What Are Your Rights if You Have Been Bitten or Attacked by a Dog in Maryland?

Maryland has a comprehensive dog bite statute that imposes strict liability on dog owners for injuries caused by their pets, regardless of the breed. However, there are certain exceptions and nuances to this law, particularly concerning pit bulls.

Maryland’s Dog Bite Statute

Maryland’s dog bite law is codified in Section 3-1901 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Code. This statute establishes strict liability for dog owners, meaning they can be held responsible for injuries caused by their dogs without the need to prove negligence or prior knowledge of the animal’s vicious propensities.

The key points of this law are:

  • Dog owners are strictly liable for any personal injury or death caused by their dogs, regardless of whether they were aware of the dog’s tendency to bite or attack.
  • The statute applies to all dog breeds, and there are no specific laws singling out particular breeds like pit bulls.
  • The strict liability extends to situations where the dog is running at large, meaning it is not on the owner’s property or under their control.
  • Owners are also liable for injuries caused to invited guests or visitors on their property.

 

Exceptions to Strict Liability

While the statute imposes strict liability on dog owners, there are certain exceptions where the owner may not be held responsible. These include:

  • If the victim was trespassing or engaged in criminal activity on the owner’s property at the time of the incident.
  • If the victim was provoking, teasing, or tormenting the dog.
  • If the victim was breaking the law or attempting to commit a criminal offense against the owner or another person.

Additionally, Maryland follows the doctrine of contributory negligence, which can bar recovery if the victim is found to be even partially at fault for the incident. However, there is an exception for children under the age of 5, who are presumed incapable of contributory negligence.

 

The Pit Bull Exception

While Maryland’s dog bite law does not single out specific breeds, there has been a long-standing debate and legal battle surrounding pit bulls in the state.

In 2012, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in the case of Tracey v. Solesky that pit bulls and cross-bred pit bulls are inherently dangerous and that their owners and landlords can be held strictly liable for any injuries caused by these dogs, regardless of whether the dogs had previously shown vicious behavior.

This ruling essentially classified pit bulls as a “strict liability dog breed,” creating a higher standard of liability for their owners and landlords. However, this decision faced significant backlash and criticism from animal rights groups and pit bull advocates.

In 2014, the Maryland General Assembly passed a law overturning the Tracey v. Solesky ruling and reinstating the “one bite rule” for all dog breeds, including pit bulls. This means that owners of pit bulls are not automatically held strictly liable for the first instance of their dog biting or injuring someone, but there is now a rebuttable presumption that the dog owner must overcome, and they are tasked with proving that they never had any notice that their pit bull had exhibited any vicious behavior prior to the incident.

While the law treats all dog breeds equally, some counties and municipalities in Maryland have implemented breed-specific legislation or regulations regarding pit bulls. For example, Prince George’s County has banned pit bulls since 1997, defining them as any dog that is at least 50% bull terrier breed.

Seeking Compensation for Dog Bite Injuries: Should I Get a Lawyer for a Dog Bite?

If you or a loved one has been injured by a dog bite in Maryland, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other related damages for scarring or disfiguration.

To pursue a claim, it is crucial to gather and preserve evidence, such as photographs of the injuries, witness statements, and medical records. It is also advisable to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who can guide you through the legal process and ensure your rights are protected.

In Maryland, dog bite injury cases are subject to a three-year statute of limitations, meaning you must file a lawsuit within three years of the incident.

 

Experienced Dog Bite Injury Lawyer

Maryland’s dog bite law provides a comprehensive framework for holding dog owners accountable for injuries caused by their pets, regardless of breed, with exceptions for specific circumstances like trespassing or provocation. ¬†While pit bulls were once subject to a much higher standard of liability, the current law still favors the victims of these attacks.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of a dog bite, it is essential to understand your legal rights and options for seeking compensation. I can help ensure you receive the justice and compensation you deserve, so please do not hesitate to call me, Jason Wasserman, Esq, at (410) 385-9110 if you or a loved one has been a victim of such an attack.

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