Have you suffered the trauma and pain of a dog bite? The team at Zirkin & Schmerling Law is here to help you by answering common questions about Maryland state laws on dangerous dogs, Dog bite injuries, liability for personal injury, and if you are a dog bite victim how you can seek compensation for your damages.
You can take action after a dog bite and hold the right person responsible. If you have additional questions or need insight into your unique situation and Maryland laws, please call us 24/7 at 410-356-4455or schedule your free consultation online.
Dog Bite FAQ
After a dog bite, your priority should be to get immediate medical care, including wound care, stitches, and rabies shots if necessary. Document your injuries and contact the police and your area’s animal control office. Get the contact information of the dog owner including their address, any witness contact information, and preserve as much photo and video evidence as possible.
You can also try and ask the dog owner for their homeowner’s/renter’s insurance information but do not speak with an insurance company or its representatives Often the dog owner won’t provide this information and there is no law that says they have to provide this information. Don’t get stressed if you don’t have the insurance information. Often Zirkin and Schmerling Law can figure out the insurance information.
Contact a Maryland dog bite attorney right away, even if you’re not sure whether you plan to take legal action. An attorney will help you avoid common mistakes, like saying the wrong things to the dog’s owner or sharing details of your dog bite on social media.
Dog bite laws in Maryland don’t always hold the dog’s owner responsible, which can come as a shock to dog bite victims. But that doesn’t mean it’s futile to investigate your dog bite. Someone else might be held responsible too, like a pet sitter, dog walker, property owner, or landlord.
For someone to be held legally and financially responsible for a dog attack, you must establish liability by showing disregard for local laws or a failure to protect innocent people in specific circumstances. If you can show that they should have reasonably known that the dog was dangerous due to previous behavior, this could be enough for strict liability.
To hold a landlord responsible, you’ll need to prove that the landlord knew or should have known that a dangerous dog lived on their property and failed to address the situation. It’s a landlord’s responsibility to keep their property safe.
When a landlord has the opportunity to intervene and doesn’t, they may be held liable for your injuries. A negligent landlord who ignores dangers on their property can be held financially responsible for failing to protect renters and their guests.
Maryland is a breed-neutral state, which means a dog isn’t automatically blamed or considered vicious due to its breed alone. Maryland dog bite laws are centered around the circumstances of a dog bite and how the person was injured.
Maryland law doesn’t focus on whether the biting dog was a pit bull or a poodle, and instead focuses on much more relevant issues like how the victim was injured and who is responsible.
A dog bite occurs when a dog grabs a person or animal with its teeth, whether the bite is severe or not. No skin puncture is required for a dog bite case because dogs can do considerable damage through twisting and crushing, even when the skin doesn’t bleed.
In Maryland, almost all dog behavior that results in injury can be addressed through dog bite laws. This includes when a dog knocks someone down and injures them or knocks them into something sharp or dangerous. For example, if a dog running around without a leashin your neighborhood pushes you over, causing you to fall and break your hip, you may have avalid case for compensation.
Lacerations and broken bones are two of the most common dog bite injuries. Injuries like these may arise from the dog bite itself or from being shaken or knocked down. There are also many other types of dog bite injuries.
Contact a dog bite attorney if you have any of the following common injuries from a dog bite: puncture wounds, cuts, tears, abrasions, crushing injuries, scarring, infection, rabies, tetanus, or nerve damage. Dog bites can also cause deep psychological wounds that require mental health treatment, which can be covered by dog bite injury compensation.
WHO PAYS FOR MY INJURIES?
If a dog owner lives in a home that he owns then usually the homeowner’s insurance will pay for the injuries to the victim. If there is no homeowner’s insurance then the dog owner will have to pay out of pocket for the injuries caused by the dog bite. You can also get a judgment and try to attach a lien on the home.
If the dog owner is a renter in a home or apartment complex then renter’s insurance can cover the damage caused by the dog. If there is no renter insurance then in some cases you can pursue the landlord or property management company for the injuries caused by the dog. This is more difficult and will often need litigation.
Although it’s difficult to know the exact value of your dog bite case without an initial consultation, your case value is generally built from the damages you can prove. This may include the value of your medical bills, mental health therapy, missed wages, and pain and suffering.
For example, a Zirkin & Schmerling client’s ear was bitten off by his sister’s dog and we obtained compensation of $500,000 for his injuries, which was the maximum of the applicable insurance policy limit. We have also secured other awards of $350,000, $200,000, and other amounts that compensate our clients for their massive losses.
If you’re a dog lover, it’s natural to worry about what will happen to the dog when you file a claim. However, keep in mind that your civil claim against a dog owner is separate from the criminal complaint and/or animal control case. You’re the injured victim and this situation is not your fault.
The authorities will conduct their own investigation into what should happen to the dog and its owner under Maryland law, then there is usually a hearing with the dog’s owner. In some cases, dogs are quarantined, temporarily separated from their owners, or euthanized. But this occurs completely separately from your insurance claim or lawsuit against the owner.
Maryland has several laws that apply to dog bites. In some cases, there is statutory strict liability, meaning no negligence or fault on behalf of the owner must be shown. Strict liability is not limited to situations that involve a history of dog aggression/biting, although that could help your case.
Another route is through dog bite negligence. Maryland law places the burden on dog owners to control and supervise their animals.
When someone trains their dog to fight, neglects the dog, abuses the dog, shirks responsibility for supervising the dog, or taunts the dog into attacking someone, these circumstances can be used as evidence of negligence. Maryland no longer has a “one bite” rule that allows owners to avoid responsibility after the first bite.
There’s also negligence per se, which often involves leash laws. When the law requires a leash and/or prohibits dogs from certain areas and owners ignore the rules, this can result in liability for a dog-related injury.
Finally, there’s premises liability, which means private property owners are responsible for protecting guests from harm on their property. Unless you were trespassing or engaged in criminal activity, you may have a premises liability case against someone who invited you onto their property and created a situation where their dog could bite you.
The owner may or may not face criminal charges depending on the circumstances of the case. It’s up to the authorities. However, Maryland has increasingly implemented stiffer laws to hold irresponsible dog owners accountable for their animals’ behavior.
Aggressive and dangerous dogs can bring fines and criminal charges for negligent owners. Also, a dog owner doesn’t have to be physically present at the attack for them to face legal consequences for their dog’s behavior toward innocent people and animals.
If a dog attacks you, don’t wait too long to take action. The statute of limitations in Maryland gives you three years, starting the day the dog bite occurs. If you fail to bring a lawsuit within that timeframe, you lose your opportunity forever. There is just one exception for minor victims, who have three years past their 18th birthday, or up to the age of 21, to start legal action.
Have a Legal Question? We Have Answers
When you need to learn more about your rights or filing a lawsuit, the attorneys at Zirkin & Schmerling Law can help. Contact us or call us at 410-356-4455to set up an appointment with one of our experienced dog bite lawyers today.