furry family members cause a serious injury— when a dog’s playfulness turns into ferocity? What happens when a good dog turns into a bad dog, turning you into a personal injury client?

Dog attacks are terrifying, and dog bite cases are all too common. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 4.5 million people are subjected to dog bites annually.

More than 800,000 of these people require medical attention for their dog bite injuries, and 30-50 dog bite cases in the US result in death.

What are my rights if I get bit by a dog? Is the dog’s owner strictly liable for your injuries? Can you file a dog bite claim? How do you know if you have a dog bite case? Are you a viable personal injury client?

Dog bite laws vary from state to state. One of the best ways to ensure that you understand dog bite law in Maryland is to work with an experienced personal injury attorney. They help ensure that every personal injury client they assist receives the compensation deserved after a dog bite occurs.

Maryland Dog Bite Laws

While local laws vary, Maryland is one of many US states with a strict liability dog bite law in their state law. Essentially, state law decrees that dog owners are financially responsible for any injuries or property damage caused by their dogs.

For example, if a dog bites you and you are injured, the dog owner must cover the cost of any medical bills you incur; they could also be sued for non-financial damages, such as pain and suffering.

Strict liability laws ensure that dog bite victims are protected and dog owners are liable for any damages caused by their dogs. Any serious injuries or emotional distress can be due to the owner’s negligence, thus they are the owner’s liability.

This isn’t only applicable to dog bites. Other injuries caused by dogs are covered by Maryland state law. If a dog knocks a person down, breaking their tailbone and forcing them to seek medical attention, the animal owner would be strictly liable for the injuries.

Dog Bite Owner Liability

There are two conditions under which a dog owner is automatically presumed responsible for the injuries incurred by their dogs:

  • The dogs who attacked the dog bite victim were at large (unleashed)
  • The dog owner is unable to prove that they were unaware of the dog’s dangerous propensities; in other words, the dog’s owner knew they had a dangerous animal

Can I sue the dog owner if their dog bites me?

Under certain circumstances, yes. The state’s dog bite law regarding strict liability clearly states you can file a dog bite lawsuit against the animal’s owner if the dog is at large.

You will also need to ensure that the owners cannot rebut the presumption that the dog in question is, in fact, a dangerous dog.

How can I prove the dog owner’s negligence?

In Maryland, strict liability dog bite statutes state that even if dog owners could prove that they took reasonable precautions to ensure the dog cannot inflict damage, they are still strictly liable for any damage done by their pet.

The animal’s owner has a duty of care to ensure that their dog won’t cause personal injury to anyone— on public property and private property— and they have to prove that they aren’t aware of any instances in which the state had their dog declared dangerous.

If the owner knew about their dog’s dangerous propensities but didn’t take measures to protect others from personal injury, they are strictly liable.

One of the ways dog owner liability is tested is if they adhere to the leash law. Failure to adhere to the leash law is a definite sign of negligence, and your personal injury dog bite claim would likely be successful.

What are the exceptions to liability for dog bites?

If the defendant can prove that, for instance, the injured person teased or otherwise provoked the dog before the dog’s bite, it’s possible that the victim would be unable to prove negligence.

If the dog sustained injuries that indicate that the victim had harmed the dog, inducing them to attack, that would be an exception to the dog bite statute.

Additionally, if the victim was aware that the dog in question had attacked other people or other animals in the past, it could be determined that they were aware of the dog’s dangerous propensities and should have exercised more caution to avoid the dog.

If the victim entered a restricted area without the owner’s consent, resulting in an attack, it would probably be viewed as negligence on the victim’s part.

If the injured person could be proven to share any blame for the dog bite, it could be considered contributory negligence. Maryland’s dog bite laws state that if dog bite victims play any part in their personal injury, they are not eligible for any compensation.

Maryland is one of a few states enforcing this strict practice, but it’s something to be mindful of if you choose to file a dog-bite lawsuit.

What if the dog bite victim was breaking the law?

If the injured person was trespassing on the dog owner’s property or if they were actively committing a crime, the dog bite laws will not protect them.

Law enforcement animals, like K-9 police dogs, are usually exempt from strict liability dog bite statutes, particularly if the animal bite occurred while apprehending someone at an active crime scene. The exception for law enforcement animals is if they hurt a crime victim or an innocent bystander.

