Dog Bite Cases in Maryland
When you or a loved one is injured by a dog or animal owned by another person, it is critical that you have a lawyer who understands, not only the law, but also what needs to be done to ensure you receive fair and just compensation not only your physical injuries but also your pain and suffering, mental anguish and lost wages. Injuries sustained as a result of dog bites can often be very serious and without the right attorney helping you, your rights may not be properly protected.
Finding the Right Dog Bite Injury Attorney
Some of the questions that a good personal injury lawyer will know to ask include:
- What type of injury did you sustain?
- What type of animal caused the injury?
- What specific breed within that animal group?
- Where did the incident occur?
- Were there any witnesses?
- Who owns the animal?
- Was the animal restrained?
- Did the animal have a history of violent behavior?
These are all important questions that, as you will see below, can help guide the right attorney to obtain the information that will benefit your case and eventually compensate you for your physical injuries, lost wages and pain and suffering, and emotional distress.
Maryland law in this area is very complicated (as discussed further below) and any attorney handling a dog bite or any animal bite case will need to undertake a thorough investigation not only to determine whether that particular animal had previously displayed a vicious propensity, but also whether there is applicable homeowner’s insurance (or other insurance) to cover the medical expenses and emotional distress.
As noted, Maryland law for dog bites is not only complicated but has also changed significantly just in the last decade. Prior to 2012, the victim of a dog bite had the burden of demonstrating that the animal had a prior vicious propensity. This was more commonly referred to as the “one bite” rule mainly because if that animal had never previously bitten anyone else, it was very difficult for a plaintiff to meet the required legal burden.
And if the dog owner was a tenant, it was even more difficult to pursue a claim against the landlord because not only were you required to prove that the landlord had knowledge of the dog’s propensities, but also that the landlord maintained some degree of control over the dog over and above simply owning the property.
Changes to Maryland Law in 2012 and 2014
Then, in 2012, the Court of Appeals of Maryland (our state’s highest Court) decided the case of Tracey v. Solesky in which it ruled that pit bulls were to be held to a different standard than other breeds, specifically that the “one bite” rule did not apply because pit bulls, by their nature, were considered to be inherently dangerous.
So the Court applied what is known as a strict liability standard, not only on the pet owners but also on landlords. Needless to say, this decision was very controversial as it created two different standards depending on the breed of the animal. Strict liability for pit bulls and the “one bite” rule for all other dog breeds.
In response to the Court’s ruling, the Maryland General Assembly passed a law in 2014 which effectively overruled the Court of Appeals. Specifically, the legislature enacted a statute that creates a rebuttable presumption that the owner of a dog that bites someone knew or should have known that the dog had a dangerous or violent propensity.
A rebuttable presumption is essentially a principle of law that says that the owner is assumed to have known his or her dog was dangerous, but that they can challenge – or rebut – that presumption by presenting evidence that they did not in fact know of their dog’s propensity or that the dog did not actually have a propensity and this was the first incident of that nature.
This is the current law in Maryland, although, in addition to strict liability, you can also allege negligence against a dog owner to prove your claim. And as with any other negligence or tort claim, the dog owner and/or landlord can assert numerous defenses including contributory negligence and assumption of risk.
What Does This Mean for Me?
As is clear from all of the above, dog bite cases in Maryland are complex and require not only a comprehensive knowledge of the law but also the ability and experience to conduct the investigation to ensure that you are properly compensated for your injuries.
So if you or a loved one were a victim of a dog bite in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, or anywhere else in Maryland, please do not hesitate to contact Dubo Law. As a top-rated personal injury attorney, we will fight to ensure that you receive the justice you deserve and to make sure that the homeowner, landlord, and insurance company are held responsible. And there is no fee unless there is a recovery, so there is no risk to you. So call [company-phone id=1] now and let us handle your personal injury claim.
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