Under Maryland law, there are two theories of liability for personal injury from a dog bite – 1) strict liability and 2) negligence.
Under the strict liability theory, the owner of a dog that causes injury to another person is liable if the victim of the dog bite can prove that a dog caused their injury and that the owner of the dog knew or should have known that their dog had vicious propensities. Effective April 8, 2014, pursuant to Courts and Judicial Proceedings §3-1901,
In an action against an owner of a dog for damages for personal injury or death caused by the dog, evidence that the dog caused the personal injury or death creates a rebuttable presumption that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had vicious or dangerous propensities.
Therefore, in order for a dog owner to not be held strictly liable for an injury caused by their dog, they must prove that they neither knew nor should have known that the dog had vicious or dangerous propensities once the victim proves that the victim was injured by the dog.
Subsection (c) of §3-1901 provides that an owner is strictly liable if the owner’s dog is at large and causes any injury, death, or loss to person or property. A dog owner may be strictly liable for an injury caused by their dog unless the victim was trespassing, committing a criminal offense against any person, or provoking the dog. It is important to note that attempting to trespass or commit a crime is equivalent to committing the actual act.
Under Maryland law, a dog bite victim may also base his or her claim on negligence, negligence per se, and other common law or statutory causes of action. Under this claim for liability, the victim must prove that the dog owner’s lack of reasonable care caused the injury. The dog owner may base his or her defense on any other common law or statutory defenses or immunity as well. Maryland, unlike most states, imposes contributory negligence on the Plaintiff. Contributory negligence does not allow a victim to recover if the victim contributed in any way to the cause of the accident.
In some cases, the victim may bring an action against someone other than the owner of the dog causing the injury i.e. the property owner to the premises harboring the dog.
Should you be injured by a dog, you have three years to file your civil suit. This is called the statute of limitations. If you do not file suit within that time, you will be barred from doing so.
It is important to note that on April 8, 2014, Maryland law imposes breed neutral liability.
Should you be the victim of a dog bite, it is important to obtain experienced legal counsel to determine your rights and ensure that you receive compensation for your injuries. For more information regarding dog bite injuries, contact Dugan, McKissick & Longmore, L.L.C.
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