Say, for example, a personal injury client wanted to file a claim against a K-9 dog. They stated they were seriously injured by the dog as they ran down the street. If the attorney determined the personal injury client was fleeing a crime scene when attacked, they wouldn’t file a claim; it wouldn’t be successful.

If the personal injury client was fleeing from the scene of a crime they’d just committed, it’s unlikely that their lawyer would take the case. Yes, the dog’s owner knew that the dog was capable of attack, but context is everything.

It’s also important to note that K-9 police dogs are protected by law in every state; in some states, seriously harming a K-9 dog is a felony. In California, an offender can get up to 3 years in prison with a hefty fine.

What if I was bitten by a dog while working?

Unfortunately, some jobs come with the potential for animal attacks, often by an overprotective or untrained dog.

Postal carriers, delivery drivers, and garbage collectors are just a few of the folks who routinely encounter dogs while on the job.

It is the duty of care of the property owner to take reasonable steps to ensure that their private property is safe for people with expressed or implied permission to enter. Workers, such as postal carriers, meter readers, or maintenance workers, fall under these categories.

In addition to a workers’ compensation claim from their employer’s insurance company, a worker that a dog injures can also likely file a dog bite claim against the animal’s owner.

Maryland’s strict liability rule would apply, but a personal injury lawyer could help you determine if you might have a case. Seek out a law firm specializing in personal injury cases to get advice.

Maryland’s Dangerous Dogs Law

In Maryland, dogs are considered to be dangerous if they display certain traits or have acted in a particularly aggressive manner.

If a dog has bitten a person or attacked without being provoked, it’ll be classified as a dangerous dog. If they’ve injured or even killed a person, and if they have ever broken a bone or caused significant lacerations that require the injured person to seek serious medical attention, a dog would be classified as dangerous.

Whether the bite occurs on public property or private property, the dog is classified as dangerous and the owner is strictly liable.

Dogs deemed to be a potential threat by local authorities are considered to be dangerous dogs. In the past, signs of the dog’s dangerous propensities raised alarm bells in local law enforcement.

Another way that dogs can be labeled as dangerous is if they leave the owner’s property and seriously injure or kill another domestic animal. A domestic animal usually refers to another dog or a cat.

If a dog is classified as dangerous in Maryland, it’s illegal to leave the dog in question unattended on private property.

Measures must be taken to confine the dog indoors or in a locked pen outdoors. The dog can only leave the owner’s property leashed and muzzled.

The dog must be registered as a dangerous dog with a registration fee that must be renewed annually. Violating the dangerous dog laws can result in a hefty fine; in most counties, it’s up to $2500, but some counties might charge even more.

What is the Dog Bite Statute of Limitations in Maryland?

Maryland does have a statute of limitations for an injured person to file a personal injury claim for a dog bite injury. You have three years from the date of the dog bite to file a personal injury claim against the dog owner.

If you wait too long, letting those three years lapse before you file a personal injury claim, you will be permanently barred from seeking damages.

As someone with looming medical bills and potential medical expenses related to the incident still coming in, it’s important to contact a personal injury lawyer to get the process started as soon as possible.

Remember, Maryland’s strict liability laws are on your side. You need to recoup any money you’ve paid out for medical expenses, not to mention lost wages. Pain and suffering are other factors to consider, too.

An experienced lawyer can help a personal injury client prepare a case that will either prove negligence, indicating that the owner knew about the dog’s dangerous propensities and failed to act appropriately or file a claim depending on Maryland’s strict liability law.

Find a law firm specializing in personal injury claims to file your lawsuit.

There is one exception to Maryland’s statute of limitations for dog bites. If the victim was a minor, they have until their 21st birthday to file a dog bite lawsuit.

If you aren’t clear about your rights, engage an attorney. As a personal injury client, you’ll get the information you need to make an informed decision.

Filing an Insurance Claim for Dog Bites

If you’re bitten on private property and the dog owner has homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, you may need to file an insurance claim to recoup your medical expenses.

If you’re bitten on public property, it’s possible that insurance could play a part, particularly if it’s city property. But that’s a matter you can take up with your attorney if you decide to become a personal injury client.

You might believe this will be the end of it— you’ll file the insurance claim and the case will go no further. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case.

While the insurance company is quick to act, they aren’t acting in your best interest. They hope if they wave money at you, you’ll accept it.

This option is often appealing, especially if the dog owner is a friend or loved one— you just want to go back to how things were before the injury.

However, if you do accept the insurance payout, you might find that what seemed like enough to cover your expenses just isn’t cutting it.

It’s important to consider the factors that come into play when you’re injured by a dog bite.

Insurance Claim Considerations

For one, you might not even know the full extent of your injuries yet. When an injured person is bitten by a dog, they’re not just examining the physical damage; there’s often trauma associated with a dog attack, and that can take time to recover from.

As you take the necessary time to heal, you’re probably missing work. Lost wages should factor into any assessment you make about compensation.

Dog owners may not be trying to pay you less than you’re owed, but insurance companies certainly are. This is why it makes sense to engage an experienced personal injury attorney.

As a personal injury client, you’ll get assistance in determining the best path for you— not the dog owner, not the insurance company, but you and your family.

Common Dog Bite Injuries

When you hear the term “dog bite” you may not know exactly what that encompasses. It can be as minor as a scratch, it can result in broken bones, or it can even be fatal.

Here are a few of the most common types of dog bite injuries:



These are among the most common types of injuries incurred by a dog attack. They can be superficial scratches or deep gouges, and they can lead to scarring or potential infection.

Infection is an all-too-common side effect of a dog bite; 10-15% of dog bites result in infection, so it’s important to look for the signs of infection, including redness, pain, swelling, fever, and red streaks near the bite wound.


what are my rights if i get bit by a dog

Scars are another potential side effect; they can have a big emotional impact.

While some scars are easy to hide, any facial injuries can result in potentially disfiguring scars that will haunt the victim for the rest of their life.

Broken bones

Large dogs or dogs with extraordinarily strong jaws can bite so hard that they break bones. While that sounds gruesome, it’s unfortunately true.

Victims might also get broken noses and facial bones if the dog causes them to fall face forward, not to mention the potential for a skull fracture. Hip fractures and broken ribs can also occur from a fall caused by a dog attack.

An injured person with a broken bone (or more than one broken bone) will require a long convalescence. This can have an impact on their work and personal life.

They might also require ongoing physical therapy to ensure the bone heals properly. Physical therapy isn’t just time-consuming, but also potentially expensive.

Puncture wounds

While a puncture wound might not seem too bad, the injured person must get immediate medical attention if they have one. Even if the wound isn’t bleeding much and it appears to be shallow, there can be nerve damage and the potential for infection.

Again, infection is incredibly serious; the myth that dog mouths are cleaner than human mouths is patently false. Dog’s mouths carry bacteria that can introduce dangerous infections to bite victims.

Get medical help immediately if you have a puncture wound from a dog bite.

Eye Injury

Unfortunately, a dog attack can lead to serious eye injuries. When a dog attacks a person’s face and eyes, it can cause vision loss and even complete blindness in one or both eyes.

All too often, small children are recipients of this type of attack. Their faces are at the same level as the dog’s mouth, leading to tragedy. Whether it’s an orbital fracture— a fracture of the bone that surrounds the eye— or a corneal abrasion, eye injuries are very common.

A puncture wound near or on the eye can be incredibly damaging.

Hand Injuries

Your instinct might be to put your hands up when you’re attacked by a dog. However, this action can lead to painful damage to your tendons, nerves, and ligaments.

Hand injuries can have a significant impact on your quality of life, depending on the severity. If you’re forced to undergo painful and expensive surgeries and physical therapy, or worse, if you are unable to use the hand in the future, it can result in huge medical bills and lost time at work.

Depending on your job, you might find that a serious hand injury prohibits you from doing your job in the future.

Neck and Throat Injuries

When a dog bites your neck and throat, your airway can be compromised, making it hard for you to breathe.

Additionally, an injury here can lead to a great deal of bleeding; this could even result in a fatality if the bleeding isn’t stopped in time.

Psychological Trauma

Some of the most significant dog bite injuries might not even be visible.

When a person is attacked by a dog, especially a dog they know or a dog who’s never before displayed any signs of aggression, it can be traumatic.

It can impact their relationships with dogs for the rest of their life; they could develop a severe phobia, requiring assistance from a trained counselor to overcome their fear.

Additionally, they could experience horrific nightmares and anxiety, and could potentially develop PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) after their experience.

Treating a Dog Bite Injury

Whether the dog bite is minor or significant, it’s important to get immediate medical care after a dog attack.

While many dog bites only require basic first aid— stopping bleeding, cleaning the wound, and applying a sterile bandage— it’s important to take steps to prevent infection or disease.

If the attack is more intense, you might need to be taken to the hospital via ambulance; this is especially the case if you have broken any bones or if you’re losing a significant amount of blood.

There’s a chance that even a minor dog bite can be infected if it’s not treated properly, and it can lead to more serious diseases:


Unfortunately, there is a chance that a dog bite could result in rabies.

If it is allowed to take hold, rabies is fatal. Most domestic pets receive rabies vaccinations so they cannot pass this terrifying disease to humans. However, if you’re bitten by a stray or unfamiliar dog, contact your doctor immediately.

If the dog who bit you is safely contained, it can be observed for ten days. You won’t need to undergo treatment if there are no signs or symptoms of rabies.

If the dog displays rabies symptoms under surveillance or if the dog isn’t available for observation, the safest thing to do is begin the series of rabies shots. This includes a fast-acting shot administered near the wound, and then a series of four vaccinations over fourteen days.



Physicians recommend that dog bite victims get a tetanus shot immediately after they are attacked unless they have confirmation that their vaccination occurred within the last ten years.

However, they also recommend that you get a booster regardless of your vaccination status if the dog bite wound was particularly dirty. They also recommend a booster if more than five years have passed since you got your last vaccination.

Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, exhibits terrifying symptoms. These include muscle stiffness and spasms, cramping in the jaw, and difficulty swallowing.

This bacterial infection can be treated with antibiotics in tandem with the tetanus vaccine, but only if you act quickly to prevent complications.

What Kind of Compensation Can I Expect After a Dog Attack?

There’s no set number you’re guaranteed to get if you decide to file a personal injury claim for a dog bite injury.

Several factors determine how much compensation a personal injury client can expect after a dog bite injury:

Bite Injury Severity

One of the biggest factors determining the amount a claim will be paid is the severity of the bite injury.

In other words, if the injury is minor, the compensation will likely be lower; if the injury is severe, the compensation will likely be higher.

If the victim faces serious permanent scarring, endured multiple bone breaks, or has significant nerve damage, they would be suffering what would be classified as severe injuries.

Psychological Injuries

However, serious injuries aren’t always external; emotional damage can be just as significant as physical injuries.

If a victim is unable to sleep due to nightmares or if they’re overcome by crippling anxiety after a dog attack, that is just as serious as lacerations or puncture wounds.

For this reason, emotional and physical injuries are taken into consideration when it’s time to make a settlement.

Lost Income

If a victim’s injuries are so significant that they result in missed work or a reduction in earning capacity, it can impact the settlement amount.

Your compensation would likely be higher if your future income potential is lower or you’ve been deprived of wages because of a dog bite injury.

Owner Liability

As Maryland is a strict liability state, it’s up to the animal owner to prove they were unaware of their dog’s dangerous propensities. If the owner fails to protect an innocent person from a dog bite, they could be held strictly liable.

But even if the dog has never bitten another person before, it’s possible that a good attorney can prove that the owner acted negligently, thus they are strictly liable for the dog’s actions.

If that’s the case, the amount of compensation will be higher.

Comparative Negligence

In Maryland, if the court finds that the victim’s actions contributed to the bite, the victim is not eligible for any compensation. This rule is harsh, but it’s the law.

An attorney can help their personal injury client determine if they could be comparatively negligent before filing a claim.

Insurance Coverage

For many, homeowner’s or rental insurance (if the bite occurred on private property) will determine the settlement. It’s generally based on the policy limit.

While a settlement can reduce the financial risk for a victim seeking immediate cash to cover extensive medical bills and lost wages, it’s not the only option.

What Are My Rights if I Get Bit By a Dog? Contact Zirkin & Schmerling

So, what are my rights if I get bit by a dog? Maryland’s dog bite laws are complicated. Why wouldn’t you have experienced Maryland dog bite attorneys on your side before you pursue a dog bite settlement?

At Zirkin & Schmerling, we get results — whether it’s a bite victim or a car accident client, our dedicated personal injury attorneys can mean a difference of tens of thousands of dollars for your settlement.

Are you wondering, “What Are My Rights if I Get Bit By a Dog?” Just schedule your free consultation with a dog bite attorney? Contact us today at 410-753-4611.